Beards

By Suzanne D'Amato
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 18, 2005

As grooming trends go, the beard will probably never rival the faux-hawk for sheer faddishness. But as celebrities such as Dave Grohl, Jason Schwartzman and the cast of "Lost" continue to demonstrate, the look is gaining currency. For many men, hirsute is newly hip.

"It's a conversation piece," says Onis Castaneda, 27, of Silver Spring. "People that haven't seen me in a while tell me I look like Che Guevara."

Michael Kirby, 30, of Lanham, is no newcomer to the beard brigade: He grew his for the first time when he was 17 and has worn one since. The notion that the style has renewed cachet doesn't surprise him. "I just think it makes a man more manly," he says.

Still, that doesn't make the beard a solution for every man who's ever groaned at the thought of picking up a razor.

"The younger guys are getting away with it a little bit more," says Michael Gilman, co-owner of the Grooming Lounge, an upscale barbershop in the District that is scheduled to open its second location in Tysons Corner in February. "For college guys, it's that slacker thing. It's cool to have a big fuzzy beard . . . it goes with their rocker tees."

For older, professional Washingtonians, however, Gilman maintains that an unshaven face is often seen as socially inappropriate, even as goatees have become commonplace. "It's like showing up to work in a short-sleeved shirt, or not wearing a tie," he says.

To some industry watchers, the style's success owes more to men's desire to save time than their wish to follow a trend. "Shaving is painful," says Candice Rainey, associate editor at GQ magazine. "It comes down to the fact that guys don't want to [do it] every day."

But having a beard doesn't necessarily mean you can forget about shaving -- unless you want to look like a member of ZZ Top. There's still hair on the neck (and the area above the beard) to think about. Factor into your new regime time spent trimming errant whiskers, conditioning the hair that's left, dealing with patchy areas and, in some cases, even sculpting the parameters of your beard by laser: Alase, a laser hair-removal and skin care center with locations in Maryland, Virginia and the District, is one such company performing the service, which requires multiple treatments and costs hundreds of dollars per visit, with results that can last years.

"When I first started here over four years ago, men were coming in to get the whole beard removed," says Shannon Ginnan, Alase's medical director. "Now more guys are coming in just to get the lower neck cleaned up."

Whether or not you shape your beard via laser, anything overly groomed remains a style don't. "You don't want that George Michael look, where it's really linear," says Rainey.

And so some men are becoming attuned to what many women have known for decades: that the "natural" look requires a lot of effort -- and, usually, no small amount of cash -- to attain. Gilman cites Grooming Lounge regulars who come in for beard maintenance as frequently as three times a week. It's no surprise, then, as the wild and woolly look becomes more popular, men's shave products are one of the beauty industry's fastest-growing categories.

"Men want to look and appear as masculine as possible," says Karen Grant, senior industry analyst at NPD Beauty, a division of market research firm the NPD Group.

"But being a man today requires that one is well-groomed."

Wondering how to wear it? E-mail

Suzanne D'Amato, Sunday Source's deputy editor and a former fashion writer at Vogue, at styleq@washpost.com. Please include your name, city and phone number.


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