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In Defense of the Underachieving Scraggly Beard

A new crop of A-listers is embracing—and actually growing out—less-than-full-coverage scruff. Find out how they’re pulling it off by following a few simple but crucial rules.

My beard is a patchy beard. It’s actually got some gaping holes. Sort of like a reverse horseshoe mustache. In lieu of the mustache’s horseshoe “handles,” I have two wide racing stripes of total hairlessness. I’ve always assumed, though never confirmed, that this means I could never join a motorcycle gang (or ZZ Top).

Even worse: When the hair I’ve got gets a bit overgrown, it’s a far cry from the consistent, airbrushed 5-o’clock shadow of a Don Draper or even, say, a Homer Simpson.

Instead, my wiry beard hairs grow in random and conflicting directions. It’s like each little gen-Y follicle is convinced of its own uniqueness, refusing to conform to the group agenda or any greater good.

Needless to say, pictures of noble-bearded celebrities like Ben Affleck and Jake Gyllenhaal make me a little jealous. However, I’ve recently found solace in the scraggle of a few A-listers who are really pulling off the patchier, sparser, if-I-took-the-time-I-could-probably-count-each-individual-hair beards. James Franco, for one. Orlando Bloom. James McAvoy. These guys give me hope.

The most notable recent example is Franco’s ubiquitous Gucci ad, in which the setting sun casts its golden light upon every overgrown flaw and hairless patch of his facial hair. If you ask me, it’s nothing short of a coming-out party for the underachieving scraggle beard.

So what can we learn from the sparse Franco scruff? The jawline helps, sure, but the most important thing is the balance between kempt and unkempt, effort and effortlessness. As Franco demonstrates, you can let wiry and unpredictable mustache hairs grow rampant over your upper lip, as long as the neckline stays tidy with a sharp line or a stubble fade. Moral of the story: Overall sparseness is no excuse not to sculpt and shave.

Shaving creams and gels that come in tubes with small apertures are best suited for this kind of spot shaving (the awesomely affordable and handsomely designed Proraso, which some subscribers are getting in their November boxes, fits that bill), while tubs are good for everyday shavers (since so much surface area is exposed to air). Of course, every once in a while it’s also important to start fresh and cut those little wiry millennial follicles down to size. It’s the only way they’ll learn to be team players.

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Photo: © People Avenue/People Avenue/Corbis

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