Which Beard Is Right For You?
London barber Mr John Mullan’s top tips for facial hair that fits your features.
For years, the clean-cut man-boy ruled the runway. Parted hair, waifish silhouette and peachy smooth skin. Then, as designers are wont to do, the arbiters of style grew tired of him and a grittier look rolled into view, and changed the game. With it, the beard invasion began. Whether we’re talking about a thick, irreverent Mr Zach Galifianakis or a jawline-amping Mr Jon Hamm, a beard is just about the most on-trend accessory of the season. You only have to look at the Oscars – Messrs Ryan Gosling, Damien Chazelle and Dev Patel sported them on the red carpet.
When it comes to us lesser mortals who don’t have the means for daily trips to the barbers, care is needed. As with your hair, you must choose wisely. From knowing which style suits you to maintenance and aftercare, let one of London’s best hair stylists (and best beards) Mr John Mullan of Stone Hair in Kingston-Upon-Thames guide you through the prickly subject of beard maintenance.
Best for square jaws
Mr Aristos Migliaressis-Phocas, interior designer
“Aristos has thick, bristly hair and full facial coverage, which needs to be tamed and trimmed to complement his angular face. A tailored beard is great if you want to emphasise cheekbones or a strong jaw. It also works wonders if you want to make a small chin look fuller, or slim down a rounder face.
“Using scissors and comb, I trimmed the hair along the jaw bone to get a really clean finish and trimmed the outer parts of his moustache so it blended into the rest of the growth. Shaving a clean top beard line that is parallel to this will make everything look squarer and smarter. Get rid of any hair on the cheekbones and tidy the sideburns to neaten everything up. A good splash of aftershave will help close the pores and prevent blemishes.”
Best for fine facial hair
Mr Ashkan Baghestani, head of sale, Sotheby’s Middle East
“Ashkan is young , so his facial hair is still quite fine. It will thicken and grow fuller with age, but for the time being, it’s best kept short and neat. Not only does it work best for an oval face shape, but kept at this length it also balances out a fuller head of hair. Ashkan has a classic 1950s short, back and sides, so I’ve tapered the graduation, from the side of the head into the sideburns and beard, to frame the face.
“To accentuate his jaw, I used a low-length trimmer setting to thin out the neck hair and blend the beard. It’s important to keep a defined neckline when shaping your beard. To know where to trim the neckline, take two fingers and place them above your Adam’s apple. Draw an imaginary ‘U’ that goes from the back of each ear, and hits this point. Shave every errant hair below this line with a razor blade – it will create a clean stop. Finish with a good moisturiser or post-shave cream to avoid irritation.”
Best for salt and pepper hair
Mr Ben Shaul, photographer
“Ben’s facial hair is made up of salt and pepper swirls, so it’s best to keep it short to avoid it looking wiry and unruly – grey and white hair retains less moisture, so it’s coarser and harder to manage. At this length, it’s low-maintenance and looks a lot smarter. If, like Ben, you don’t want to make a statement with your moustache, blend it into the rest of your growth – a good beard trimmer will help you achieve a uniform length all over.
“Avoid shaving the top of beard line, the area just under the cheekbone, too aggressively or it will look too severe. To define the jaw, I shaved a curve above Ben’s Adam’s apple. Rounding it down beneath this makes the face look plumper and the chin heavier. Use a hot towel to open the pores and soften the facial hair and apply a few drops of beard oil to finish. This will help with any post-shave itchiness and irritation and give your hair, especially the grey, the nourishment and moisture it needs.”
Best for big hair
Mr Jimmy Launay, model
“Jimmy prefers to keep a five o’clock shadow, which looks great on guys of all ages and on most face shapes. It’s the perfect middle ground between a clean-shaven face and full-on beard. It might appear low maintenance and unkempt, but it requires a lot of work.
“The area you want to pay most attention to is the neckline, which needs to fade into the rest of your stubble. Do this by drawing back the guards on your electric razor as you move from the underside of your jaw to your neck, making it appear as if the hairs fade into your skin at the top of your Adam’s apple. Trim the rest of your beard to a short uniform length or, if you’ve clean shaved, let it grow to at least 2mm.
“I clean shaved the hair on the top of the cheeks to create a natural top beard line that contoured the cheekbones. Jimmy’s got a big hairstyle and a square jaw, so this type of stubble is perfect for him.”
Best for patchy growth
Mr Nas Abraham, art director
“Nas can only grow hair on certain parts of his face, so it was more about defining these areas and getting rid of unnecessary strays. A well-manicured goatee like his can help to define an oval face shape by highlighting the point of the chin. If you’ve got a longer hairstyle like Nas, then a simpler, shorter, crop of stubble helps balance proportions – a longer beard would elongate the face.
“I used a beard trimmer on a shorter setting to create an even length throughout, and then neatened the moustache and goatee with a razor. Afro hair is tightly coiled and naturally quite dry, which can make it harder to manage. Use a boar bristle brush and comb along the grain to keep it controlled. Go against the grain for a fuller effect. And use conditioner – a lush beard is a happy beard.”
Best for a natural look
Mr Charlie Teasdale, deputy style editor, Esquire UK
“Charlie’s style is effortless, so it was important to keep his stubble looking as natural as possible. Anything overly shaped or preened would have looked out of character. I blended the graduation from his haircut into his beard, tapering it into a shorter length, which helps to slim down the face. Kept at this length, you can see Charlie’s jaw line – anything longer would have hidden this and made the face look a lot rounder.
“I used an electric trimmer, shaving against the grain, to get an equal length all over, but didn’t do the top beard line because we wanted a natural finish. Neck stubble (anything lower than the Adam’s apple) is never flattering, and neither are unruly sideburns, so I cleaned up any strays with a razor and shaving cream. Use a hydrating moisturiser to avoid post-shave irritation and leave the skin looking its best.”
Best for looking neat
Mr Johnny Brophy, artist
“Johnny has a great moustache. It’s both thick and full, so it’s more about defining and neatening what he’s already got to suit his oval face shape.
“A thicker and fuller chevron moustache requires precise upkeep. Comb the hairs down over your lip using a bristle brush and trim any that are too long with moustache scissors (they work well on stray and unruly beard hairs, too). Clip your moustache as and when it’s needed. This might be twice as often as the rest of your beard, depending on how thick and full you prefer it. The rest of the beard should be shorter in length to help it stand out.
“I’ve used a low-length clipper setting to keep it uniform and then used a razor to create a really clean top beard line that’s parallel to his jawline. It makes it look stronger and gives the illusion of prominent cheekbones, which is never a bad thing. I didn’t want Johnny’s facial hair to look overly manicured, so I finished the look with a softer neckline. It helps it all look a lot more natural.”