Tony’s beard is a terrific example of the classic full beard. When you think of “full beard”, a classic — and classy — full beard like Tony’s should come to mind. Like everyone in the featured beards section here, there’s a lot more to Tony than just an outstanding beard. Here is what Tony wrote to tell us more about himself:
I’m a forty-two-year-old graduate student — seriously. My life right now is all about finishing my Ph.D. So I spend all my time reading, writing my dissertation, and teaching. There really isn’t time for anything else. My primary professional focus is drama and theater history. So I go to the theater whenever I can — not nearly enough. When I was younger I did a lot of acting — I’ve had some interesting experiences both on stage and back stage. My theater work now is confined to directing, which lines up nicely with my academic interests. I’m not particularly outdoorsy or athletic — I prefer to watch sports rather than play them, although I do love lounging on the water (on it, not in it) — I love sailing, but I rarely get to do it. Other than that, I like going to the movies whenever something really good comes out. I love a good bookstore, a good library, a good museum. Mostly I’m a talker, so what I like best are opportunities for conversation — that’s probably why I got into teaching. I hang out with my family and friends – and those times usually involve lots of food. Everyone in my family loves to cook, so we do a lot of that, and we all love good restaurants. I guess I’m getting boring as I get older — but I’m okay with that.
Be sure to visit Tony’s photo album.
The photos on this page and in Tony’s photo album were provided by Tony and are used with permission. All photos are subject to the site’s conditions of use.
What do you think of beards?
I always liked the look of them on other men. Especially when we’re young, I think we tend to associate beards with maturity, wisdom, and masculinity — qualities I think most men want to embody at one time or another.
Why do you grow your beard now?
I like how I look with a beard; I don’t like how I look without it. It’s that simple.
Had you ever thought of growing a beard before you grew your first beard?
I don’t really remember. I’m sure I thought about it — my beard started coming in pretty thickly when I was thirteen or fourteen — but I never grew it. I was probably nervous about what other people (and particularly my family) would think.
Did anyone in your family have a beard before you? Do you have any bearded relatives now?
No one in my immediate family was ever bearded, though my father always had (and still has) a moustache. I have one older cousin who I seem to remember has always been bearded — and he still is. Other than that, it’s just me.
You grew your first beard for a role in a college theater production. How did that beard turn out? Was it a full beard or another style? What did you think of it?
It was a full beard, much like the one I have now, but less developed (I was only twenty) and with no white in it. There were people at the time (mostly women) who told me it looked really good and hoped I would keep it. I thought it made me look older, which was what I needed for the role, but I couldn’t get used to the feel of it — it grew fast but the itching never seemed to let up. Now I look at pictures from that show and see how patchy and immature it was and I wonder why nobody told me how terrible it looked.
How long did you keep that first beard?
Only for as long as the show ran. I grew it several weeks before we opened and kept for the run. Closing night I took my bows, walked right off stage, went into the men’s dressing room, and shaved it right off.
What led you to decide to grow your second beard?
I don’t remember, but honestly it was probably for another show (I did a lot of stage acting in my twenties and early thirties). My beard grows fast, so it was always a good way of changing my appearance from role to role.
You’ve been bearded on and off over the years. Why did this on-again, off-again cycle occur?
I liked the look of it but couldn’t get used to the feel — there was always this thing on my face, and it itched something fierce. In my twenties I started wearing a goatee – it was the ’90s, everyone was doing it. I liked how it looked and it didn’t irritate me much. Other people seemed to like it, too. So I’d wear it for a while, then get tired of it or a woman I was into would say something negative about it and I’d shave it off. Sometimes I’d grow out the full beard, but I never got used to the itching. So it never lasted more than a month or so. Then I’d go back to the goatee. It went on like this for years. I guess I was fickle in my twenties and early thirties.
What made you decide to keep the beard permanently?
The first thing that happened was I finally finished my Master’s degree and started work on a Ph.D.; at the same time I started teaching college. College campuses are one of the few professional places where beards are acceptable and cool. Plus I wanted to look more mature (I have something of a baby face) and professorial. For a while I kept it as a goatee, and that was how I stumbled on the trick of growing my beard in stages — I’d grow just the goatee, and then after three or four weeks of just the goatee I’d grow out the rest of it, which made the whole process much less uncomfortable, while at the same time making the beard easier to sculpt. The second thing that happened was my fortieth birthday. Growing and keeping the beard seemed an appropriate way of marking the moment, and I got very good reactions to it from friends and family. I’ve gotten so used to it now that I can’t imagine not having it, and most of my friends and family say the same thing. I now have students, colleagues, and even nieces and nephews who’ve never seen me without it. I also learned how to keep it trimmed, shampooed, conditioned, and combed so that it doesn’t itch all the time. I much prefer the way I look with it — I guess it’s one of those things you have to grow into.
