The beard maketh the man. Do you know who said that pearl of undeniable wisdom? We did, just then. And it’s true. For those who care, the beard is a literal extension of your personality, whether you are wild and untamed, big and attention-grabbing or distinguished and to the point.
If you’re the kind of man who’s refined and well-styled, then a short beard can enhance your look. But there’s more to a short beard than just growing a centimetre of facial hair and trimming it down every other week.
We spoke to the UK’s best barbers to find out how to choose the best short beard style for you and keep it in good shape.
Just-groomed-enough stubble is a simple, classic, flattering look, says George Wilkins from Ruffians barbers. “Decide on a length you’re happy with and ask your barber for that grade all over. The thing that sets this apart is the clean razor-shaved neckline, which gives a more groomed, smarter feel.”
How to maintain it: This one is also easy to achieve from the comfort of your own bathroom. Simply put your desired grade – usually under a centimetre to avoid George Michael comparisons – on the beard trimmer. Prune every two-to-five days, depending on your speed of growth.
The Classic Goatee
“This is the most recognised short beard style and the key is the width of it,” says Joe Mills from barbers Joe & Co. “You don’t want it too wide or narrow as it can change your face shape, making it look fuller. Start wider and then work your way in until you are happy with the shape.”
How to maintain it: “Trim every couple of days and the shape will always be there. Clean shave around the goatee or have the clippers on the shortest length to trim the rest of your facial hair down. Keep the moustache line clean as this will make it look sharper and more detailed.”
Full Boxed Beard
This is essentially a full beard, but kept short, in the time honoured tradition of George Clooney. “The length of this style will vary depending on personal preference and hair type,” says Koca.
“Length-wise it’s usually finger deep or slightly longer. In order to achieve a boxed look, you usually need quite thick hair. Ask for a boxy, full, medium-length style. Also, ask to keep it shorter around sideburns and line it up under the chin and cheek line.”
How to maintain it: “A top tip is to comb it, up to six times per day, to keep the blood flow moving continually. This will encourage healthy hair growth and will keep your beard in shape. And wash regularly as well as using beard oil and conditioner.”
“This is a version of the goatee,” says Mills. “It has an emphasis on volume and needs a couple of weeks of stubble to get it shaped in properly. Best take your barber a picture.” It’s worked for everyone from David Beckham to Christian Bale, so you shouldn’t struggle for beardspiration.
How to maintain it: “This is a disconnected goatee, so you need to take your time and go easy. It needs to be symmetrical – use the clippers to get the shape and then use your wet razor to get the detail. A good balm will keep it looking great.”
The Short Shaggy Beard
“This nonchalant style works well if you have uneven hair growth and if you’re unable to grow a full beard,” says Sait Koca from the Adam Grooming Atelier. “We would recommend keeping it finger depth short, or even shorter. And keep the focus on the thickest part of your beard to give it a full look.”
How to maintain it: “Wash and condition regularly and get it trimmed every two weeks, or whenever it starts to feel too long. People with this beard type usually ask their barber for a tidy-up, rather than overly styling it.”
The Medium-Length Goatee
A look that Brad Pitt has been wearing all summer, this is tightly trimmed just above the lip, says Wilkins. “Clean shaved on the cheeks, but maintaining stubble towards the jawline, neck shaved short with trimmers, maybe sometimes clean shaved. Keep as much length through the chin area to elongate the face.”
How to maintain it: “You can get away with not having it trimmed as regularly – it’s a style that looks great when it grows out. Shave the cheeks and trim the moustache above the lip regularly to maintain a cleaner image. Shampoo and condition and use a natural beard oil to keep the beard and skin in healthy condition.”
Henry Cavill turned heads and raised eyebrows with this style in the last Mission: Impossible movie. Stealing the beardstache for yourself needn’t involve international espionage, though.
“Grow out your entire beard until your moustache reaches a length you are happy with,” says Wilkins. “Then ask your barber for grade one, two, or three through the rest of your beard – depending on how prominent you want the tache. You can fade the cheeks and neckline with a lower grade to soften it, or a straight razor for a manicured look.”
How to maintain it: “You won’t need to trim the moustache as often as putting a grade through the stubble. A beard balm with beeswax would be ideal to groom the tache. Comb it through then twiddle the corners or work it in with your hands and leave natural.”
“The balbo is a beard style when facial hair is strongest and most prominent in the chin and moustache area,” says Sait Koca about the classic two-piece beard – usually defined by an unconnected moustache and goatee. Robert Downey Jr gets extra creative with this style but it can be done simply.
