If you’ve decided to grow out that five o’clock shadow into something a little more permanent, you’ve probably started to wonder exactly how to groom your facial hair into something besides a wizard beard—something that fits your personality.
The answer? It’s written all over your face—or, more accurately, in the shape of your face. “A lot of guys think you can grow your hair into a beard, and then just leave it at that,’” says Carmelo Guastella, a Gillette men’s grooming expert. “But we all have different face shapes. And you want to grow your facial hair to bring out the best aspects of your facial features.”
To help you figure out what kind of beard or mustache works the best on your face, we’ve picked out a few leading men with archetypical features—plus a helpful outline of the face shapes, courtesy of the grooming pros at Gillette—that will help demonstrate what you should look for (and what to avoid).
Think of an oval face not as a particular shape, but rather as a set of proportions: cheekbones just slightly wider than jawbones, and a balanced chin that’s vertically symmetrical with your forehead.
“Whenever a guy comes to me and asks for advice on his facial hair, I always try to find something that will help him approximate an oval face shape,” Guastella says. “That’s my rule.”
So if you’re an oval-faced guy, congrats: You don’t really need to balance anything out. In fact, if you go overboard on a beard or mustache, you can even end up throwing off your facial symmetry. Going clean-shaven is always a good option, as is a beard that hews fairly closely to your existing facial features.
Hart’s beard game is on point—and while he often makes subtle variations, he usually keeps it within the same classic spectrum. The comedian (and former Men’s Fitness cover guy) often wears a thin goatee with slightly more volume at the bottom of his chin, which nicely frames his ever-present grin. Sometimes he’ll also grow out a neat, trim beard below his jawline to square his jaw slightly, but it always maintains the baseline oval shape of his face.
When he does grow some scruff, Beckham makes sure it’s proportional to his features. He balances out his wide, tapered mustache by growing his beard right up to his lower lip. Most importantly, he trims his beard so it maintains the basic shape of his jawline (barbers often call this a “soft corner”). End result: the same strong-jawed, oval facial profile as clean-shaven Beckham.
Guys with rounder faces typically have wide cheekbones, wide jawbones that sit at or below their mouths, and a short chin. If your face is shaped like this, it’s smart to focus on facial hair like a Van Dyke or a goatee, since it emphasizes the middle/bottom of your face and creates the impression of a longer, more pronounced chin. (Contrast this with the “triangle” face shape, which results from wide cheekbones and a long, pointed chin.) Guastella’s pro tip: “If you have a round face, don’t grow your hair or facial hair too wide—keep it narrower.”
The Bourne Legacy and Avengers actor has a classic example of a rounded face. He’s often clean-shaven, but when he does grow out his scruff, he typically sculpts it into a trim Van Dyke. Note how it accentuates his chin and seems to lengthen his face, creating the impression of a more angular jawline.
Wahlberg was often clean-shaven earlier in his career (remember those Calvin Klein ads?), but he’s started to wear his goatee more often as he’s shifted into action-hero-cool-dad mode. In movies like Transformers, for example, Wahlberg typically goes for a horseshoe mustache/goatee combo with more scruff on the bottom, effectively elongating his jaw and the middle of his chin.
A triangular face (sometimes also called a heart-shaped face) doesn’t have to mean a small jawline. On the contrary, it’s more likely that you have a pointed chin, wide cheekbones, and narrower jawbones that sit high relative to your mouth. Triangular faces stand to benefit the most from a beard—whether perma-scruff or full sea captain’s whiskers—which will help you create the impression of a fuller, squared-off jawline. (Contrast the triangle with the round face shape.)
Guastella’s pro tip for bearded dudes: “Don’t trim your beard too high on your neck. There should be more beard than clean-shaven skin below your chin. When the beard becomes too small, it’s more of a chinstrap—and then you lose the square-jawed effect.”
It’s almost hard to imagine the Chicago Cubs pitcher with anything but a beard at this point, but Arietta is the perfect example of how a full beard can change the dimensions of a guy’s face—and, therefore, how he’s perceived by opposing batters.
