Oh, how times change. Stubble - formerly the mark of a man down on his luck, a sign of laziness or ill repute - is no longer viewed with disfavour.
Today, fellow men, we are largely free to work and play as our stylishly unshaven faces bristle with once frowned-upon whiskers. What a relief! Not every man looked their best bare-faced - and for some, daily shaving is, in the most literal sense of the word, irritating.
What is Designer Stubble?
Designer stubble refers to facial hair maintained at a short length - typically one to three millimetres - that differentiates it from the so-called “5-o’clock shadow” and a full beard.
Left unattended, stubble grows quickly; to achieve the “designer” look, regular maintenance is required.
Arguably a look started by George Michael in the 1980s, designer stubble is rugged, yet an attractive male facial hairstyle worn by many male fashion icons like Chris Hemsworth, George Clooney and David Beckham.
Will I Look Good in Stubble?
Carefully maintained stubble frames the face, accentuating attractive features, such as the jawline. It detracts from the appearance of blemishes and fine lines, and lends almost any face a more mature, masculine appearance.
Your facial hair is as unique as you are. Some beards come in full, with little delineation between cheek, jaw and neck - while others may be most prominent on the chin, or sideburns, or exhibit patchy or uneven growth.
As a guideline, men with full beards can more easily wear longer stubble, while patchy stubble should be close-trimmed. Additionally, as you age, stubble can be - pun completely intended - a grey area: salt-and-pepper facial hair, unless dense, looks best at a shorter length.
These are, of course, general rules, and other factors, such as facial features and shape - which we’ll get into below - plays a role, too.
Facing the Facts
Not sure which style of stubble is best for you?
Speak to a trusted barber - they know hair. And take a good look at your face. Is it round and soft, or square and angular?
If the former, stubble is your friend - let it grow on the lower half of your face, where your jawline and neck may need extra definition. Keep your sideburns tidy, and consider shaving a defined cheek line to keep errant hairs from creeping too high up on your face.
Have an angular or square face?
Avoid over-grooming, and leave your stubble a bit longer. Sculpted lines and extra-short facial hair will accentuate already hard angles. Opt for a softer, more balanced look. If your face is on the short side, longer chin stubble is a good bet; conversely, a long face or prominent chin benefits from more cheek stubble, which creates the appearance of width.
What if my Stubble is Patchy?
Beard growth is mostly genetic. Though some beards fill in during a man’s twenties or thirties, the growth pattern of your facial hair is largely predetermined by your genes.
That said, even men with patchy growth can pull off the stubbly look - again, bearing in mind that allowing hair to grow past a certain length emphasizes patchiness.
For optimum results, keep your facial hair healthy and moisturized. Use a gentle facial cleanser or sonic cleanser brush to prevent clogged pores, and consider a natural beard oil to nourish hair follicles.
How to Get Designer Stubble
The key to great-looking stubble - other than keeping your hair and skin healthy - is to groom and trim regularly. How often is dictated by facial hair density, the rate at which it grows, and whether or not your keep all your stubble at one length.
If you’re new to designer stubble, experiment. You’ll find the sweet spot, which for most men is two to three days before the hair on their face transforms from stubble to scruff.
To really get a feel of the look that suits you best, start with a full shave, and take note of how each day’s growth looks. Then, refine and maintain your stubble, with a good quality stubble trimmer or clippers.
A close-cutting trimmer will provide a greater range of cutting lengths, though for very short stubble, an adjustable hair clipper is a good choice.
If possible, opt for a shaver or trimmer rated for wet and dry operation - that means it can be safely used in the shower, and rinsed off under running water.
Edges can be maintained with a normal cartridge razor, a straight razor (not for the faint of heart or unsteady of hand), or an electric grooming tool with an edging feature.
The well-reviewed Philips OneBlade Pro or the Braun BT7020 Beard, Stubble are both long-standing favourites of ours – they have the cutting power and features to craft the perfect stubble length and precise edges.
Even the densest beards naturally thin out near the cheekbones and Adam’s apple. To keep your stubble looking its best, trim or shave these areas regularly - and don’t be afraid to trim different parts of your face to different lengths.
For example, some guys look great with slightly thicker sideburns or moustache.
Designer Stubble, The Bottom Line…
Designer stubble is an attractive alternative to being clean-shaven or fully bearded. It requires maintenance, true - but less than shaving daily, and is without the downsides of a full beard, namely stray hairs, itchy skin and trapped food particles and debris.
Furthermore, stubble can be shaped and defined to enhance almost any face.
We’ve finally cast off the negative connotations attached to stubble - so don’t be afraid to try it out. Chances are, you’ll find a style that looks great!