You have grown a full beard. How did you select that style? What’s your opinion on the full beard versus other beard styles?
I wore a goatee for a long time (on and off), sometimes with really big, long sideburns, and I think that suited me when I was younger and still working in the theater. But I think now the full, neatly trimmed beard is more appropriate for a man of my age and profession. Maybe it’s an English teacher thing: I always seem to gravitate toward the classics…
Have you worn any other beard style?
Just the goatee.
How do you like being a full-bearded man?
I love it. I like the fact that I look like a grown-up, and that people seem to take me more seriously. As I’ve said, I can’t imagine myself now without the beard.
Has your full beard had any effect on your self-confidence or how you see yourself? Has it had any other effect on your personality?
I think if you manage not only to grow a beard, but to keep it when it is not really the norm, then it’s going to boost your self-confidence. It also helps if you get good reactions to it. People really seem to “Respect the Beard,” as it were. I think they see it as a sign of independence, strength, and even the willingness to make a statement about yourself regardless of what
others might think. So yes, if you carry around a symbol of confidence and independence on your face, it’s bound to help with your self-confidence.
How do people react to your beard? What do you think of their reactions?
When I was younger, people had very strong reactions — they either loved it or hated it, and were not afraid to say so. People now tend not to comment. My friends and family have gotten used to it, and for the most part when I meet new people they don’t seem to feel the need to remark on it. I have to say, though, that it’s amazing to me that people who wouldn’t dream of criticizing your hair or clothes or virtually any other aspect of your appearance think nothing of making negative comments about your beard. If you’re particularly sensitive to other opinions it can be really hard, which is probably why it took me so long to get around to being comfortably and permanently bearded. I finally reached the point where I was able to say, my face, my choice. I think I look better with it, so at this point I really don’t care if other people like it or not. Then again, I’m probably lucky, since most people who feel the need to comment on it seem to like it.
What would you say in defense of beards to those who dislike beards?
I would say that they’re free to dislike beards, just as I’m free to have one and not care about whether they like it or not. That said, I don’t really get people who say they don’t like beards. They look good and feel good (especially in a hot shower), so honestly what’s not to like?
Has your beard ever caused you any problems?
Never. I work in a field where a beard is not only accepted but in some ways the norm. Bearded men are pretty common in academia.
Do you view your beard as an asset? Has it helped you in any way?
In an odd way, I think people probably take me more seriously — and yes, that helps. Obviously you want your students and colleagues to respect you for what you do rather than how you look, but making a good visual impression right from the start certainly doesn’t hurt, and the beard really does seem to help project an air of confidence, maturity, masculinity, and even wisdom. If I let my beard get really long and wild or didn’t keep it clean, it might be different, but I’ve heard friends say things like “Generally I don’t like beards, but yours is neat and well-kept and it really suits you.”
Do you take a lot of pride in your beard? How would you rate your beard?
I’m very happy with it, and yes maybe even proud of it since I guess not everyone is able to grow a good beard and I seem to be lucky that way.
What do you like best about your beard?
It’s nice and full and it grows fast.
Do you have any complaints about your beard?
It’s nice and full and it grows fast. Seriously. It requires a lot of attention and upkeep to keep it looking neat — it can start looking wild and shaggy pretty quickly. And it’s gotten awfully white in the last few years. I don’t know if that’s a complaint necessarily. Isn’t a lot of white supposed to be distinguished? I know it makes me look older, but that was one of the reasons I grew it. So I guess I don’t really get to complain about it.
What have you learned from your beard-growing experiences?
Stick it out. Don’t quit. Let it grow. Give it time. Don’t be shy about scratching it if it itches. And don’t pay any attention to people who tell you they hate it or who try to convince you to shave it off before you’ve had a chance to figure out if you like it yourself.
Would you recommend to other guys that they grow full beards?
Absolutely. If you can, you should. Every man should at least have the experience — you may decide that you hate it or it’s not for you, but you may end up loving it. It can dramatically change your appearance, but that can also be a good thing. And in my case it’s also been a confidence-booster and a way of asserting my independence, which I don’t think can ever be bad.
What do you think about being featured on beards.org?
I was frankly flabbergasted. Pleasantly surprised and, yes, kind of proud. There are some really great beards here, and being in their company is both flattering and humbling.
What do you think of beards.org?
I think it’s a great site and an excellent motivator for men who are on the fence about growing a beard or who aren’t sure about how to go about it. And for me, checking in occasionally and seeing what other guys are saying about their beard-growing experiences is one of the things that has kept me determined to stay bearded.
Click on the image below to go to Tony’s photo album.