Learn from the mistakes of those who have bearded before you, and bearded unwisely.
1. Don’t treat your beard like a topiary
Starting off obvious here. Luda has long since ditched his mid-nineties fire beard, but the Internet reminds him every day that he did a very dumb thing with his facial hair. Millions of dollars and he can’t scrub mankind’s collective memory of those wack-ass flame-burns. What chance do you have?
2. Don’t trim away the beardiest parts
Soul patch, flavor saver, the mouche (???)—whatever the name, it isn’t a beard so much as a prolapsed mustache. Frank Zappa was awesome in spite of his, not because of it.
3. Don’t even think about a goatee
This is really rule 2a, but bears being singled out. A goatee looks like a mouth vagina, which is crass, I know, but it’s the truth, and a friend will tell you the truth. I am not your friend, so I can tell you the truth while also being mean about it: your goatee looks like a mouth vagina. Even if you’ve directed the most astonishing, ethically dubious documentary in recent history. Andrew Jarecki.
4. Don’t let your beard just grow
You must tend to the beard, nurture the beard, provide the beard with boundaries and stern but loving guidance. Otherwise you end up looking like Fuck It All McConaughey over here, and let’s be honest: no one is trying to turn your last name into an exultant comeback portmanteau.
5. Don’t accessorize your beard
Not with beads. Not with elastic bands. Not with Christmas decorations.
6. Don’t leave food in your beard
Of course you wouldn’t actively store Froot Loops in your facial hair, like Zach Galifianakis did for GQ’s 2009 profile. But beard hair, like your girlfriend asking if you saw Rihanna’s latest Instagram, is a trap. Pasta sauce and cappuccino foam and rice from Indian takeout will nestle into your beard nest—be ever vigilant.
7. Don’t trim your beard into a point
Have you ever been down to Georgia, looking for a soul to steal? Then that thumbs-down of a beard isn’t doing you any favors—even if you are ageless Pierce Brosnan, whose rapper name would be Handsome Lazarus.
8. Don’t short-change the mustache
By which we mean two things. Foremost, don’t forget to give it as much grooming attention as the rest of your beard. But also: don’t do as Nick Offerman did, fresh off the Parks and Rec series finale, and lay waste to the ’stache completely.
9. Don’t forget the neckbeard
More specifically, don’t forget to shave with extreme prejudice any neckbeard follicles. You’ll know you’ve done it right when you can actually see your neck again.
10. Don’t shave the cheeks down too deep
That line from sideburn to ’stache is arguably your beard’s most defining feature, and dropping it too low runs the risk of creating faux jowls if your face is round, like Kevin Smith’s, or veering into chin strap territory on more angular faces.
11. Don’t shave a hard line into your beard’s neckline
You want natural, not architectural. Go, learn the art of the professional-grade beard fade.
12. Don’t dye your beard
13. Don’t do whatever Mickey Rourke did
That’s just quality life advice in general. But the more specific lesson to take from Rourke is that if you cannot grow a full beard—maybe because genetics didn’t bestow that gift upon you, or maybe because years of ill-advised plastic surgery have given your skin the waxy sheen of a Barbie doll accidentally left on top of an Easy-Bake oven—then don’t.
14. Don’t Travolta your beard
You shouldn’t.I guess…what I want to say…if you look at John Travolta…so don’t? I’m not entirely sure what advice to give to avoid this. I want to look away but I can’t. I think I need a momen-[stumbles into wall, collapses, sleeps for three days]
15. Don’t go all Castaway with your beard
Look at this gigantic, gnarled hair-mountain of a beard on Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel. It belongs on a Hell’s Angel member wearing a shirt that says “If you can read this the bitch fell off” across the back. But you know what? Ignore me. I’m wrong. If you can grow this kind of lost-at-sea face mane, then go for it, because you have been given a blessing, and it will look cool with a suit.