Seriously, what’s wrong with the goatee beard? I’ve always wondered why, despite the fact that many guys—both celebs and everyday people—wear goatees and look absolutely fine with them, the goatee beard still manages to garner such disdain. “Nice goatee, man,” is hardly ever a compliment, and I demand to know why, since such A-listers as Brad Pitt and Robert Downey, Jr. seem to be able to rock one without any trouble. So, I enlisted the help of two of the grooming industry’s biggest players to shed some light on the pathos which has plagued the goatee beard for far too long.
“Goatees have a long and interesting history,” says barber Jason Biggs. “The name derives from actual goats and their seemingly long chin hair which adds to the peculiar history.” Fair enough, but I didn’t hear any goat jokes when Brad Pitt appeared on the cover of People in 1995 as the Sexiest Man Alive.
On the other hand, barber Shannon Davis makes a good point about public perception. “In my opinion, goatees are considered controversial because they are commonly seen in movies and media on the ‘villain’ type character,” she says. “They are synonymous with being sinister and dark, as in Walter White from Breaking Bad or Jafar from Aladdin.” Another great point, but what about the goatee beard’s plight before Breaking Bad?
Alas, there is hope. “The goatee has transformed into a nice facial talking piece,” says Biggs. “Not quite a beard but more manicured and personal, the goatee has become a staple in men's fashionable looks.” And armed with proof that the goatee beard can indeed work for a wide range of guys, we’re setting out to legitimize the goatee once and for all.
Meet the Expert
How to Pick the Right Goatee for Your Face
Goatees come in a few distinct shapes and styles, and picking the right one for your face shape can make all the difference. “Each face and facial hair are unique, so goatees will look vastly different from person to person,” Davis says. “The main objective with goatees is to work with the one’s own facial hair.” Here are the six main types of goatee beards to help narrow down your search:
- What it looks like: Chin and soul patch only, no mustache.
- Who It flatters: Slim faces. While the traditional goatee can work for all faces, Biggs says it’s better suited to someone with a slimmer face shape who wants to sport some facial hair while keeping it all business above the lip.
- What it looks like: Traditional goatee, but over two inches in length.
- Who it flatters: Round faces. Biggs cites the chin beard as one of his favorites because the longer length gives you more creativity in styling. “The longer that chin hair can grow the better, creating the perfect look for those with a fuller, rounder face.”
- What it looks like: Chin connects to the mustache, and can be long or short.
- Who it flatters: All face shapes. Biggs says that the circle beard fits most face shapes without adding extra bulk, and is easily groomed au naturel or with a little beard balm for shine.
- What it looks like: Mustache, soul patch, and chin hair, but all are disconnected.
- Who it flatters: All face shapes. Essentially a little bit here and a little bit there, the various parts of the disconnected goatee beard can be adjusted in length and wideness to suit a variety of face shapes. It comes down to whatever combination looks best on you.
Van Dyke Goatee
- What it looks like: A t-shape goatee that includes a long and groomed mustache and disconnected thin or narrow goatee on the chin.
- Who it flatters: Diamond-shaped faces. Named after the famous 17th-century painter, the Van Dyke lives on today as a hipster standard that Biggs notes looks best on the sculpted jawline of a diamond-shaped face. “It adds specific emphasis to the mustache and chin hair, so those with full lip and chin hair can allow this style to run wild,” he says.
- What it looks like: Similar to the disconnected goatee but the beard is wider than the mustache along the jawline.
- Who it flatters: Heart or diamond-shaped faces. Biggs says the beard portion of an anchor goatee can help flatten the sharper jawline of a heart or diamond-shaped face, adding fullness without the hefty maintenance required for a full beard. Also, the anchor goatee is great for guys who can’t grow a full beard, as its shape gives the illusion of a more substantial beard shape.
How to Shave a Goatee
The most important rule when shaving a goatee, regardless of style, is symmetry. If you’re even two hairs longer on one side it will be noticeable, so before making the cut you should first measure exactly where you need to shave (go ahead, use a ruler) and mark it with a bit of eyeliner so you don’t end up winging it once your face is all lathered up in shaving cream.
For styles like the traditional goatee and chin beard, Davis recommends shaving the face as usual to shape the goatee, then using a guarded beard trimmer to maintain the ideal length. For more precise styles like the circle beard, Biggs points out that sharp, crisp lines are crucial, so taking your time and planning out exactly where you need to shave is essential.
Obviously, if you’re planning to go for a complex style like the Van Dyke, the work involved in both shaving it for the first time and maintaining the look is significantly more, starting with shaving the cheeks and plotting out exactly where the patches of hair will go so that they complement your face.
Maintaining and Styling a Goatee
“The goatee is a very bold statement so it’s super important to keep it looking fresh and shapely,” says Davis, and proper upkeep comes down to the style of goatee beard you choose. Again, for a simple style like the traditional goatee, a weekly trim with a guarded beard trimmer is all that’s needed. For a chin beard, Davis recommends using trimming scissors instead of a beard trimmer. The same trimmer can be used to keep styles like a circle beard, disconnected goatee, and anchor goatee in shape, but the real work comes in cleaning up the cheek hair around these styles with care and precision so the goatee continues to look neat. And as for the Van Dyke, Davis recommends using a trimmer to keep the separation, as well as trimming scissors to control the mustache and chin hair.
For all styles, depending on the length of the beard, both experts recommend using beard balm or a light beard styling product to tame unruly hairs while adding natural shine and refinement.
Our Favorite Celebrity Goatees
Need a little inspiration? Check out some of our favorite celebrity beards.
“Very classic and chic, Brad pairs his well-groomed goatee with a long tousled hairstyle and they work perfectly together,” Davis says. “The girdle beard on a square face is a great match.”
“Jacinto can clearly put a copyright on the Van Dyke goatee,” Biggs says. Davis points out how the style makes his chiseled square jaw even more prominent.
“This goatee is a go-to look for DiCaprio,” Davis says. “Here he is sporting a more lived-in version of the circle beard with slight stubble on his cheeks while keeping the main focus on the goatee.”
“Common has always had grand facial hair since the beginning of his career,” Biggs notes. His go-to look is usually a full, long beard, however, sometimes he opts for the just-as-exquisite chin beard—an ideal match for his bold bald look.
“This salt and pepper circle beard is quite the statement,” Davis says. “It is full and thick, while also being perfectly groomed and tamed.” Elba also keeps a small amount of stubble on his cheeks for a casual yet sophisticated look that works great with his oval-shaped face.
There’s no contesting the fact that the Van Dyke is a unique style that not everyone can pull off, but Davis points out that Bale’s long mustache and chin turns it into a casual yet stylish look that elongates his oblong face shape.
Robert Downey Jr.
Biggs’ enthusiasm for Downey’s almost-Van Dyke is inspiring: “Robert Downey Jr. could make a great case for renaming the Van Dyke to the Downey goatee. Made famous during his run as Iron Man, he has masterfully worn this style while keeping it very well manicured. It fits well with his textured haircut and very defined facial structure. Only right for the Iron Man.”
For those with a rounder face like Ice Cube, Biggs explains that the chin beard can help accentuate and enhance chin definition, “but Cube’s lovable badass attitude is sold separately.”