Raiding the ‘Stache

Hey, you’re back! Well so am I! It’s Suze-day.

So today I thought I’d talk about something that may turn out to be controversial. Yes, or no? To shave, or not to shave?

I’m talking about men’s facial hair. I won’t bore you with a history of styles (you know I looked it up, though! Fellow nerdettes and nerds, click here for a nice Wikipedia article on beards, and here for one on mustaches).

The main types:

Eyebrows: Nothing crazy here. Keep ‘em trimmed. But if you have a unibrow — that’s another story. Pluck or wax and keep it secret. Only Larry Hagman as JR Ewing gets to keep ‘em, because he’s, you know, legendary.

Sideburns: Unless you’re Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine, I’m going to say no to muttonchops and big 1970s-style ‘burns. Sorry, Elvis, but this just was not a good look. I’m also not a fan of the country star shaved-straight-across-the-bottom cheekbone thing. I will admit that I have a thing for close-trimmed, neat sideburns that are just a little bit too long, like the ones my UPS man has. He also has cute legs, FYI.

Mustaches: There are many, many types of mustaches, from the bushy Ned Flanders-style soupstrainer, to the handlebar, the pencil-thin, and the porn star. I don’t think we’ll see the return of the Hitler ‘stache anytime soon, but who knows? Fashion is fickle.

Beards: There are also several types of beards, and by beards I mean facial hair that originates below the lower lip. Beards are usually worn in combination with sideburns and/or mustaches, the notable exception being the soul patch. Which looks great with the aforementioned just-a-bit-too-long sideburns and which I sort of love. (Don’t bother me for a few minutes — I’m having my Bruce Springsteen reverie right now).

The goatee/mustache combo is very popular these days. My husband’s cousin’s husband is a barber of Portuguese descent, and I adore the precisely razored lines along his jaw — so exotic (and so much work to keep up!). There is also the Amish beard, where the chin hair connects up with the sideburns with no mustache, also known as the Abraham Lincoln. Who knows? This one may be poised for comeback. I will tell you that I’m a little partial to these because my grandfather and uncle used to grow matching red beards like this during deer hunting season to keep their jaws warm out in the woods. Although I never asked, I suspect the mustaches were dispensed with because they tend to get frosty when a guy is out in the cold for long periods of time.

Now, I’ve noticed something. Heroes in novels (romance and otherwise) almost never have facial hair. Oh, they may have a scruff because they’ve been too busy fending off highwaymen or tending to the cattle on their ranches or performing undercover special-ops missions to shave for a couple days, but I can’t think of a single recent novel where the hero has a beard or mustache. The only exception is Elizabeth Peters’ Radcliffe Emerson, who has a magnificent black beard when our heroine, Amelia Peabody, encounters him in a Victorian Egyptian museum–she detests it, so off it comes. Rhett Butler has a mustache in the movie, but I don’t recall him having one in the book (anyone? does he?).

So why do you think that is? Studies have shown that most American women find a guy with a light, well-groomed beard and mustache more attractive than a clean-shaven guy or a guy with a full, bushy beard. There’s apparently something about men’s ability to grow facial hair that speaks to women on a biological level. Look around you next time you’re out and about — there are a lot of men out there who wear it. And yet our literary heroes don’t take advantage of that, and neither do we writers.

How about you? What’s your preference? Do you like your heroes, fictional or real-life, clean-shaven or with a bit of manly ‘stache or beard? Would you ever create a hero with facial hair?

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18 thoughts on “Raiding the ‘Stache”

  1. I don’t know about Rhett, but my husband has a stache. Nothing fancy, but he’s always worn it. I’ve never actually seen him without one. Ever winter, he insists on growing a goatee to “keep his face warm”, but I hate it. It makes his friendluy face look sinister some how and I find myself asking a dozen times between November and March, “When are you going to shave that beastly thing off?”

    I guess facial hair is supposed to indicate virility or something but I don’t need razor burn to know my guy is manly. I prefer clean shaven, smooth faces, although I think I’d like your UPS man since I do like well groomed sideburns and I’m a sucker for a great set of legs:-)

    Thanks for the way cool post, Suze. I love your take and you always put a smile on my face, sans facial hair of course. Not a good look on us girls.

    1. I purposely avoided talking about women’s facial hair! Honestly I’m not in love with the mustache-goatee look. Reminds me too much of Drew Peterson.

  2. Interesting, Suze. I love a good mustache, wish my husband would grow one again. ;) My second novel’s hero has a light beard and ‘stache, so yes, I do write heroes with facial hair. YAY for testosterone. :)

  3. Personally I like my man clean shaven. Whenever hubby starts growing the beard in the winter, I get downright pissy about it. I hate it. I think it makes him look old and frumpy. Now with that said, I loved Tom Selleck’s (Magmum PI) ‘stache and I do like Russell Crowe with or without facial hair. Same goes with Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale.

