Reached your personal peak beard? Or maybe your attempts at growing one yield something that’s patchier than Donald Trump’s toupee?
If you answered yes to either of the above questions, then a sprinkling of stubble may be just the solution. Easy to grow, a breeze to maintain and a great way of switching up your look in a matter of days, it’s the quickest fix in facial hair.
Why Sport Stubble?
“Stubble is popular with men for a variety of reasons,” says Tony Glenville, author of Top To Toe: The Modern Man’s Guide To Grooming. “It’s good for making a rugged statement, accentuating the facial contours, creating a change of look from workday grooming or for simply giving the skin a rest from shaving.”
But there are plenty more benefits to cultivating some facial fuzz:
1. It’s Perfect If You’re Patchy
“Now that beards are tolerated more in formal environments, so too is stubble – and it’s particularly popular with men who can’t jump on the beard trend because they have patchy facial hair,” says Adam Brady of Ruffians Barbers.
“That’s because it’s possible to grow stubble to a certain point and keep it looking less patchy than if you were trying for a beard.”
2. Women Love It
According to a study by psychologists at Northumbria University, women are more attracted to men with stubble than to those that are either bearded or clean-shaven. Asked to rate men on their appearance, the women surveyed singled out stubbly blokes as prime partner material, viewing them as more masculine, tougher and dominant-looking compared to those without stubble.
This backs up the findings from a 2007 survey by Lynx, where nearly 70 per cent of women said they found men like Brad Pitt sexier with a few days’ growth.
The reason? According to body language expert Allan Pease, women’s penchant for a prickly chin may be programmed by evolution to help them find the perfect mate: “The higher a man’s testosterone level, the faster his stubble grows – so a three-day-old beard acts as a strong visual badge of masculinity to the opposite sex,” he says.
3. It Can Mask Your Imperfections
Like beards, stubble is great for hiding facial imperfections such as uneven skin pigmentation and acne scars. What’s more, it boosts the apparent size of your jaw (studies have shown women are attracted to strong jawlines) and, by virtue of colour contrast, draws attention to your teeth – handy for framing a set of pearlies.
Stubble will also balance your face in a way a full beard won’t, which is worth remembering if you’re bald on top.
4. It Matures Baby Faces
Given the fact that facial hair is one of the most obvious signs of sexual maturity, it’s no surprise that men with smooth chins came bottom of the pile in terms of ideal partners in Northumbria University’s study.
So, if you’re always getting asked for ID, take a leaf out of Leo DiCaprio’s book and grow some stubble to banish that baby face.
Men’s Stubble Lookbook
How To Maintain Stubble
Treat It Like You Would A Beard
Put simply, stubble is just a beard that hasn’t yet reached adulthood and, although the two differ in length, facial hair is facial hair. Which means your two-day-old growth can be treated in a similar way to a six-month-old grizzly.
Like a beard, it’ll still wick moisture away from the surface of your face, causing skin to dry out faster, so make sure you moisturise daily – or use a conditioning oil – to keep skin hydrated.
Choose Your Tools
Compared to an unwieldy beard, stubble is a cinch to maintain – but you will need to arm yourself with a decent trimmer to keep it at your preferred length. If you’re militant about precision, the BaByliss for Men I-Stubble Plus (which has been created with shorter facial hair in mind) offers 15 ultra-precise length settings (from 0.4mm-5mm). But any decent adjustable beard trimmer will do provided you keep it on a short setting.
“I suggest using a Wahl Groomsman on a small grade – perhaps 3mm-4mm to give your stubble the once over, possibly going a bit shorter on the hair around the moustache and chin which tends to be a little thicker,” says Brady. “You can then take the guard off and shave any strays on the neck and above the cheek line.”
Know Your Bone Structure
“It’s always worth being aware of your bone structure when shaping stubble,” says Brady. “To ensure it looks its best, shave parallel to the cheekbone and shave corners on each side of the chin, so that a squared off silhouette of stubble is created when looking at the face straight on.”
