Ever known a clean-shaven guy who loves to experiment with fashion and just when you think there’s no look he can’t pull off, he goes and grows a beard and boy does it look terrible? Ever been that guy? I know I have. You’d think a beard would make you look suave and distinguished and you’d be right, except for one tiny detail: the beard neckline. Almost all men get it wrong at some point and I know so many pro stylists and men’s barbers who overlook its importance as well.
When styling a beard, most guys tend to fixate on the type and the focus is usually on choosing between the latest beard trends and finding one that works for the individual’s features. Don’t get me wrong, as a stylist it’s heartening to see men take more of an interest in grooming and in experimenting with different looks. While getting the beard type right is certainly paramount, there’s a lot more that goes into making a look work and that’s where the difference between an amateur and a real pro comes into play.
Finishing your beard off correctly and meticulously is essential if you want to look good. Also, did you know that you could be working out hours daily but being sloppy with your beard neckline will make it look like you’ve got the wobbliest double chin on the planet? Yep, that is how much the neckline can affect your look. Scared? Here’s how you can avoid that particular faux pas, and others associated with the beard neckline.
#1 The Two-Finger Rule
Want a foolproof way of figuring out where your neckline should be? Position two fingers above your Adam’s apple (using your index and middle fingers) and see where the top of your index finger is at: this is where your beard neckline should fall at, ideally. This is the most universally applicable trick of deciding neckline height, as it helps locate the ideal point as per the individual’s facial features and cranial structure. If, however, you don’t like the look of the results achieved thus, consider raising or lowering your beard neckline a few centimeters until you feel more comfortable.
#2 Stay On The Neck
On the nose, but, it’s called a NECKline for a reason: it’s supposed to end at and run on the neck. All too often I see men walking around with their beard necklines ending at the jaw or above it; you know when you can clearly see a defined finishing line over the jaw and some clean-shaven skin totally visible under it? This makes it look like your face fattened up overnight or your beard’s a size too small and the results are not pretty. Whenever you’re finishing off your beard, make sure you’re well into the neck region and nowhere close to the jawline or the face. It’s an easy enough mistake to make, especially if you’re just starting out with grooming, and you might be tempted to cut it fine and create a really precise shape that follows the natural contours of the jaw but trust my word on this: it’s going to look terrible.
#3 Natural Necklines
As tempting as it is to prove to the world that you’re capable of creating a tight, razor-sharp neckline, I must insist you resist the urge. The best beard necklines are the ones that are the most natural and organic-looking. You don’t want the neckline to jump up in relief compared to the clean, non-bearded or untouched skin under it. If you are sporting a stubble, let it fade out as softly as possible, allowing some growth around the Adam’s apple while still trimming the total and keeping it neat.
#4 Shaping The Neckline
Pay attention to the specific contours of your head, but follow this rule by-and-large: you want the neckline to trace a U-shape from ear to ear, running down in a straight line from one ear to the neck, looping under in a top-open arc and then running back up the face on the other side, connecting at the other ear. Another easy way to picture this is to start at the base mark derived from Step 1 and the two finger technique: imagine a small, inch-long straight line at this point and then trace a curve back up to each ear.
#5 Cleaning The Neck
Once you’ve got your neckline figured out, it’s time to get shaping. We’re working with the assumption here that you know how to style your beard, so we’re going to focus only on the neckline today. Once you’ve got your beard neckline set, it’s time to trim away the excess. You can choose to keep a beard neckline fade and gently ease your way to clean skin underneath or opt for a hard stop neckline. Either way, all the hair beneath your chosen neckline must be shaved. If you’re growing a major beard, like the Bandholz, the rules of the game change, obviously. But in most cases, grooming pundits agree on the no-hair-below-the-neckline mantra. On the flipside, you absolutely do not want to touch any of the hair above the neckline. A natural-looking neckline is only possible if you allow small hairs to grow under the jaw and around the chin, which is why we use the two-finger technique.
#6 Focus On The Fade
And finally, we come to the bit that leaves most beard-lovers stumped: the neckline fade. The fade is basically a gradual change in hair length from the neckline to the main beard and vice-versa. If you’re looking at it from the neckline to the face, you’ll see that the hair slowly increases in length, until it is its fullest on the cheeks. If you’re taking a top-down view of things, you’ll move from maximum length in the beard itself to a gradually decreasing length till the neckline and finally, clean skin. Either way, getting the fade right is key to a naturally flowing beard as it prevents any abrupt changes, discordant lengths and sharp contrasts.
To get the fade right, switch your clippers to one or two settings lower (shorter) than you use for the main beard and then work on the hair right above the Adam’s apple. Let the hair fade out in 3 layers: the main beard, a small section right underneath it and then the third section, just above the Adam’s apple. You might want to leave the middle section untouched for a really subtle fade. This is the safest way to go, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience in the department. For a sharper fade, you can go down one setting on the clippers when you move from the face to right under the chin and then go down another setting when moving to the third layer, aka the area above the Adam’s apple. To finish off the fade, get rid of any hair under the neckline and keep the rest of your neck and throat region completely clean.
#7 Prep And Prime Right
All grooming, styling and beauty processes are a labor of love, and there are usually a bunch of pre and post-process steps involved that are instrumental to getting the most out of the experience. Here are my top tips on amping up your next beard grooming experience:
· Get the right tools in place. You will need a set of quality clippers for your beard, so invest wisely. I advocate picking a machine with multiple settings so you can experiment between different looks and lengths. Look for clipper head attachments as well if you want a wider range of sculpting options. This also comes in handy while creating a natural, soft beard neckline fade. If you want a pronounced, dramatic beard fade, nothing compared to a good old-fashioned razor.
· Prep your face for the shaving experience. A little TLC never hurt and you’d be surprised by how much these tricks help. Soak a clean towel in hot water and place it on your face for a few minutes to open the pores up. Make sure the water’s not scalding. Repeat this step a few times if need be. Continue with the shaving/ styling process as discussed. When you’re done, pat some cold water onto your face or use a new towel soaked in cold water to dampen your skin and close pores down. These two simple steps can prevent ingrown hairs, razor bumps and all sorts of itchy skin- basically saving you from a world of discomfort.
I hope these tips prove handy. Remember, the devil is in the details. You could rush through the shaving and beard grooming process and end up regretting your look for days to come or you could spend a few extra minutes today and look fantastic the entire week. Have fun with it and check back next week for more tips and pro advice on beard grooming.