You can tell a lot about a man from the type of beard he wears, so psychologists, anthropologists, and – of course – style experts will tell you. The beard is a cultural and primal signifier. From the days of hunter gatherer cavemen, to the reclaimed lumberjack look of modern hipsters, the beard is a hairy extension of a man’s sense of self, style and masculinity.
But the great thing about facial hair is that it’s yours to adapt, and groom to not just change your look, but change the signals you give off. A quick trim here and there, and different types of beards will transform the perception of the kind of man you are.
If you need some inspiration for reshaping that facial fuzz, here are 13 of the most iconic beard styles of all time.
The Corporate Beard
As worn by Chris Pine
If you like the look and feel of a big beard but feral facial hair isn’t quite working for you (or your HR department), then smarten it up with this tidy, well-clipped version. As Chris Pine proves, this is the Goldilocks of facial locks, rugged and masculine but sharp enough to wear with tailoring. Looking this smooth inevitably takes some work, however – make sure your beard trimmer is charged at all times.
Trim your beard regularly, says award-winning barber Tom Chapman, ambassador at Bluebeards Revenge. “You can keep the cheeks shaped up and the neckline clean by yourself at home easily. Maintain the condition with beard oil and get the length trimmed regularly. No longer than an inch.”
It’s worth the effort though, especially if you’re looking to change your appearance via the wonder of facial hair. It can make a longer face look shorter, but also bring out those angles by contouring your face shape. For further proof of this style’s charm, see exhibits Affleck, Beckham and Clooney.
As worn by John Legend
There are plenty of reasons to go with classic stubble. It hides patchy growth, gives any face a rugged edge and creates the dual impression that you have a strong jawline but that you’re not over-preened narcissist.
“Five o’clock shadow is a term that was coined for this look long ago,” says Chapman. “It’s a look that suits most and can be stylised to any individual.”
Think George Michael post-Wham! or Tom Ford at any time in the last decade. Or, just take a good look at Mr Chrissy Teigen, John Legend. The musician’s look is tailored and preppy but the light sprinkling of stubble he usually sports gives him some edge.
Getting the look might seem as simple as just not shaving, but there’s a subtle art to good-looking stubble. “You probably want a grade one on the clippers at the longest,” says Chapman. “Shape up the cheek bones, around the lips, and also just below the jawline to give a really sharp, masculine look.”
As with a full beard, it’s good to use product to keep both your skin and hair healthy. It’s still a beard – just much shorter – which means it will have the same drying effect on your face, so rub in a moisturiser or beard oil every day.
As worn by Henry Cavill
Henry Cavill’s moustache in Mission: Impossible – Fallout is a thing to behold, a hyper-masculine throwback to a time when most men’s grooming regimes involved a single bar of soap and a spritz of cologne down the pants. Somehow, the look works.
However, it’s not technically a moustache, but another type of beard. Although the hair on his top lip is longer, Cavill never goes fully clean-shaven elsewhere but instead frames the mowser with precision stubble. The hybrid look is known as the beardstache, which is a terrible moniker but at least it’s descriptive.
Making it work for you is a waiting game. Grow a full beard first (see below), resisting the urge to trim anywhere until you have close to an inch of growth. Then trim everywhere but your top lip to grade one or two. Finally, get some scissors and carefully shape the moustache until you get the blend you’re looking for.
The Full Beard
As worn by Jake Gyllenhaal
Truly the daddy of beards. A straight-up, no-nonsense look, and the pride of men who can’t be bothered to shave. And that’s exactly the point. The unkempt beard isn’t so much an exercise in style as it is an exercise in not being arsed.
Or at least, that’s how it looks. With a little care and attention, the full beard can be a bastion of rugged manliness. It’s also a beard that suits every face shape and every personality. Think Tom Hardy at his wildest or Jared Leto going full Jesus. Occupying the sweet spot in the middle is Jake Gyllenhaal, whose look is easy to copy.
“Just leave it to grow out,” says Chapman. “I would say it has to be a least an inch long all over, with an even growth. If you want the rough and ready look then this is for you. However, it can look very untidy and is often best worn with short tidy hair and a smart dress sense.”
