Bearded Wonder

Fun with facial hair.

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.

vandykeEventually 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.

hulkOf 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.

lumberjackWell, 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.

Article © 2009 by Kevin Brotzman