I will never be profiled on this site as the “Urban Beardsman of the Week.” That’s not me being negative, it’s just me being realistic. I’m an Asian guy, and I don’t have a beard, nor have I ever even considered growing one. And even if I had considered growing a beard, I’m not sure that I’m capable of it.
I’m not even asking for a full, urban beardsman-type beard sported by the likes of Eric Bandholz or James “The Beard” Harden. I’d take a simple, gentle beard. But alas, it doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
While I can really only speak about my personal experience, it does pose an interesting question – what do other Asian guys think about beards?
I wanted to find out, so I set up a survey and polled 25 of my brethren, ranging in age from 30-41. Here are three key points the survey brought to light.
1. Not a lot of Asian guys have facial hair and/or beards.
A fairly obvious statement, but based on the findings of the survey: Only 28% have a mustache, goatee, beard, or some other form of facial hair. Only 8% have a beard.
2. The main reason we don’t grow beards is that we just can’t grow them.
One of questions asked on the survey was “If you’ve never tried growing a beard, what’s holding you back from growing one?” – and the most popular response selected was “I can’t grow one.” That’s kind of a major setback if you want to grow a beard. “Judging by all the uncles on both sides, and the grandfathers before them, I let go of this dream long ago,” says Eric Lo, a 35-year old corporate banking loan officer. The fact is that our facial hair is generally too sparse, and isn’t thick enough or dense enough to fully cover the face and connect to one seamlessly fully beard.
Patrick Pratumrat, a 36-year old Thai-American restaurateur, agrees. “Asian men don’t have the easiest time growing facial hair,” says Pratumrat. “My main issue is actually connecting the goatee portion that grows naturally to my sideburns. So I can’t ever grow a complete beard and that’s just unfortunate.” But all this being said, we still very much would like to grow our beards, which leads to the third and final point.
3. Asian guys are definitely interested in growing beards.
The survey showed that:
- 68% have considered growing a beard.
- 56% have actually tried to grow a beard.
“I like the facial hair look just for a variety reasons,” says Pratumrat. “Sometimes you get bored of the same look or style, whether it be hairstyle or facial hair. Often, I go a couple of days without shaving, and I like that slight stubble look, that’s usually my default look.”
Of the 23 survey respondents who answered the question “If you were capable of growing a beard, would you ever do it?”, 18 responded with “yes”. “Definitely have [considered growing a beard],” says Lo.
“Especially in the pre-career, pre-responsibilities phase in college or grad school when new hairstyles, hair colors, and naturally, different facial hair combinations were things to think about in between, or even during, class.”
But all hope is not lost for aspiring Asian beardsmen. As the statistics showed earlier, there are a small percentage of Asian guys who do have beards, and four such individuals were part of this survey.
Bryce Tom is a 34-year old Chinese-American from California, residing in NYC. He’s the founder of Metal Rabbit, a digital agency, which specializes in reputation management and digital marketing.
David Loi is a 33 year-old, Vietnamese-Chinese-American from Dallas, TX. He is a destination wedding and commercial photographer for David Loi Studios.
Donny Sirisavath is a 34-year old craft whiskey/bourbon sales rep for J. Riley Distillery by day, and an amateur chef by night. He is from Dallas, TX and is of Laotian, French, and Thai descent.
Jerome Wei is a 35 year-old engineer who resides in Redondo Beach, CA.
Tom, Loi, Sirisavath, and Wei sat down to answer a few questions about being an Asian beardsman.
Q: Why did you decide to grow a beard?
Tom: I can’t pinpoint the exact time I decided to grow a beard. I worked in tech right out of college and a completely-shaven face wasn’t a mandate. I had stubble throughout college, so I can’t even remember the last time I was fully shaven.
Loi: I was in Santiago for a week shooting photos for a charity late last year  and forgot to shave… I liked the look so I kept it.
Sirisavath: I was just too lazy to shave at first, but then once it grew out more, it gave me a new appearance. Really wanted to see how different it would make me look.
