It’s very possible to match too much. Think of denim on denim: if you’re not careful, the “Canadian tuxedo” can be more distracting than complementary. The same goes for your beard and hair. If the stuff up top is the exact same length and shape as your beard, then you’re overlooking a core grooming tenet. While it’s important to consider symmetry in picking a beard or hair style, it’s just as important to pay attention to the way you pair them together.
In other words: when you’re growing a beard, you need an uneven hair-to-beard ratio. In other other words: Don’t match the top with the bottom. Even a dapper celeb can get it wrong sometimes. But check how Jamie Dornan nailed the ratio with buzzed hair: that’s what you’re aiming for. So, how do you plan the ratio, given you’re growing a beard but keeping your hair the same length? How do you grow out the beard and avoid this fiasco without having to wear a hat for 4 weeks? And how do you know if this applies to you at all?
I’m happy you asked. Here’s how.
Who Needs This Lesson Most?
Two kinds of guys should pay close attention to their hair-to-beard ratio. First, men with short, buzzed hair: beware the dreaded tennis-ball look with a new beard, since it won’t take long for the two to hit the same length. Secondly, if your hair is thick and wiry up top (close in texture to your beard): be mindful of the fact that your hair grows both up and out, so it’s more necessary for you to consider the style of beard, and to follow these rules longer than your limp-haired pals.
And Who Doesn’t?
If you’re bald up top, then there really isn’t a ratio to worry about. You can grow any kind of facial hair and it’s going to be wonderfully imbalanced.
The same can be said for long-haired dudes. Think Jared Leto, pre-Suicide Squad, or Joaquin Phoenix when he did that weird performance art alter-ego thing. Go wild.
How to Grow Your Beard and Honor the Ratio
OK, so let’s talk strategy. You’re about to grow a beard. If you have short, buzzed hair: As mentioned, you’re in the danger zone. Your haircut is about a month ahead of the whiskers, lengthwise, but that visible gap will shrink soon. So either keep the beard very short with regular trims, or swap the two as the beard reaches full coverage—that is, buzz the hair all the way down, commando style, letting the beard take center stage. (This is what Dornan did so well.)
If you have thick, wiry hair: Geometry is important here. Consider two moves, both in the same vein. The first is to keep the sides of your head really short. Jason Derulo does this really well when he sports longer styles with a beard. His beard and hair are about the same length, but his faded sides create the necessary imbalance. The alternative to this is something that Michael B. Jordan and Kanye West have perfected: Shave your cheeks. Jordan can’t really grow a full beard (no shame in that!), but he naturally looks good with some chin fuzz that matches the length atop his head. Again, there’s a visual imbalance, since hair isn’t wrapping his head in one uniform length. West, too, rocks short hair all around, but keeps the focus on his goatee.
If you have medium or wavy hair: I envy how good you’re gonna look with beautiful, flowing locks and a full, bushy beard. Take a lesson from Bradley Cooper’s book. Let the beard grow, and comb your hair back. But don’t slick it: Embrace your texture, or add it with the right gritty styling product. If your beard is nice and manicured, your hair should offset the matchy-matchy by being somewhat unkempt.