Beards Make Us Look Older

When we were underage in high school, we always got our prematurely hirsute classmates to buy beer because their five o’clock shadows made them look older. Stubble made an 18 year old less likely to get asked for I.D. (or at least made a fake I.D. more believable). For adults, I think the same principle applies.

From two-day shadow to carefully sculpted goatees to full beards, whiskers and their myriad of iterations are having quite a moment. The last time beards were this popular, Don Johnson was busting drug lords in Miami and George Michael was telling us to have faith. Manly man face fuzz was no longer exclusive to hippies, derelicts and dirtbags. Scruff was now legit.

A nice growth pattern of facial hair can inject a extra shot of masculinity to one’s look, despite its contrast to the confusing epidemic of manscaping, waxing and ball shaving with so many men (who also have beards). Facial hair can also create a nice natural shade and contour to the face, which is particularly helpful in downplaying puffiness or a few extra pounds. It’s also a harmless expression of rebellion against traditional grooming and an amusing flex of virility in the face of more assertive, confident, powerful women. Beard growth is nature’s makeup for men, and can be manipulated to great effect when done well.

When not done well, which happens most often when guys shave the Bruce Wayne jawline they wish they had as opposed to the one they actually have, the result can have an adverse effect. The fantasy jawline technique actually pronounces any heft under the chin, whereas not shaving under the jaw adds a shadow where you want it.

As I look around and observe both clean-shaven and bearded men, I think the same principle that applied to the underage beards-for-beer in high school is generally true of adults of any decade: Men look younger when they shave. Whenever I wear any stubble, it’s out of laziness. I’ll not shave one day, allowing it to snowball for at least a few more days until I can’t stand it. To complicate matters, the first place I started showing gray several years ago was in the chin of my beard. When I took a good look in the mirror, gray or not, I had to be rigorously honest: I looked younger with a clean shave.

I don’t mind aging. I embrace the gray coming in and the little lines appearing around my eyes. I earned them. Though I don’t have plans to undergo any needle or knife procedures that slow the losing battle with gravity, I do take measures to look the best I can for my age, like getting plenty of sleep, drinking plenty of water, eating well and moisturizing daily. I realize not all men fight the good fight even on a topical level, but I’m confident that no man over 21 wants to look older than he is. And a beard doesn’t help.

10 comments

  1. My husband has worn a short, well-maintained beard for most of our 27-years of marriage, and I love it. Sure, it turned white before the rest of his reddish-blonde hair did, and he colored it for a while, but he now has gone natural and he still looks stylin’! He has shaved it off only twice and the beard burn on my poor skin from kissing him wasn’t worth it! Luckily, he missed his beard and thin mustache, so I didn’t have to beg him to grow it back.

    Does it make him look older? Possibly. Then again, it covers any wrinkles or sagging jowls he might get from being in his 50’s. After all, fat dudes grow goatees not to be cool but to cover their double chins (yet when we women do it, we’re ostracized! Double standards, people. :)) My husband’s BFF had a long, full beard in high school and was able to buy beer, but he shaved it after he turned 21.

    I hate long, unkempt beards, and hope the days of imitating the dirty, gross beards on the yuppies-turned-duck-hunters on that disgusting “reality show” are over. Actually, I hope anything to do with “reality shows” are over, and that includes faker presidential wanna-bees. Although I really hope he picks Honey Boo-Boo as his running mate. It’d be fitting.

  2. Although I tend to agree with most things you say (I follow your blog, You Tube, Instagram, Podcast and facebook) and I really do admire and try to mimic/embrace your lifestyle as much as I can, I saw this title and was prepared to see the first real disagreement we were to have. But I have to say after reading it I felt you were very fair. I don’t disagree, I would look younger without my beard and as someone who had a full beard before it was cool I would love for the beard trend to go away. Much like tattoos used to be, my beard started out (and really continues to be) a way for me to express the rebel that I like to think lives inside of me. And as the years with it grew I realized how much more I liked myself with a beard. I have a professional job, I am an investigator for a criminal defense law firm, so I can’t have a beard that goes to my belly button, but if it isn’t longer than an inch I just don’t see the point. I still keep it clean and groomed, I use special brushes and oils. I love to dress well and have the juxtaposition of a longer beard that is just a touch away from being wild to give it a little salty to go with my sweet. As you mentioned, I have some extra pounds and a beard seems to lessen any type of double chin that seems so apparent and lets me elongate any roundness. Lastly I met my wife with a beard, she has seen photos of me without it and has threatened divorce if I ever shave it. So for me and my life it works. At 41 years old I do feel like I am getting old and I do think that someday in the future if I want to have a mid-life crisis make-over to make myself look/feel younger and hip again I have the smooth baby bottom chin hiding underneath waiting to make me feel young again. Again I thank you George for your thoughts on the subject. I hope you didn’t mind me posting mine.

    1. This is GREAT! Thanks so much for reading and for such a thoughtful comment. Love what you have to say here. (You’re an example of facial hair done well.) Thanks again! G

  3. “I’m confident that no man over 21 wants to look older than he is.” I actually did. Beards tend to go grey before the rest of your head, so a beard in your 30s can lend gravity and authority to someone who is otherwise young looking. Now that I’m squarely middle aged, it works either way for me :-)>

    Of course, it all comes down to grooming. And just as you wouldn’t pair a busy tie with a patterned shirt, a beard with a simple, neat haircut works best. It took me a while to find what works for me. Perhaps balding faces benefit with facial hair? I’m not sure I’d take present-day Sean Connery clean shaven 🙂

  4. I agree beards make a man look older. Some of us, sadly, have faces that do not match our age, or weak chins. I’m 29, and I keep some stubble just so I can appear 29, but even then ladies I meet will estimate a younger age. It’s a double-edged sword: I’ll look young for longer, but I’ll never be able to rock a shaven face. For a funny perspective on the topic, check out Gavin McInnes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CxnGMcz5os

    1. Absolutely. Every face is different. And if a beard or stubble makes you feel better, run with it and make it your own.

  5. Disagree, mostly because I spend time grooming my stubble. When I shave completely I feel older and, to me, look older. I think maybe because, as you point out, there is a certain rebellion and with that usually comes a more youthful attitude if you will. Hell, I don’t know, I’ve always been rebellious and I haven’t felt my number…ever.

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