Wei: Curious to see what was possible. Never tried it before because mom is really against it. Started it during a Movember and then just stuck with it for a while and decided it is pretty fun.
Q: What’s the most surprising thing about having a beard?
Tom: The most surprising thing about having a beard is the red hairs that I have. Every time I let the beard grow in for 2 weeks or more, you can really start to see the patches of red. It’s not full on red like a ginger – more of a burnt orange/dark red, but it’s definitely noticeable. I have no idea where it comes from!
Loi: I can age or lose years whenever I want! If I lose the beard, I am literally 20 years younger. Which would make me… 10?
Sirisavath: The most surprising thing was how different I look with Facial Man Hair or a beard. Also, how people got confused on my nationality; well most of the time, I get that anyways.
Wei: It is a good conversation piece. But mostly with dudes.
Q: Do you feel any differently from a confidence or “manliness” standpoint now that you have a beard?
Tom: Ha, who doesn’t feel manlier with a beard? We can thank Ron Swanson for that. In all honesty, I usually forget that I have it, so it’s hard to derive confidence from something that I’m barely aware of.
Loi: No. Confidence or “manliness” comes from your desire to pursue the purpose of your life without holding back. I’m doing that now, so the beard has no effect on how confident I am.
Sirisavath: To be honest, I felt the same with or without a beard. I believe it’s more a personal difference on how it makes one feel. I’m more of a 5 o’clock shadow guy; that actually makes me feel more manly than a full on beard.
Wei: Yes, unless someone near me has a much more [significant] beard.
Q: What’s the best thing about being an Asian guy with a beard? What’s the biggest drawback?
Tom: The best thing is being instantly recognized. When people see the beard walking their way, they know it’s me. Biggest drawback? Can’t think of one.
Loi: The best thing about being able to grow a beard is that it gives me a different look when I want it… The largest drawback is that it is actually more maintenance than being completely shaven.
Sirisavath: Best thing and drawback is that I don’t look like a typical Asian, so having a beard definitely puts me in the non Asian-American category.
Wei: It is differentiating and unique. Asian girls pretty much universally hate it.
Q: Do people make comments to you all the time about your beard? What’s the most interesting reaction anyone has ever had?
Tom: ALL. THE. TIME. Good or bad, everyone seems to have an opinion on the beard – keep it, shave it, etc. It’s all in good fun. I think people are mainly shocked that an Asian dude, especially a Chinese guy, can actually grow a full on beard.
Loi: Yes. They ask if I’m sure that I’m Asian. As far as I can tell, yes… “Can I touch it…” I charge for a touch, triple if it’s a guy.
Sirisavath: A lot of my Asian friends would always tell me they wish they could grow a beard… ‘til I mention about itchiness or when you kiss your partner and how it pokes them, or sometimes getting ingrown hair sucks. Then they would change their opinion on having a beard.However, I did get more comments/compliments for having a mustache. I even scored a discount for having a “stache” and even got hit on more than once with a mustache.
Wei: Some girl came up and just started twisting it super hard without any permission asked.
Q: Do you feel like you’re treated differently with a beard compared to without?
Tom: Without the beard, I easily look five to 10 years younger. In the business world, the beard is actually an asset.
Loi: Totally. I get treated like a piece of man-meat. Quit it ladies, I have feelings too! Mostly not true, but hey – you smiled, right?
Sirisavath: I felt I got treated the same with or without, but did get more notice with a mustache. I was once called out by a bartender as a creeper, but she liked the creepiness look.
Wei: Yes, as an Asian, I look much younger and get carded more without facial hair.
Hopefully Tom, Loi, Sirisavath, and Wei are just the first of many Asian beardsmen to come. So let’s take a cue from these gentleman, and beard on!
About the Author:
Justin Hong is not an urban beardsman – but he does offer beard care products for the urban beardsman in his online store, Dapper & Done – which provides a better way for men to discover, shop for, and replenish grooming products.