Some of your greatest ever historical style heroes were hirsute. Guy Fawkes? Big, fiery beard. Francis Drake? Sprightly goatee. Shakespeare? Well, not only did the bard have a beard, but he also spent a fair bit of time putting them on characters in dozens of his plays, often using them as a metaphor for the character of the men who wear them. In Macbeth, for example, the men meet “beard to beard”; in Antony And Cleopatra, the Egyptian queen insults Caesar behind his back by calling him “scarce-bearded”; in Much Ado About Nothing, Leonato teases hapless Benedick, suggesting, “He looks younger than he did, by the loss of a beard.
Taking all this on the chin, so to speak, you might not be surprised to learn that the beard comb is said to have been invented around the same time Bill was penning sonnets (and there you were thinking it was invented by a lone barista in Peckham). According to The Dictionary Of Fashion History – ie, Google – towards the end of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign men started using a “beard-brush”, which was very popular among the metrosexual elite and to be “used in public”.
Come 2017, beard combs are now an essential accessory for a man whose vanity outweighs any humiliation he may feel over using such a tool openly. Companies like Tom Ford, Baxter Of California and Captain Fawcett have stepped in with beautiful and affordable designs. GQ’s favourite is Buly 1803’s hand-carved comb.
So how to use one? Unlike hair combs, beard combs have wider grooves with smoother edges so you don’t scratch your face. Use in conjunction with a beard oil and always brush in the direction of your hair growth. The look you want to achieve is less Tom Hanks in Castaway and more Tom Hardy between roles. You can use a normal comb, sure, but then you run the risk of “beardruff” in the long run – no partner will thank you for that. If good grooming be the food of love, brush on.