Having a great beard is determined by a number of factors. Fate, genetics, and resolve each come into play, but even if you’re lucky enough to grow thick and hearty facial hair, it’s easy to feel confused or lost when it comes to the best way to treat your beard. Lucky for us, beards have never been more popular than they are today and there are a number of famous gents rocking their beards well enough to make us envious of their natural gifts.
Every generation has its great beards. During the 1960's and 70's, the most prime era for American facial hair outside of The Civil War, we had The Beatles, Marvin Gaye, Jim Morrison, Kris Kristofferson, and Clyde Frazier just to name a few. Although beards took a big hit in the eighties and nineties, they’ve once again risen to prominence and, regardless of the look you’re going for with yours, there’s undoubtedly a beard sensei out there to show you the way to greatness.
So whether you’re growing your first beard or your 100th, here are seven of today’s most inspiring bearded gentlemen:
Although Aaron Paul’s most famous role as Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad featured every look between completely shaven and absolutely ragged, Paul’s known for keeping a very short, well-trimmed beard when he’s off-screen, bordering effortlessly on the line between scruff and something more substantial. With his blonde hair, and sometimes red tinted facial hair, Paul’s beard always appears shorter than it really is because of its lighter color, but don’t let that fool you, he still keeps a clean neck line to prevent anyone from thinking that he’s just being suavely lazy.
Although most first time beard growers experiment with something like Paul’s signature look before they fully commit to growing out their facial hair, he’s settled on the short and trim look as his everyday go-to and we support his well-kept decision.
Most of us were introduced to Jon Hamm in his role as Mad Men’s protagonist, Don Draper, a character representing the classic embodiment of the 1950s ad man, including being more completely shaven than most of us thought possible. Soon after entering the public eye though, we were introduced to one of the best beards Hollywood’s ever seen. Rumor has it that he has to shave twice daily while filming Mad Men and it’s easy to see why.
Predominantly very dark brown with hints of grey, Hamm’s beard is thicker than almost anyone else’s on the silver screen and coupled with his laidback off-screen persona, Hamm basically looks like he’s the ultimate cool guy next door. If you’re lucky enough to have a thick head of hair and a beard to match, look to Hamm’s balance of the two for your own inspiration to insure you look both effortlessly rugged and contemporarily dapper.
There are handsome dudes, there are actors, and then there’s Jake Gyllenhaal. For years the guy has been tearing it up in indies and even a few ill-fated blockbuster attempts (Prince of Persia seemed like a good idea to someone, right?), but his versatile style is nothing if not impressive. The guy can pull off everything from clean cut to rugged bad-ass to wandering mystic and execute each of them better than just about anyone, but it seems like he’s finally settled on an about inch long beard as his standard look.
For anyone looking to take the next step from a casual, well-kept beard to semi-woodsman, let Gyllenhaal guide you there. Obviously it doesn’t hurt being as handsome as he is, but rather than shy away from letting your jawline and chin slowly start to disappear, embrace it. Especially for those of you out there who always keep their beard in check at about half an inch, we promise, you’re going to like the same fuller look on your own face that you can see on Mr. Gyllenhaal’s, which means you’re basically half way to being a movie star. Congrats!
Questlove (Ahmir-Khalib Thomspon)
First off, you probably can’t pull off an afro, but if you can, well done. In the past few years, Questlove has slimmed down from his previously larger frame, but regardless of his size, his beard has remained the same. Rather than focusing on his neck or cheek line, Questlove appears to go about as natural as anyone on this list, letting his own genetics do their stellar work, but for those of you with less thick beards, it might be advisable to clean your cheeks up just a bit if they get too unruly.
For bigger guys, beards can help create a more defined chin and jaw, a look that Questlove knows all too well, but don’t let this fool you: you can try all you want to follow Questlove’s style tips, but you will never, and I mean ever, be as cool as the leader of The Legendary Roots Crew.
Jim James (of My Morning Jacket)
Jim James’ beard is full of many things, including, but not limited to, the secret to happiness, a map to Atlantis, and the original recipe for bourbon, a staple of his hometown of Louisville, KY. As one of the forefathers of the “beardo” movement in modern music, along with Fleet Foxes, The Avett Brothers, and Iron & Wine, he helped bring beards back to the musical community, a place where they once ran rampant both on stage and in crowds. Coupled with his long reddish-brown hair, James truly looks like he could’ve been plucked out of Laurel Canyon in the late sixties and sent into the future to remind each of us how badass one person can appear while playing live music.
The secret to James’ beard though? Absolutely nothing. Although his cheeks are all but bare while his chin and jaw line are home to a thick lion’s mane, this is simply how his beard grows naturally. Compared to a lot of the other great beards out there, James’ doesn’t congregate in his mustache or cheeks as much, but coupled with his band’s legendary performances and his throwback rock star demeanor, it’s no wonder that he’s recognized as one of the hippest and most stylish guys in rock’n’roll.
Kyp Malone (of TV On The Radio)
Kyp Malone is truly one of a kind. Even in an industry where everyone is trying to look unique, Malone’s look simply cannot be topped or replicated. That’s reason enough for us to include him on this list, but besides the sheer size of his beard, it’s also his confidence to keep growing it long even as more of shits from jet black to stone grey that we truly respect.
TV On The Radio was once considered one of the true young guns pushing the limits of popular music, but even though they’ve ascended towards the top in terms of being a consistently awesome and innovative musical group, Malone’s stage presence, his style, and most of all his signature beard can never be touched.
Waris Ahluwalia (Actor/Designer)
Born in India and raised in New York, actor and designer Waris Ahluwalia is truly unique, in just about any way you look at him. His turban and his Sikh faith both set him apart from most of his acting contemporaries and his incredible sense of style has made him one of the most sought after designers and collaborators in the New York fashion world.
Ahluwalia is a renaissance man and always looks impeccable, even with one of the most pronounced beards in the business. However, for those of you who are determined to enter Ahluwalia’s ranks in terms of beard length, remember that he constantly kills it in the style game not only because of his predominant facial hair, but also because of how he counteracts the wild look of his beard with perfectly cut suits and the debonair air of a man who has seen a thing or two. Remember, just because you can grow an epic beard doesn’t mean you should, but if you do, make sure you do as Ahluwalia does, or at least try your best to keep up with the guy.