But when you get to a beard of this length, it’s important to treat it right. If the sideburns get out of control, trim them back with a scissors that can also be used to tackle any runaway rogue hairs. But don’t go crazy, Chapman says. “This is au naturel. I just would suggest a beard oil is a must for any beard.”
To condition and nourish your beard, wait until after you’ve dried after showering so the hairs are soft, drop a few drops of a good quality oil into your hands, brush the oil into the sides of your beard, down the front, through the hairs with your fingers, then comb the hair to distribute the oil for good measure.
The Van Dyke
As worn by Johnny Depp
This type of beard is steeped in history – and we mean real history, not Pirates of the Caribbean history, even if Johnny Depp is the style’s most famous modern-day wearer. It was originated by Flemish artist Anthony van Dyck (hence the name) but later adopted by King Charles I, General Custer and fried chicken legend Colonel Sanders.
A simple moustache and goatee combo, the pointier the better, this beard also speaks to an uncomfortable truth about men: not all of us can grow thick facial hair. Many men know the shame of patchy beards and weak connecting lines between the beard and ‘tache. Even full bearded blokes can struggle in these areas. The Van Dyke is a facial hair style that works for the less-than-hirsute gentleman.
“Most men get some growth on the chin and upper lip,” says Chapman. “It’s a great way to get a stylised beard even with patchy growth. It also requires very little styling – a small amount of beard oil will get you through.”
As worn by Leonardo DiCaprio
Named for its popularity with the stars of Hollywood’s “Golden Era”, this beard will also make you look like a leading man by giving the impression of a strong, chiseled jawline.
Also know as the “extended goatee”, the basic idea is a moustache plus chinstrap (the moustache can be joined or separate – that’s up to you). The difference is that there are no sideburns, so the beard sits detached on your chin and fades out naturally towards the ear and hairline.
The beard itself can be trimmed low on the face towards the chin – even all the way down to the jawline. “Most men will be able to pull this beard off,” says Chapman. “However, it can make rounder shorter faces appear longer and slimmer.”
You won’t need a Hollywood stylist to do it, but it needs more care and attention that your usual five-minute DIY job with a cheap trimmer. “This is a job for a barber,” says Chapman. “Fading the hair out evenly can be hard work if your facial hair isn’t already thinner in those areas like Leo’s.”
The Full Goatee
As worn by Dwayne Johnson
There are many variations of the goatee (technically, a goatee is just that patch on the chin), but this remains the most famous incarnation: the full circle. “It’s a classic look,” says Chapman. “It’s been around forever.”
While Johnson, AKA the Rock, AKA The Most Popular Man In The World, has leant some ultra-masculine cred to the beard, let’s not forget that it’s been made famous by embarrassing dad-types such as David Brent and John Travolta. “The goatee can only be pulled off by few,” says Chapman. “There is the big difference between The Rock and David Brent.”
It’s the textbook beard of the mid-life crisis, so make sure you have the type of face that wears it well. It tends to be unflattering on round or chubbier faces, but will nicely accentuate strong cheekbones and sleek, angular faces.
It’s also versatile, depending on length and thickness, ranging to impeccably groomed to joyously scruffy. But the basic shape should be easy to master. “Goatees are easy to maintain,” says Champman. “Trimmers are needed to keep the edges sharp and a simple wet shave for the rest of the face.”
As worn by Charles Darwin
It’s fitting that the beard adopted by hipsters circa 2011 – the big bushy lumberjack beard that represents raw, primal, caveman-style masculinity – was worn by the father of evolution himself, Charles Darwin.
As legend has it, Darwin grew the beard to hide away from his new found fame – which backfired when it became one of the most famous facial bushes in the history of mankind. The modern version of the beard is named after Eric Bandholz, founder of Beardbrand and proponent of the “urban beardsman lifestyle”.
Forgive us, but we think this one’s something of a phoney. It’s designed to make you look wild and unkempt but is, in fact, the prize poodle on this list. You’ll need combs, moustache wax, beard oil, trimmers and scissors to keep it looking just so.
The moustache will have a style of its own, usually pointing outwards like Victorian-style whiskers, while the beard is full and allowed to grow out and long, with rounded or shaped edges. “It should be washed and conditioned at least once a week,” says Champman. “Use beard oil and a moustache wax or pomade to finish the look.”
