Your style is (should) always be changing, and you’re looking in the mirror thinking about what you should do with the stuff growing on your face. The extremely standard “just let it grow” thing just isn’t working for your face, but you know there should be some hair there on your face to cover embolden the chin or upper lip.

Let us assume you have no issue growing copious amounts of facial hair, as some do, and continue onto the vast sea of options you have when deciding what to do with all that facial growth. You have a ton of options, but like many things about your stylistic decisions, every option sends a teeny tiny little signal to those around you, giving them an idea about who you are or might be based on what you’re rocking.

I’ve taken it upon myself to process and deliver unto you a series of conclusions I’ve come to via research and conversation about your facial hair decisions mean about your personality. Want to exude an aura of confidence? Coolness? Keeping your beard even though it's hot outside? Or maybe it’s authority you’re looking to impose upon your subordinates. Your facial hair can assist you in any of these endeavors, and I can help you figure it out. Let’s start from least to greatest, shall we?

The Clean Shave

Interestingly, the clean shave is actually one of the more complex out of the facial hair communicae. It is simultaneously straddling two extremely different sensibilities at once, and those are: “I take myself rather seriously” or perhaps, “I don’t know what the frick I want.”

This is an extremely important distinction, as a man of any age or calibur may find themselves in this situation. You’re either not sure what your job entails, or the kind of demands your job will push upon you, so early in your career at your current work, you remain cleanly shaven. You just aren’t sure where you should land.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you’ve been in at your current job for a little while and are still rocking the classic Jake Gyllenhaal clean shave, it’s saying just as much about you as the other guy you look down on with the full hippie beard. It says “I take this job and my personal life pretty seriously. I don’t have the time to consider what it is or isn’t saying about me on the whole. I have exactly enough mind every morning to shave it all off and hop in the car" (or train or bus, or bike, or whatever commuting situation you’re in).

The Tasteful Stubble

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Listen, we aren’t talking a scraggly five o’clock shadow, or a messy unkempt beard. We’re talking about keeping a thoughtful amount of hair to adorn your mouth, lips, and cheeks so as to illustrate to everyone over some time the message that “I have been doing this on purpose for weeks. That’s right, my stubble does not in fact just look like this over the course of 3 days of not shaving magically. I have put careful consideration into it.”

Think I’m exaggerating? Quite the opposite, I’m probably underselling the method. When you see a co-worker or famous movie or tv-personality flaunting the minimal facial hair thing, it’s a calculated look, and people you see regularly notice. This is for people who care about light and shadow, who see their face as a form of expression via facial hair choices. You’re making this choice every morning when you don’t shave every bit of hair off your stubbled face.

The Full Beard

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Trying to look wise? Scholarly? Learned? Men with larger facial hair have on of two associations typically connected to them. They are either seen as poorly kempt second class citizens, or amazingly brave facial hair gurus who have years of wisdom behind that hairy smile. Being a man who has experienced either side of that spectrum from onlookers, I happen to agree.

If you’re rocking a straight-up beard, you better be able to back it up. Be good at what you do, regardless of what it is. If you’ve got the full beard going, you either be really good at filing those expense reports (or whatever it is you might do at your big-building job) or even better at totally relaxing and doing absolutely nothing. That’s right, there’s no inbetween. Be great, or be awful.

There are tons of facial hair decisions that say tons about you. Handlebar mustache might say that you’re personable. Long sideburns might say that you’re particularly confident, framing your face in such a way to bring exclusive attention to it. A chinstrap might say that you’re crying desperately for attention (don’t do a chinstrap). Make sure you’re considering your statements before you take that razor to the face next time. It might help!

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