Which Men Look Good with Beards?
I recently decided to try to answer this question.
My interest in the question was sparked when I noticed that some men who appear to have a lot of Romantic or Ethereal -- which are feminine essences -- -- are more attractive with full beards than they are clean-shaven.
This was initially a puzzle to me, because beards, I was thinking, are iconically masculine, and these men are otherwise flattered by feminine details such as soft fabrics and draping. (Kit Harington is gorgeous in a draped scarf.)
But a couple of possible explanations have occurred to me.
Romantic and Ethereal essences require soft edges and a lack of structure. Hair is inherently soft-edged and unstructured, right? A person has to go to a lot of effort to make hair look stiff or sharp.
So perhaps a full beard on a very Romantic man (a man with sexy, voluptuous features) or a very Ethereal man (a man with angelic, otherworldly features) is flattering because the beard adds soft edges and a lack of structure to the face.
I think Benedict Cumberbatch has a lot of Ethereal, and I love him with facial hair.
(Though the right is too scraggly! It's tough to find a pic of him with a full but neat beard.)
Same with Keanu Reeves and Tyson Beckford.
In all of these men, I think the beard, in addition to adding softness, brings out the "wise" quality Ethereals have.
(Keanu has some Dramatic too, I think. More on those guys below.)
But how do we explain men with a lot of Ingenue (a youthful, pretty, girlish beauty) who are flattered by beards? Because that's totally a thing.
Ingenue is a feminine essence, but unlike Romantic and Ethereal it calls for clean edges and a bit of stiffness. So you wouldn't necessarily think a beard would flatter an Ingenue man's face.
Yet I notice a lot of men who seem to be quite Ingenue are improved by beards.
Rainn Wilson (Dwight from from The Office) has a high forehead, a tiny nose, a small mouth, and a tiny chin -- all features that read as girlish. I'm guessing he has a lot of Ingenue. And he's much improved by a beard.
I suspect Eddie Redmayne has a lot of Ingenue as well. (He's so pretty, and see how well he passes for a girl.) And again, look how much better he is with a beard.
Jeffrey Wright is another actor I'd call "pretty" without a beard, and who looks much more handsome bearded:
I think beards do flatter Ingenue men. The question "why?" is one I'm still mulling over.
To my eye, beards on these men bring out quite a bit of manliness that wasn't previously there. They seem to bring these men into balance as men. Without the beards, these men are too Ingenue, IMO.
Is it the case that a beard, despite being iconically masculine, is actually feminizing in its visual effect? ... because it's soft and round-edged? And that adding the feminine element to an Ingenue man emphasizes his masculine qualities by contrast? -- just as adding the masculine elements to Dramatic, Natural, and Gamine women actually make them appear more feminine? (Great example: short hair s. long hair on Winona Ryder.)
I think I'm on to something here.
* * *
Who else is flattered by a beard? Well, our craggy, rough-hewn, approachable Naturals, of course. That shouldn't surprise anyone. They're like the poster guys for beards.
See Jeff Bridges, The Rock, and Will Ferrell, three guys I think have a lot of Natural:
(Though the Rock has perhaps Classic and Dramatic too?)
In the case of Naturals, I think the explanation is obvious: Naturals are good with shagginess. Beards have a shaggy quality. Easy peasy.
(This is analogous to Natural being the only masculine essence that is flattered by round edges instead of sharp corners, and by flow instead of structure.)
So, who isn't great with a full beard?
Well, Gamines, for one -- men whose handsomeness is boyish.
Leonardo DiCaprio has a ton of Gamine (which is why he can wear bow ties even though he's over six feet), and he is definitely more handsome without a beard.
This makes sense -- Gamines need straight lines and sharp corners.
The only facial hair I've seen look appropriate on Gamine-influenced men is controlled and mischievous-looking:
But for a very Gamine man, even a groomed, devilish goatee is too much:
Meh. Baby-faced Leo is just better clean-shaven.
Classics, too, are not at their best with beards. I suspect Jon Hamm has Classic with some Dramatic, and I don't think a beard is an improvement on him.
(He may have some Natural too, but not enough to pull off that beard.)
It makes sense that men with a lot of Classic wouldn't be flattered by beards; Classic beauty derives almost totally from regular, symmetrical features, and a beard would just obscure those perfect features.
Is George Clooney better with a beard? I don't think so, and I suspect the explanation lies in how much Classic he has.
(He has a little Natural, but, again, not enough to work that beard, IMO. And he also has some Gamine, which is contraindicating the beard as well.)
Michael C. Hall is also too regular-featured for facial hair:
Last but not least, let's look at highly Dramatic men -- men with masculine features that are sharp, narrow, and intimidating.
I don't love them with full, uncontrolled beards, but they can be flattered by very controlled and/or imposing facial hair. A beard that's groomed to be very full only around the mouth (like a very full Van Dyke beard) is good for Dramatics. And I keep coming back to highly Dramatic men as the only men who seem able to pull off a full (not thin or fine) solo mustache -- especially when it's turned down at the corners.
What do you notice about the men in your life?
And how do we explain beards for Ingenue men?
Let me know what you think.
When it comes to Style IDs, the same rules that apply to women -- what works and what doesn't -- mostly apply to men as well.
Based on what clothes flatter them, I've made some inferences about the Style IDs of a few male celebs who have caught my eye.
He looks great in very Classic clothes, right? But notice how he looks even better when you relax, or Natural-ize, the styling just a bit. Remove the tie, unbutton the top button, roll up the sleeves... he's more Natural, and more sexy. So, I say Classic with some Natural for him.
