Q: I’m toying with the idea of growing a beard but I’m not sure I’ll get away with it at the office. How can I make my beard look like that of a respectable, hard-working professional instead of Gandalf?
Our expert Ahmed Zambarakji answers your questions below:
A: Tread carefully. Beards are, first and foremost, a symbol of total defiance, a refusal to conform to society’s endless list of expectations and announce, as author Alan Peterekin points out in his book One Thousand Beards: A Cultural History of Facial Hair, that you’re “no corporate slave”. A chinstrap should therefore generally be avoided in relatively conservative sectors like law or finance – unless, of course, you happen to be the boss in which case pretty much anything is okay.
One of the many reasons beards are still treated with suspicion is because they function as a mask of sorts. A bit of facial hair can hide a lie or look of surprise very well; that trembling upper lip or smug smirk, for example, can be completely concealed by your barb. This might be actually come in handy if you happen to be an estate agent or a used car salesman.
If you work in a lenient industry where beards are more commonplace (graphic design, media, Santa Claus impersonation), it’s worth noting that a good bit of growth requires just as much upkeep as clean shaving – you can’t sit back and just let your follicles do the work.
First and foremost, keep length in check with a dedicated trimmer, rather than a pair of rusty old scissors. The absolute limit, in my opinion, is a quarter inch in length. Most trimmers, including Remington’s MB4550 (£59.99 from uk.remington-europe.com) will have a comb with predetermined length settings to make the job easier.
When it comes to outlining the beard with a precision trimmer (the backside of your Gillette ProGlide should do the trick), remember to go easy with the angles. George Michael’s Faith-era beard - arguably his greatest achievement, followed closely by his parallel parking skills - only worked on him. Even Brent Pankhurst, master barber of Savile Row (pankhurstlondon.com) says “When outlining your beard, go from ear to the corner of the lip, leaving it as natural as possible with no hard lines.”
Similarly, hair should never hang over the upper lip or grow below the neckline. You’ll also need to shampoo and wash your barb regularly to keep it from getting scratchy and coarse. There aren’t many dedicated products out there, but the stuff you use for the hair on your head should suffice, followed by a good quality moisturiser.
Find Ahmed at theexfoliator.com
(Image: Rex Features)