There comes the point in every beard growing journey when a dreaded thought comes into your mind—“do I have a neckbeard?”
Our goal here is to give you a complete, unbiased overview of the neckbeard (including its internet context), some things that contribute to its appearance, and what you can do if you have one—assuming you don’t actually want one.
In the course of our research, we found quite a few neckbeard definitions, and let’s just say that the term doesn’t hold much face value.
In its truest form, a neckbeard is achieved intentionally by shaving all areas of the face above the jawline, leaving a beard that exists solely on the neck. This style is pretty dated, but beards that walk a thin line between patchy beard and neckbeard have sprouted up over the past decade.
Former Indianapolis Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck wore a pretty thick neckbeard early in his career—perhaps as a nod to 19th-century intellectuals who could be seen with a neckbeard from time to time. This is merely speculation, founded in nothing more than the fact that Luck graduated from Stanford—with a 3.48 GPA and an Environmental Engineering degree. Yeah, my boy’s wicked smart.
Actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale have been seen with facial hair that’s pretty damn close to neckbeard status. And Lebron James has certainly rocked some low cheek lines on his beard. Perhaps athletes and actors are bad examples since their careers permit them to be more, shall we say, experimental with their grooming choices.
But, are neckbeards making a comeback? Probably not, though if you want to grow one, go for it.
“NECKBEARD” AS A PEJORATIVE TERM
It’s worth noting that in its contemporary context, the term neckbeard isn’t explicitly referring to a style of beard.
A quick Google search of neckbeard will take you down a rabbit hole of subreddits, opinion pieces, and “neckbeard cringe” stories. According to Know Your Meme, the term began appearing on the internet in the early 2000s. By the end of the aughts, it had become synonymous with a slew of undesirable personality traits. So much so, that when the Oxford English Dictionary defined the word neckbeard in 2014, they made it clear that it wasn’t something you wanted to be called.
The traits most often attributed to these men (well, most often they’re men) include being socially inept, overweight, and dirty. The belief that they’re smarter than everyone and an affinity for swords, katanas, and video games are frequently cited. And then there are the stories of misogyny, sexism, and well, it’s a deep, dark rabbit-hole that we’ll let you research on your own.
What do any of those things have to do with facial hair?
As neckbeard memes began to populate the internet, one of the shared physical traits of those pictured in said memes were patchy, wispy, velcro-like sprouts of facial hair that congregated on the neck and chin areas. Many of these “neckbeards” wore trilby hats, which led to them being associated with something called “fedora fashion.” If you need a point of reference, the well-known “M’Lady” meme is a good example.
All that being said, if you are growing a beard, it’s understandable why the thought of having a neckbeard is reason enough to reach for the closest razor. But before you do, let’s take a closer look at some of the things that push your beard from awesome to “ew, get away from me creep.”
A QUICK HISTORY OF NECKBEARDS
In 1856, author Henry David Thoreau posed for a daguerreotype at the request of a fan who had read Walden. The photo shows a 39-year-old Thoreau with a fully-shaven face and a tuft of beard on his neck that he had allegedly grown to protect against “throat colds.” Because of this photo, Thoreau has become a sort of poster child for this beard style.
The traditional neckbeard reached the height of its popularity in the 19th century. Facial hair, in general, was trendy throughout the 19th century, and the neckbeard style could be found amongst aristocrats, clergymen, and university professors alike. Even Abraham Lincoln’s beard was akin to what is often considered a neckbeard.
Neckbeards have been historically attributed to Amish men who grew beards for religious reasons but shaved the mustache due to its affiliation with the military. However, we wouldn’t call that a neckbeard since cheeks are still left to grow.
This style has been documented as far back as the Roman Empire. Busts of Nero Claudius Caesar depict the infamous emperor with a thin neckbeard chinstrap that grew from his sideburns and wrapped underneath his jaw, just above the Adam’s Apple. By all accounts, Nero was also a narcissistic monster. He may have also had the first mullet, but that’s another story for another blog.
THE CONTEMPORARY NECKBEARD
While there is a sub-culture of men who have embraced a more traditional neckbeard, this isn’t typically the type of beard that comes to mind. Instead, the contemporary version seems to be more of a mislabeled patchy beard that is more prominent on the neck.
When growing a beard, it’s completely normal to have a thicker concentration of growth on the neck. To explain further, let’s take a closer look at how facial hair grows.
