I’m sure there are plenty of good reasons to grow facial hair, but if you were to ask me why I’ve been bearded for most of my adult life, I couldn’t offer much of an answer than “because I can.”
I’ve been able to grow a fairly thick goatee since I was about 15, and I did so at my first opportunity. I attended a Catholic, all-boys high school, which meant a strict dress code. No hair below the earlobe, and squeaky-clean faces. So when summer vacation rolled around, I let my chin run free.
Of course, it was only my chin; no matter how dense the growth was down there, I couldn’t grow hair thickly and evenly on the rest of my face. So the goatee sort of became my trademark — at least for a few months each year.
I kept the goatee when I got to college, basking in the freedom of looking the way that I wanted to look. Of course, freedom combined with boredom soon became a dangerous thing. I experimented with the following styles in college:
- The Inverse Triangle:
- The Devil Horns, which I sported as a joke while in the process of shaving:
- The King Tut:
At one point, I also shaved my head and my entire face (well, I left the eyebrows), which prompted one of my professors to ask me if I were in the Witness Protection Program.
For a few years post-college, I kept a fairly well-trimmed goatee, shaving it and starting from scratch a few times a year. Following one such occasion, when I boarded my daily train before work, one of the other regular riders actually looked at me and exclaimed, “Your goatee is gone!” So that’s who I was, even to strangers. The Goatee Guy. I’m still not sure how to feel about that.
Eventually I took the plunge and decided to branch out from the chin-beard in the summer of 2007. I’d made a few halfhearted attempts previously, but after about two weeks of scratchy, patchy hair on my cheeks and upper lip, I’d throw in the towel. This time, I actually waited it out and grew a full Van Dyke that was … not terrible.
Of course I sabotaged it for fun, fulfilling a lifelong dream and trimming it to create a “horseshoe”, the style popularized by that orange creature known as Hulk Hogan. When autumn rolled around, I shaved it clean and have alternated between the old standby goatee and a clean-shaven look ever since.
Well, that’s not entirely true. For the past two months, I’ve experimented with a full beard for the first time. Again, it’s turned out better than I expected, even if one of my oldest friends sarcastically described it as “lumberjack chic.” Of course, now that I’ve had the same style for more than a few weeks, I’m getting antsy again, and thinking about how much fun the horseshoe was.
Stop me before I kill again.