As worn by Robert Downey Jr
Imagine being a tech genius, saving the world multiple times, and still finding time to stay well-groomed. No, it’s not easy being Iron Man. But as the billionaire superhero chick-magnet know, stylish facial hair is half the battle won. Getting the balbo might be less straightforward though.
“There are many variations of similar to this,” says Chapman. “I would say use a photo to ensure your barber gets it right, but most barbers will understand ‘I want a beard like Iron Man.’”
The classic balbo is essentially a three-piece beard: the chin-strap (detached from the sideburns), moustache (also detached), and soul patch. It can bring out facial features if you’re a bit lacking in definition. “This type of beard is great for accenting cheekbones and jawline,” says Chapman. “It’s almost like contouring make-up techniques. But this type of beard can be very difficult to keep on top of yourself. You’ll need some precise trimmers at home – and plenty of time – but failing that, visit your barber weekly.”
As worn by Pierce Brosnan
How could the 19th century Italian composer possibly know that his unique beard and ‘tache combo would be such a fashionable number two centuries later? David Beckham and celebrity hardcase Connor McGregor have both sported a version of this, so there’s no denying it’s a knockout look, but we’d argue it looks best on an older gentleman like Brosnan.
The premise is simple – a full, lengthy beard with a detached moustache. But the ‘tache sound be impeccably styled, usually flicked up and either end or given the full old school strongman curls.
“Beard oil is a must for this,” says Chapman. And much like the similarly historical Van Dyke, the Verdi is another recommended style for men who struggle joining it all together. “This look will give you a strong jawline,” says Chapman, “but is also great if you have weak growth connecting moustache to beard, which is very common.”
As worn by Hugh Jackman
Few facial hair styles are as bold as two massive sideburns growing wildly down each side of your face. If we’re getting technical, Chapman describes the look as: “Hair on the face that runs to the chin and upper lip, which are both bald. Though sometimes the hair from the cheeks joins above the lip.”
The style was made famous by Motorhead frontman Lemmy – who the rocked the biker-esque variation, joined together with a hearty moustache – while Wolverine (well, Hugh Jackman) clawed his way to making it an iconic part of modern pop culture in the X-Men movie franchise.
“This is all about that rock ‘n’ roll look and often worn by those who take their style from alternative music,” says Chapman. “It can slim the appearance of the face too. Keep the chin clear of hair and line up the cheeks to define your cheek bones.”
As worn by Abraham Lincoln
This old timer of a beard is almost inseparable from its most iconic wearer, Honest Abe Lincoln (plus the Amish, who have stuck to their guns on this style, long after it went out of fashion).
It’s essentially a full beard without the moustache. As a striking, distinctive style – and one that’s considered quite old fashioned – it’s not for everyone. But it does have some benefits, especially for the man afflicted with a terminal case of weak chin.
“This look can be great to give you a false square jawline, without the hair around your mouth,” says Chapman. “Keep your lip clean shaven and sharp up the cheeks and bottom of the beard to give it shape.”
As worn by Brad Pitt
An often forgotten beard is this untamed bush. Think Forrest Gump, when he goes full wildman and runs across the United States for three and half years. Think Leo in The Revenant. Think Brad Pitt at what is best described as a transitional period in his life.
IRL, you couldn’t call this look beautiful. Its wildness is its appeal. The yeard takes one year’s worth of growth – the clue’s in the name, of course – but the principle is the same: just let it grow. And grow and grow and grow.
“This beard is literally just left alone,” says Chapman. “It’s the ultimate hillbilly look – disheveled and unkempt, with a lot of length to the chest.”
In this age of reclaimed masculinity – measured most commonly by the length and glory of one’s facial hair – it’s also become unexpectedly on-trend. But don’t worry about having the right face shape. “With this look you won’t have much face left to see!”
This one is important to wash properly, with the build up of bacteria, dead skin, and oil can amass in such a beardy, well, mass – it will also keep your year looking healthy and shiny. Choose a shampoo that uses essential oils, for the skin beneath all that hair, and is free of parabens, artificial scents or colouring. It’s what Gandalf would do.