“The outline of this style usually comes naturally, so just ask your barber to work with the natural hair growth and tidy it up. Keep it longer and pointy on the chin and to maintain the moustache for a well-groomed look.
How to maintain it: “This style is quite straightforward to maintain in between barber visits as there are no harsh lines. You should use a comb and get the edges trimmed with scissors regularly.”
The Van Dyke
“The Van Dyke is a shorter, cleaner version of the balbo,” says Koca. It’s a little bit roguish and a little bit peacock-y, so perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s Johnny Depp’s facial hair of choice.
“It includes a goatee, without the sides. Keep it triangular on the chin, it’s up to you how long or short you want it. Ask your barber to keep the moustache quite prominent.”
How to maintain it: “Keep the sides shaved and the goatee longer. In terms of styling, we recommend using scissors rather than clippers. If you’re keeping it longer, comb the beard and use moustache wax. As with any beard, you should regularly wash and condition it.”
Key Beard Products
Our experts explain which products you need to treat that beard right. Get that bathroom cabinet stocked.
“All facial hair no matter the length should be shampooed,” says Joe Mills. “You’re in the shower so take the extra 5 mins and wash that stubble. It will keep your beard and more importantly the skin underneath clean and healthy.”
“Conditioners with all-natural ingredients – such as Manuka honey – are perfect for dry or sensitive skin. It will keep your beard looking and feeling soft and clean.”
“Your skin and facial hair takes a lot of hits during the day so treat it well to look the best it can,” says Joe Mills. “I recommend balm and oil, don’t go to heavy on the oil as you want to keep it just right and not too oily.
“If you buy cheap it will take longer and it will not look as good as a pro trimmer,” says Joe Mills. “Pro units are long-lasting and can handle all beard types. Go for something cordless with various guards so you can get the length right.”
How To Trim Your Beard
For many of us, the problem with beard styles is maintaining at home – getting those lines straight and symmetrical without having the professional tools and touch. Getting a decent set of hair clippers or a beard trimmer is essential.
Acquaint yourself with the guard lengths (which usually go from grade 1 to 8, in increments of 3mm approx) and using the open/close lever (typically a 0.5 grade which helps for extra detail when fading).
Even if you want your beard short short, there’s no need to storm in with a grade 1. George Wilkins from Ruffians recommends you play it safe and trim your beard in stages. “Cover yourself by starting with a higher guard and working down,” he says. “It always better to do gradually.”
But what about the fiddly bits – under the nose, the top lip, cheeks, and neckline?
“When working around under the nose you need to trim right up to the nose line,” says Joe Mills. “Your top lip needs to be lined out as well – use the corner of the clipper and line out gently. I prefer to come up from the bottom lip so you can see what’s happening.”
“On the neckline always put in your marker centrally and work outwards,” says Wilkins. “But be cautious of the opposite side to your side you’re working on with your clipper hand. For cheeks reverse your trimmer blade and cut upwards to prevent taking the line too low.
“If you want a hard line on the cheek line it out with the clipper and then use a razor to get it super clean,” says Mills. “By using gel instead of foam, you can see the beard line through it.”
What Beard Style Suits Your Face?
You could cut the most on-trend, Hollywood-inspired two-piece combo, but if your face isn’t a compatible shape, it’s going to be an all-out facial fuzz disaster. Here’s how to match your face shape and beard.
What beard style suits a square face?
“A square face tends to have naturally sharp lines,” says George Wilkins from Ruffians barbers. “It would certainly look better with a beard shorter on the cheeks and more elongated on the chin area for a soft and balanced look.
What beard style suits a round face?
“A round face would benefit from having more length under the chin area,” says Wilkins. “Though still keep the sides relatively short. This will help elongate a round face shape.”
What beard style suits a rectangle face?
“Rectangular face shapes need to be a little fuller as you don’t want to over accentuate the face shape,” says Joe Mills from barbers Joe & Co. “Both the goatee and balbo work well, but with these keep the contours sharper.”
What beard style suits an oval face?
Oval face shapes work with most lengths and you can style your beard as you like, says Mills. “A goatee and balbo also work well again.”
What beard style suits a diamond face?
“Shorter beards work better as you don’t want anything too long on the chin,” says Mills. “This just adds too much to the shape. The balbo can help with this because the emphasis is on the tache and then the chin. A goatee can help widen the face but don’t go too pointed.”