Facial hair grows in 5 different areas:
- The mustache - the hair above the upper lip.
- The soul patch, flavor savor, or jazz dot - the strip of hair directly underneath the bottom lip.
- The goatee - the hair on the front of the chin, above the jawline, and expanding to the cheeks.
- The side-burns or mutton-chops - the hair on the cheeks above the jawline.
- The neck - everything that grows below the jawline.
Hair grows differently in each of these areas. Growth patterns differ from person to person and are highly subjective to a person’s age and genetics. Additionally, the hair that grows in each of these areas has its own unique terminal length, which again varies from person to person. This is why some men can grow long handlebar mustaches while others can’t, or why some men have soul patches that are the entire width of the bottom lip, and some don’t.
When you think about thick, burly beards, the majority of the bulk and shape actually comes from hair that grows on the neck. Typically, neck hair has the longest terminal length of all five growth areas.
Why is this important? Facial hair grows differently in each of the five growth areas, and rarely grows in a way that is even and uniform. This becomes especially noticeable around two to six weeks of beard growth when the hair has gone from mere stubble to the beginnings of a beard. It’s natural for a beard to be patchy and disconnected at this point.
Because the neck hair often has the longest terminal length, it has a tendency to grow a little bit faster than the rest of your beard. In the early stages of growth, it’s normal for the hair on the neck to be thicker and more pronounced than the hair on the cheeks. That neck hair may also be growing south of the Adam’s Apple, which makes the neck area look particularly unkempt.
In a contemporary context, this type of patchy, scraggly beard that extends below the Adam’s Apple is often referred to as a neckbeard.
For a more in-depth look, check out our blog on Beard Growth Stages.
FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO AN INVOLUNTARY NECKBEARD
Several things can take a typical, patchy beard and cause it to look like you have a neckbeard. Again, we’re just talking about those involuntary neckbeards, not the intentional ones.
This one is a bit of a double-edged sword—or, in this instance, we’ll say it’s a double-edged katana. Not exercising can lead to weight gain. Excessive weight gain can cause a build-up of fat around the neck known as submental fat. This is more commonly referred to as a double chin. When the neck is more substantial, any of that thicker neck hair growth we discussed above is going to look more pronounced than if the neck was taut below the jaw.
Now for the other side of the blade. Excessive weight gain has been linked to decreases in testosterone levels. Testosterone plays a crucial role in the health of facial and scalp hair. Men with more testosterone can grow thicker, longer beards than other men, at least in most cases. When you couple excessive weight gain caused by a sedentary lifestyle with the increased likelihood of lower testosterone, you’ve got an increased chance of less-than-optimal beard growth.
Getting regular exercise is one of the best things you can do to help reduce the visibility of your neckbeard and promote optimal hair growth. If working out is new to you, going to the gym, or even just starting a routine can be intimidating. On a previous blog post, we laid out some tips to help you get started with an exercise routine.
Always consult with a doctor before beginning any workout regimen, especially if you're new to exercise or have been sedentary.
Not taking care of your skin
There are certain things regarding your skin that are out of your control. If you have acne or other skin conditions, you should absolutely talk to a dermatologist. Making conscious decisions to not care for your skin is another thing. Your beard’s growth and health depends on the health of the skin underneath it.
We recommend using a high-quality, all-natural soap and face wash like the Utility Bar, and keeping your skin moisturized and hydrated with Utility Balm or Beard Oil. These products won’t take you from patchy to burly if it’s not in your DNA, but by taking care of your skin, you’re providing optimal growing conditions for your hair.
Not getting enough sleep
Sufficient sleep improves the rate of beard growth. The body’s temperature drops during sleep, which leads to increased blood circulation, and, in turn, causes faster and fuller hair growth. Ideally, you should get eight to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep daily because it promotes immune health and helps manage stress.
Not managing stress
Stress management and the health of a person’s immune system go hand-in-hand. A lowered immunity means less hair growth on the face and scalp, and practicing stress management techniques such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness will help you and your beard.
Not giving your patchy beard enough time
We’ve talked about this ad nauseam, but again, beard hairs grow in at different times and at different rates. It may take one to two months to see what kind of beard you have to work with. Give your beard a chance, man. Typically, as your beard grows longer, you’ll be able to cover up some of those bald spots.
If you’ve given your beard time and it’s still patchy, we recommend reading up on The Five Realities of Patchy Beards.