Use a shaving mirror for accuracy and run your fingertips over your face once done to check that your stubble is even.
Unlike beards, which sometimes benefit from precision topiary, stubble tends to look better when left au naturel, particularly if your main reason for growing some is to appear more rugged.
If you want to keep your neck smooth – perhaps to prevent stubble catching on your shirt collars – avoid using the actual jawline itself as a guide as this looks too obvious.
For a less jarring effect, start your shaving just under the jawline instead, or simply trim the area below on the shortest trimmer setting so that it looks graduated.
Head Off Ingrown Hairs
Ingrown hairs are a bit like in-laws: they tend to pop up when you least expect (or want) them to, create havoc when they do and quite often turn out to be a real pain. If you keep your stubble in check, you should avoid hairs growing back upon themselves, but if you’re in a cycle of shaving and growing, you’re asking for ingrowns.
“The simplest way to avoid pseudofolliculitis barbae (the technical name for ingrown hairs) is to exfoliate regularly to lift hairs,” advises Sally Penford of The International Dermal Institute. Try a gentle exfoliator, like Dermalogica’s Daily Microfoliant.
Vary Your Lengths
Men with beards will be familiar with the technique of trimming their beards slightly shorter in different places to balance out the appearance of facial fuzz, but shorter stubble can benefit from this approach too.
“The stubble around the cheeks is often sparser than the stubble on the moustache and chin,” says Daniel Davies, General Manager of Pall Mall Barbers. “Trimming off just a millimetre or so can make all the difference. For example, if you’re trimming the cheek area at 5mm, take the moustache and chin stubble shorter to 3mm. This will make things look more even and will allow for the denser growth.”
If you like to alternate between having a couple of days’ worth of stubble and being clean shaven, you’ll probably find an electric shaver easier to use than a razor. Rotary shavers, especially, tend to be better at dealing with slightly longer hairs than foil ones, as they can capture hairs growing in different directions.
Alternatively, opt for shavers like the Philips YS527/17 Click & Style Shaver or Braun’s CruZer 6 Face – both of which come with attachments that allow you to trim stubble back to a more manageable length before shaving it away altogether.
Oil Up To Prevent Pash Rash
One of the (understandable) quibbles women have when it comes to kissing men with stubble is the risk of unsightly ‘pash rash’. “This is caused by shorter hairs which stick straight out instead of lying flat so that the stubble causes friction when rubbed against,” says Davies.
To minimise this risk, Davies suggests a two-pronged approach: let the stubble grow a little longer so it sits flatter to the face, and condition it too. “I’d recommend using a moisturising oil rather than a regular moisturiser or beard balm; oils work better because they can get right underneath the stubble to condition the facial hair and moisturise the skin.”
To allow the oil to best do its job, Davies suggests rubbing some on as soon as you’re out of the shower, and following up by applying an ice cold flannel to lock in the oil. Hopefully this goes some way to keeping your kisses from feeling like sandpaper.
Rope In The Experts
“As with beards, it’s always worth having a professional shape your stubble because different face shapes and stubble densities require different solutions – and your barber is sure to have some tricks to ensure it looks its best,” says Davies.
During the consultation, the barber will survey your face from all angles, gradually building an idea of what shape and definition works best for you. “Once the stubble has been ‘lined out’ and trimmed into place by a professional, it’ll be very easy to maintain your look from the comfort of your own bathroom,” he says.
Consider Your Clothes
“If you wear three days’ worth of beard growth with scruffy clothing, you’ll simply look unkempt and dishevelled,” says Nicholas Clayton, author of A Butler’s Guide to Gentlemen’s Grooming. “You are going for the rugged look, remember, not the ungroomed and smelly look.”
That’ll learn ya. Stubble works best when it contrasts with your clothes rather than complementing them – in much the same way a neck full of ink looks swish on a man who’s suited and booted.