What was at first a source of rebellious pride for a few and of chin-scratching bemusement for their observers is now a full-fledged trend feeding a global beard grooming market expected to exceed 40 billion by 2026.
Men invest in an assortment of shampoos, conditioners, oils, serums, waxes, balms, and creams, while some elect to spend thousands on beard transplants, spray-on hair fibers, and other follicular enhancements. In 2018, 9 out of 10 French men aged 25-34 were reported to sport some kind of facial hair! In 2019, P&G wrote down the valuation of Gillette by several billions partly due to “a shrinking market for blades and razors as consumers in developed markets shave less frequently.”
There is no doubt that the right beard or mustache can enhance facial features, play off haircuts, spice things up, make its wearer more attractive, and provide a confidence boost, as pointed out by a steady stream of advice columns. But such observations can be made of every passing fashion trend and the positive perception of facial hair has similarly come and gone. Beards were largely unseen in the fifties and sixties, came back in the ’70s, moved largely offstage in the conservative ’80s, and while regaining popularity, remained confined in the 1990s and 2000s (think grunge soul patches and carefully unkempt Hollywood 5 o’clock shadows), before spreading far and wide in the 2010s.
Viral events remain hard to explain. For all efforts explaining the origin of the current beard mania, the likely answer is that the pendulum simply swung back – Early adopters chose to buck the clean-shaven norm. The early trend quickly became a wave propelled by 21st century’s social media. We would wager that beard appeal will eventually wane when beards are so common that they lose their power to distinguish. Some might argue that this is already the case, but predictions several years ago by the Guardian and the Wall Street Journal for the early demise of the beard trend have clearly been proven wrong!
So if you sport one, do enjoy your goatee and its ritual, but do not let it define you. Let it be an object of affection, not obsession. You may well choose to give it up at some point. And if you are clean shaven, rejoice in the fact that you are ahead of the next trend.
A few tips
US employers may legally require their employees not to wear a beard – exceptions being primarily on religious grounds. Your beard would be better protected on French soil: in 2020, high courts there ruled in favor of the right to bear beards – unless clearly interfering with work requirements.
Beards do seem to be broadly associated with age, strength, and aggressiveness. However those traits do not necessarily translate into attractiveness. Preferences run the gamut as always. For those who do favor beards, heavier beards tend to be a signal of long-term relationship potential; stubble is more often associated with casual fun. Again, there is no rule here…
If you are just starting out and are looking to sport a beard, take your time. It takes two to six months to grow a full beard. A 5-o’clock shadow does not happen overnight, despite its name, and will take days to develop properly.
Once you have a beard, you do need to invest in its upkeep. Along with UV protection and moisture retention, beards provide the skin with significant protection from allergens, but that means allergens and dirt particles get caught in your beard! While there is a lively dialogue as to who is attracted to which beard style, we found no hint that anyone longs to be up close and personal with dirty, overly scratchy, unkempt beards.
Start by treating your beard as well as you do your mane – brushing, washing, conditioning, and trimming. Then add a beard oil or balm for additional conditioning which will benefit both beard and skin underneath. If scented, choose carefully as it will be right under your nose …