When he goes too far into Natural, though, it all falls apart:
Ouch. Yeah., no.
Lest you say, "But can anyone actually wear head-to-toe denim?", check out Jeff Bridges. Very much a Natural. Looks great in all denim, looks great in shaggy hair.
Jeff Bridges might be pure Natural. It doesn't get more masculine and rough-edged than this, does it?
A lot of gorgeous men are strongly feminine in their style types. (Just as a lot of gorgeous women -- including most runway models-- are strongly masculine in their style types.) Russell Brand looks great with long, luscious curls, lots of detail and circles near his face, and a drapy scarf. He has Romantic and possibly Ethereal, I think.
Draping or curls are feminine details, and men who can pull off one or both near the face likely have lot of Ethereal, Romantic, and/or Ingenue.
The drapy neckline is a good test for whether a man has a lot of feminine style essence. In the same way that many men but only some women can beautifully wear very short, slicked-back (i.e., Dramatic) hair, many women but only some men can wear draping near the face.
So-pretty Kit Harington, looking amazing with both draping and curls. I think he has a lot of Romantic.
Very neat, slick hair looks unattractive, and so does the turtleneck; that suggests Classic and Dramatic are both unlikely.
I would have expected him to have quite a bit of Dramatic, because he's such a good vampire, and because he's quite chiseled. But I believe now that those sculpted features are probably Ethereal rather than Dramatic, and his ability to convincingly embody a vampire is probably enhanced by good makeup. I think he has some Natural as well; an open neckline is so much better for him than a closed one.
Here's a gorgeous, strongly Classic man. He's much too masculine and mature in his features to pull off a scarf near his face or a boyish flat cap. At the same time, he's not rough-hewn enough to look awesome in denim. He's dreamy in Classic's tailored suit and tie, though.
And now it's time for one of my main celeb crushes:
See how good he is with a lot of busy-ness? Three-piece suit, stripes, separates -- this profusion of lines is great on him. Lots of detail is most characteristic of the feminine essences, but in this case it's Gamine. (Gamine is mostly a masculine essence, but because it's youthfully masculine, it has a touch of androgyny, and that androgyny shows up in Gamine's need for lots of detail.)
To really rule out the feminine essences, check Stanley with the drapy neckine a scarf creates, or with curls:
No, Stanley, no.
Lots of detail; small, sharp, shapes; crisp lines... that's Gamine.
I think he has Natural, too, because he's hot AF in open necklines and in Henleys. I suspect Classic as well, because he looks his best, IMO, with a lot of polish and tailoring -- even more than Gamine would normally provide.
Natural-Classic-Gamine for my dear Stanley Tucci.
Neat hair is better than messy (or too much) hair, right? The less detail he has, and the crisper his lines, the more striking he looks. So I ask, is that Classic or Dramatic?
I suspect it's Dramatic; Dramatics are good with "neck emphasis" (which usually means a high collar), and I think he's pulling that off in the center picture, above. I believe he has some Ethereal as well, because he makes a rather spacey and gentle impression. He doesn't have enough Ethereal, though, to make wisps better for him than straight, sharp lines.
Mr. S. wants to know what season he is. Can you help?
So, I ask two questions right away:
1 - What seasons do or don't include this color?
2 - Does this color work for him?
The first question is almost impossile to answer precisely from pics, but rather easy to answer roughly.
The second question is pretty easy to answer from any kind of pic if the answer is no. Your best colors look good on you all the time, KWIM? If a color doesn't look right on you in a pic, it 's (very probably) not your color.
So back to Mr. S. In response to the first question, I'm
thinking there are a few possibilities.
This could be one of the Winter icy pinks. That's what my money's on. It's very light. Because it's a photo it's hard to know which Winter for sure.
Or it could be one of the Summers' light pinks.
Possibly a Soft Autumn, Bright Spring or Light Spring pink as an outside possibility, if the picture's color is very inaccurate.
True Spring, True Autumn and Dark Autumn don't have any pinks that come close to this.
Now, does this pink work for him?
To my eye, this pink looks cooler than he is. When I say that, I mean that his skin seems to have more orangey-yellowy colors in it than the shirt does. Or I could also say that the pink seems to have a more blueish-violety tone than Mr. S. does. You can see the purple in the shirt, can't you?
On a light-skinned person of the right season, I'd expect a pink this light to pick up touches of healthy pale pink in the skin.
But I don't see the lightest, brightest parts of Mr. S.'s skin harmonizing with this pink. Imagine this pink on his cheeks. It doesn't fit, does it? Those cheeks are calling for a somewhat more coral-y (which is to say warmer) pink.
(I know men don't [usually] wear blush. But on a very pale-skinned man, the right pink will pick up the natural, healthy blush of the face.)
This pink also seems more bright than Mr. S. is. This perception is hard for me to explain. It's as if the shirt was created by adding a few drops of some reddish violet to pure white paint, while Mr. S.'s skin seems to have been painted from a more blended, neutral palette. I know that sounds really vague. How about this: doesn't the shirt seem to be jumping out at you, relative to the face?
I think Mr. S. is warmish and not terribly saturated. The hair and eyes suggest that he could possibly balance darker colors, so maybe True Autumn or Soft Autumn? OTOH, that skin is awfully light and has a certain luminous quality that could implicate Light Spring.
What do you see? He really wants your feedback.
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