Back in his Orioles days, the mostly clean-shaven Arietta often looked boyish; on the Wrigley mound, though, the thickly bearded righty looks like a wrathful titan. (And take note, aspiring beard crew: Arietta’s beard is imposing, but it’s always well-kempt.)
Nobody would dare accuse the muscle-bound actor of having a weak chin—he’s played a savage British prisoner (Bronson), an aspiring MMA fighter (Warrior), and the guy who singlehandedly broke Batman (The Dark Knight Rises)—but he does have a relatively narrow chin, at least compared to his jawbones. The upside? Few actors can rock a beard like Hardy—see The Revenant, if you haven’t already—and that’s largely because it adds a layer of depth and volume to his jawline. And while Hardy often lets his beard go a little wild (again, see The Revenant), you’re probably better off keeping yours controlled and trimmed evenly across your jaw.
If anyone’s ever called you The Chin, or compared you to Clint Eastwood (lucky you), you probably have a “long” face—wide jawbones that sit above your mouth, plus a deep chin that squares off at the bottom. (Contrast it with round/square face shapes.) As such, you’re probably best served by a full but narrow chevron mustache—which helps break up your face vertically but not horizontally—or a well-trimmed chinstrap beard, which enhances the volume of your long jawline without looking messy.
Another Guastella pro tip for beard growers: “Hair doesn’t always grow in evenly across your cheeks or jawline, or on both sides of your face. You might need to adjust your beard to hide those patches and ensure it looks symmetrical.”
Many men try to pull off idiosyncratic facial hair; few succeed like RDJ. His detailed chevron mustache and angled goatee, which spikes up near the corners of his mouth, are as much a part of his celebrity allure as they are of Tony Stark’s. Downey occasionally grows out his goatee into a longer chinstrap beard, but take note: He always keeps it neat, trim, and short, so it gives his chin a little more width without looking unruly. (For a long-faced superhero with more conventional facial hair, look at Ryan Reynolds.)
Elba is bearded far more often than he is clean-shaven, and it’s easy to see why. Even though the guy is good-looking as it is, his facial hair—often a horseshoe mustache plus a circle beard, or the mustache plus a close-cropped full beard—adds some volume to his long, prominent chin. You could also make the argument that Elba has a triangular face, but the same concept applies: his beard adds volume (and, therefore, gravitas) to the lower third of his face.
Thick, wide jawbones. Short, angular chin. A square face is the stereotypical “strong-jawed” look favored in classic Hollywood heroes, from John Wayne to Arnold Schwarzenegger to Tom Selleck, and even Johnny Cash. But while manly men of yore typically look like they can rock just about any scruff they want, they have some clear preferences that work best. You’re typically best served by going for narrow facial hair (like a goatee or a circle beard) because it lengthens your chin while accentuating your already considerable jaw. Square-jawed guys also look best with traditional mustaches—looking at you again, Selleck!—because their wide facial features can accommodate that grizzly upper lip.
Guastella’s pro tip for the aspiring Magnum P.I.: “If you’re gonna go for a mustache, go for a mustache. But keep an eye out for hairs that sort of cascade out into weird directions—trim them with small scissors to keep everything into an even, controlled shape. And don’t let the hairs go over your lip.”
Pitt has rocked a range of facial hair over the years—some of it Hollywood-gala perfect, some of it less so. But just because he’s Brad Pitt doesn’t mean he can get away with any facial hair he wants. That’s why his scruff usually revolves around a simple circle beard or full goatee: It helps elongate his chin slightly, while still maintaining his famously squared-off jawbones. The ultimate effect? A more oval-shaped face that still screams “Hollywood leading man.”
Like his frequent co-star Kevin Hart, The Rock keeps his facial hair so subtle and well-groomed that it’s sometimes easy to miss. But whether he’s bashing heads on WWE, bashing heads as Luke Hobbs in the Fast & Furious movies, or bashing heads as Paul Doyle in Pain & Gain, Johnson typically goes for a simple goatee or circle beard, which fills out his chin without taking away from his adamantine jaw muscles. (In fact, you could make the argument that the full beard he wore in Hercules actually detracts from his granite jawline, because it adds the appearance of volume to the sides of his face, making it seem rounder and therefore less chiseled.)