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  • Writer's pictureKL Forslund

SP: Facial Topiaries

Lord Grovincurry stood on the balcony, looking out over his hedge maze and enjoying a bright, cool morning and appropriate tea. He noted the shrubbery shaking in a manner unlike proper navigation of said maze. “I say, who goes there!”

In short order a ragged man with a wild and mangy beard pushed through the final wall of the garden. “Tea.” gasped the man.

“Kensington? Is that you? I dare say, you look you need a spot of tea and a shave, old chap.”

Another call for “Tea” rasped from Kensington’s lips.

“I’ll have tea and my barber brought out. Now tell me what happened, I haven’t seen you since the garden soiree three weeks ago. Have you returned from one of your explorations of Africa?”

“Got lost in the maze.”

A time comes in every man’s life on whether he should grow a facial topiary. For some, the decision is made for them because only three scant whiskers ever sprouted from their face. For others, it was less a decision to grow a beard than it was a lack of will to shave it off every day. A major factor in the decision is spousal approval. Last fall I grew a Van Dyke that everybody loved. Except for my wife. Alas, my face is back to sandpaper smooth, but I learned a lot on the adventure.

Intentional Bearding

Beards have come back into fashion, some even as works of art. Some men have taken this as a sign that they can simply stop shaving. The scraggly unkempt appearance does not impress an employer, customer or prospective mate. A gentleman knows the value of managing perception. In my opinion, which could use work on being humble, a beard should look like it was done on purpose. Whether clean shaven or grown out, own it and make it tidy.

Where to Start

Despite my admonition, the first step to growing facial hair is to stop shaving. If you can pick a time when you’ll be hermitting away from society, perhaps to write a book, or cast away on an island, nobody will see the in-between stage. Lacking such isolation, don’t sweat it, just let it grow.

The usual strategy is to let it grow all over for say three weeks or until it’s at least a quarter inch long. Then shave away the parts you don’t need. The main reason for this is that while growing my Van Dyke, I’d look pretty weird with stubble in just those places if I’d shaved everything but the planned area.

When I reached the stage of having the basic beard I wanted, though still short, it looked normal and could continue to grow out while I trimmed to keep it even and shorter in the areas I wanted.

Not Beard Enough

Not every man has the beard growing stuff to make a good beard. Biology and hormone levels vary, even over time. I once sported some facial hair in college for a year. It grew slower and thinner than what my latest four month experiment achieved, much later in life. Try it out, and if if doesn’t work out, shave it off and don’t worry about it.

Tools Maketh Beard

I spent most of my facial hair growing life keeping the forces of beard at bay. While getting started is easy as not shaving, there’s tools to make the maintenance easier.

Beard Oil or Balm

There’s different schools of thought on which one is better. Balm tends to be helpful for the itchy scruff stage and for sculpting/holding longer hair like hair gel. Oil seems to help for a softening hair. I’ll include a link to an article on the subject

Beard Comb

Holy cow is this the greatest invention on earth. Trying to keep tangles out with whatever I found lying around didn’t work. Seven dollars and a few days wait for mail-order solved my problem with the right tool. The beard comb works. Get one.

Beard Trimming Scissors

A proper pair of scissors is easier to handle and sharp enough to do the chop of making small tiny cuts to even out and clear out overgrowth. An electric trimmer might be handy, but there’s always a spot needing fine motor control.

What Kind Is Right For Me

Not every beard fits a given face. A long beard might not look good on a round face. Or a close beard can make that round face look to round. When you get that first stage of full growth, you can see how it impacts your look. My face structure is heart shaped, but age and calories have made it rounder. A goatee or Van Dyke brings back my chin and diminishes the round appearance. I’ve compiled a few links with examples

Steamed Bearding

A friend of mine and Victorian enthusiast, pointed out that wearing styles that are still common now doesn’t stand out. Choosing a style that is distinctive and unusual can make your appearance stand out. Might not be right for you and your day job, but finding a style that is a step from the basic can add character.

A Close Shave

Now you know about as much as I do about beards. It can finish a look, accentuate your face, or annoy your wife. If you take the time to grow one, put in the work to maintain and shape it, and it will be an asset.

Oh my, you look like a new man, Kensington, old boy,” declared Lord Grovincurry. Kensington rested in a settee, cup of tea emptied and setting on the table beside him. The barber finished cleaning off the last of the shaving cream.

“Nothing like a spot of tea to rejuvenate a man.”

“I think Lady Locke will like your new look.”

“What does Lady Keye care about my beard.”

“Hmm? Oh never mind. Take a look in the mirror.”


Follow the link for other articles in my Steampunk Gentleman series:

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