When boys hit puberty they can’t wait to start sprouting a few facial hairs, but as they get older and those fine hairs become darker and bristlier, they are faced with the dilemma: to shave or not to shave?
Many guys are now opting for full, well-groomed beards, which must explain the rapid growth in the number of barber-shops we’ve seen popping up.
I spoke to Yogesh Govan (Yogi), from Yogi’s Barbershop in Cape Town, who says his 25-year-old shop in Buitengracht has got a lot busier since beards became so trendy.
He is a fourth-generation barber and the owner of Yogi’s.
A beard has traditionally been seen as a lazy guy’s way of dealing with facial hair. But since the trend caught on, growing a beard has become about more than just letting your hair grow out.
“Your beard needs to be maintained by regular grooming, which includes trimming, maintaining the shape, neatening the edges and making sure the hair is always in good condition,” said Govan. This is one of the reasons why regular visits to the barber have become a necessity.
In the past, men only went to the barber for a haircut. Now guys pop into the barber-shop once a week to keep their beards looking fresh.
“It’s difficult to get a clean trim line using a normal razor blade, no matter how fancy it is, whereas with a cut-throat blade used by barbers, you can,” explained Govan.
When I visited his shop on a Thursday afternoon, there wasn’t an empty seat to be found. The place was buzzing with clients and the sound of clippers. Most of the customers were there to have their beards tended to.
“Guys feel more comfortable chilling in a barber-shop rather than a unisex salon. It’s like hanging out in a ‘man cave’ where they can chat and enjoy the experience of a traditional barber-shop,” said Govan.
Most guys have become very particular about their beards and the barber who cuts it.
“When a man finds the right barber for him, who gives him a cut he’s happy with, he will stick with that barber. They insist on only having their beards touched by that person – even if it means waiting a bit longer.”
Another reason guys grow beards is because it makes them look more mature and feel more distinguished than when they are clean-shaven, which many men feel makes them look like schoolboys.
“Now that the salt-and-pepper look is popular, men are proud to show off their grey hair. We are even getting requests to create this look,” said Govan.
Even the ladies are starting to appreciate beards.
“In the past women were not in favour of them because they looked scruffy and felt hard and prickly against their skin.
“Now that men are taking better care of their beards and using products to keep the hair soft and moisturised, women find them more bearable,” said Govan.
“Even though long beards are still popular, I feel guys are going for shorter beards now, especially in this heat. I see the moustache making a comeback as well,” he added.
Ken Biddle, a.k.a BarberBiddle, a barber at Barnet Fair, has been working at the shop for two years and is passionate about what he does.
“Gone are the days when guys would just let their beard grow and be a rugged man. I have never chopped down a tree or wrestled my dinner” said Biddle who sports a full, well-groomed beard.
I spoke to him about this growing trend and how to maintain a beard...
What should a guy bare in mind when he decides to grow a beard?
Personally, I will always advise a guy to work with what he has. Some beards are full so keep them full and neat, go for length and density. Other guys might find their beard doesn’t grow on the sides as much, stick to the "Iron Man" look of a short goatee with sharp lines. If a guy has a patchy beard with very little density, then keep the short beard look with sharp lines to create shape.
Do you see the moustache making a comeback?
Moustaches are fun and funny, but guys love beer and none of us like to share our beer with our moustaches.
What tips do you have on maintaining a beard?
First and best advice is to brush and comb it as often as possible.
Don’t wash with normal soaps as it dries out the skin below the beard, wash with pure glycerine soap or a beard soap at most twice a week. Use beard oils and balms when the beard gets itchy or dry.
Finally, the most important tip of all is for guys to not try trim or shape their beards themselves. It can go wrong very quickly.
Is there any one celebrity whose style is most copied, or who’s a trendsetter in this regard?
Zach Galifianakis, Travis Fimmel (Ragnar Lothbrok of Vikings) are usually referenced. Personally, I’m secretly hoping that Hugh Jackman has a comeback.