Not cleaning up your neckline
Between one to four weeks of beard growth, the stubble starts to become thicker. It’s during this stage where you look less like an action hero and more like you drink milk out of the carton in a pair of sweatpants that you’ve been wearing for two weeks straight.
Some of those thick neck hairs have probably started heading south of your Adam’s Apple too. The beard growth on your cheeks and chin may still look patchy or have some bald spots. Couple that thicker neck hair with uneven spots on the face, and well, you’re a prime candidate for getting labeled as having a neckbeard.
HOW TO TRIM YOUR NECKBEARD
Maybe the likes of David Beckham, Adam Levine, and Brad Pitt can get away with letting their neck scruff run rampant. But for most people, having a swath of thick hair migrating down your neck isn’t going to earn you any style points. It’s more likely to make people wonder if you’re okay—a la Shia Labeouf and his 10-hour movie marathon.
If your goal is to grow your beard out, we don’t recommend trimming it during the first couple of months of growth, but you can definitely clean up your neckline.
Here’s how to do it:
- Grab an electric beard trimmer or a razor.
- Take your index and middle finger, hold them together, and place them on your neck with the middle finger at the top of your Adam’s Apple. Where your index finger lands is the point where your head connects to your neck. This is going to be your line.
- With your electric razor, trim the bottom line above the Adam’s Apple. Follow the shape of your jaw.
- For the outer edges, trim straight down from the back of the sideburns until you reach the bottom line.
- Trim or shave all the hair below the newly formed line.
While we’re on the subject of cleaning up your neckbeard, be careful not to trim your neckline too high. Remember, the bulk of your beard’s shape is going to come from the neck. Cutting your neckline higher may work fine if you plan on keeping your beard short, but if you’re growing it out, you’re going to end up with a wispy face beard that resembles Spanish moss.
“AM I A NECKBEARD?”
So you’ve gotten to a point in your beard growth where you’re starting to feel self-conscious about whether or not you have a neckbeard. That’s normal. But does having an actual patchy beard concentrated on the neck make you a “neckbeard” in the context of internet culture?
That’s a pretty loaded question. Still, if you’re taking care of yourself within your capabilities, establishing a grooming routine, and don’t have an unwavering superiority complex—you’re probably not a neckbeard by today’s definition.
If the idea of a grooming routine is new to you, that’s alright too. As men, grooming is not something that is often taught to us. That’s where Beardbrand can help. Our blog and YouTube channel are full of content designed to help you Keep on Growing.
Establishing an exceptional grooming routine has the power to change your life. The confidence gained from investing in yourself not only impacts you personally, but it extends to your family, friends, career, and community.
Rest easy, and remember, part of the whole challenge of growing a beard is accepting the beard you have and learning to deal with your trouble spots.
If you have questions about your beard or need some grooming advice, use the live chat feature on our website or shoot us a message at [email protected], and we’ll be happy to help you out.
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We define the neckbeard as a beard style that is achieved intentionally by shaving all areas of the face above the jawline, leaving a beard that exists solely on the neck.
However, the neckbeard has come to be associated with personality traits rather than a style of facial hair. The strong negative connotations may leave you feeling concerned about your patchy neck hair. Read the sections above to dig deeper into some of the facial hair (not personality) traits that can be attributed to an involuntary neckbeard.
Facial hair growth is heavily tied to age and genetics. However, there are several things you can do to reduce the appearance of an unwanted neckbeard:
- Give your beard more time. In the early stages of beard growth, it’s common for beards to be uneven, patchy, and thicker on your neck. It typically takes three to six months for your beard to really fill in.
- Trim up your neckline below the Adam’s Apple. We give more detailed instructions on doing this in the sections above.
- Exercise and maintain a healthy weight. Being excessively overweight can lead to a double-chin and make your neckbeard look more pronounced. Exercise can also boost testosterone levels, which contribute to beard growth.
- Take care of your skin. Beards grow best when the skin is well cared for. We recommend washing your face with the Utility Bar and keeping the skin moisturized with Utility Balm or Beard Oil.
- Eat a proper diet, and get enough sleep. Both contribute to beard growth and health.
Remember, part of the whole challenge of growing a beard is accepting what you have and dealing with your problem areas.
If you have questions about your beard or need some grooming advice, use the live chat feature on our website or shoot us a message at [email protected]ardbrand.com, and we’ll be happy to help you out.
Keep on Growing.