    As to character creation – I never say never. I’m sure sooner or later someone will get some fuzz. Oh wait, how could I forget? In Mystic Ink, Devlin Ward has scruff and Ares has a goatee.

    1. I hear you about the hubby-beard. My husband grew one when we were dating, and has never been clean-shaven since. I sort of understand. Mr. Suze has one of those super thick, super fast-growing beards. He would shave in the morning, and then have to shave again if we were going out to dinner. He keeps it trimmed up most of the time, and I’ve gotten used to it. Our son has never seen his father without a beard. As for the characters, what I’ve noticed is that lots of supporting characters (like yours) have the facial hair — but the heroes usually don’t. I’m just curious about what that means!

  4. My favorite topic! All of my heroes have beards or scruff….I think it’s masculine and sexy. And the hero on the cover of my upcoming novel–LUMBERJACK IN LOVE–has a nice Paul Bunyan-style beard.

    There are lots of romance novels with bearded heroes if you’re looking for them (and of course I am!). The most recent one I read is SWEET DREAMS by Kristen Ashley….Tate is a biker dude with a sexy beard. When he shaves it off, his girlfriend gets mad at him and insists that he grow it back for her. And he does. :^)

    1. Oooh, I’m going to have to read your books, Penelope! I’ll have to keep my eyes open for Sweet Dreams, too. Thanks.

  5. Great post Suze. I have a thing about men and their hair. Can’t stand half-bald, especially the ones that grow the hair they have long and comb it over, yuk. So guys, shave it off, you can keep the fuzz if you want. Love a mustache, probably b/c I was a daddy’s girl, and my daddy had a great mustache, the handsome dude. Scruff is okay, but it is on overkill right now. Every man has it, ridiculous. Clean shaven is sexy, who likes to kiss a sandpaper face. So, you ask, my hubby, he has what? Shaven head, love kissing the top of it, no more mustache, sometimes scruff, but he hates it. HA . . . I have two sons, Rick and Paul. Rick grew a goatee to cover his sort of double chin (like my eye doctor did), but then Rick lost weight and shaved off the goatee and at least fifteen years from his gorgeous face. I have always wanted to say this stuff outloud. Oh, before I forget, wax those nose and ear hairs, they are so repulsive.

    1. Glad I could give you a platform to get it off your chest, dear Gail! And I could not agree more about the nose and ears — good grooming in those parts is essential.

  6. My dad has always had a stache. He would just look down right odd without it. Both of my grandfathers have them too as does my older brother. As for me. I’m not a big fan of facial hair on men. It depends on the man though. On some men it just looks dirty. I don’t even really like hairy chests but it’s not a deal breaker.

  7. When I first glanced at the title of this post, I thought it said “RIDING the ‘Stache,” so I was a bit concerned about the, er, content. :)

    I prefer clean-shaven men, but there are exceptions. That perpetual 3-day stubble look works on certain men, and I’ve even known a man or two who looks better with a full beard. But when you’re sitting across the dinner table and they have creamed spinach stuck in their facial hair…..

    A man once told me that, if he were to shave his ‘stache so that I would find it more pleasant to kiss him, that he would require me to get a Brazilian wax. That was the end of THAT argument.

  8. Oooooh…a topic near and dear to me! Attaining the ability to grow facial hair was a monumental event in the lives of the Jones men and it seems to be for most adolescent guys. As soon as they were able, they experimented with different styles of beards, ‘staches and sideburns. It was a rite of passage and a form of expression uniquely male. I think there is a full chapter on it in The Man Book, a literary volume I have been assured exists, but have never been allowed to see. Their facial hair evolves as they do. Wade has shaved his way too long mustache off and gotten a short haircut to present a professional appearance as he enters into his (hopefully) last 4 years of Grad School. Evan has plans to start a beard on his 24th birthday and keep growing it until he turns 25 (so dangerously close to 30). I have learned to accept all of this about my boys, because they are my boys. However, I do have an issue with men who have some sentimental attachment to an outdated mustache. Trust me on this…you are not a cowboy, and definitely not a porn star.

    1. I know you’ve been waiting oh-so-patiently for this one, Darling Jo! I hope you enjoyed it. I know I shall greatly enjoy Evan’s year-beard.

  9. Hi Suze,
    I think a lot of it depends on the guy. Some guys look great in well trimmed facial hair, others not so much. I like the 2-3 day scruff look on some men and not on others. Men (or their women) need to know what works on them and what doesn’t. My former boyfriend in CA had a mustache and I liked it. I don’t like long beards like ZZ Top! Ewwwww gross. Oh, let’s face it – I like handsome men …. Period!

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