Glenn Alterman: the beard as an asset

Glenn Alterman

All about beards is pleased and proud to welcome Glenn Alterman to the featured beards section! Glenn first joined the beards of the world gallery back in 2008. But Glenn has done a lot more than just that! Glenn is the author of twenty-five theater-related books, including ten books of original monologues. As a playwright, he has received two international grants and won nearly fifty play writing awards, including The Arts and Letters Award In Drama. His plays are produced all over the world. Glenn has done hundreds of commercial print ads and TV commercials and is considered one of the top commercial print models in the country.

And he has done all of this with a full beard! Now let’s get started by having Glenn tell us about himself:

Having a beard has been an integral part of the work I do in commercial print modeling and TV commercials. In those fields, it has helped to define who I am to art directors, directors, and casting directors. On many occasions, after booking a job, I’ve been told that it was my beard that was the clincher for why I got that particular booking. On many occasions, after I’ve booked a job, I’ll get a call from my agent saying that the client requests that I don’t change my beard, to leave it exactly as it was at the casting. Obviously, it was that important to them, too.

As a writer, it seemed like the natural fit. My beard projects the exact image I wish to have. I remember seeing my photo with my beard on the back cover of my first published book and thinking, “Yes, that works. That man looks like a writer.” Over the years, readers of my books have told me that my photograph was one of the factors that lead to them reading more about me and then deciding to purchase the book. As one reader wrote, “You looked like a guy who knew what he was talking about.”

The same can be said for my image as a monologue and acting coach. On quite a few occasions, new students have mentioned that it was my photograph, my image, that engaged them to read more about who I was and learn about my background before contacting me.

For those considering growing their first beard, Glenn offers this advice:

Try it. Think of it as a challenge, an adventure, a leap of faith. It may have a very positive effect on your life in many ways. And who knows? Someday you, too, may be on beards.org.

Now scroll on down to read Glenn’s beard story. Then, be sure to visit Glenn’s photo album. Also, check out Glenn’s web site.

The photos on this page and in Glenn’s photo album are courtesy of Glenn and are used with permission. All photos are subject to the site’s conditions of use.

Glenn Alterman: Beard?

What do you think about beards?

To me, beards are statements that men make about who they are and how they want to be perceived in the world. Beards are indicators of something inside men that they want to reveal to the world at large. Some men I’ve noticed, seem to be making a proud statement of who they feel they are as men and want to share that sense of masculinity, power, and confidence. Some men use their beards sometimes to hide behind. Some men use their beards to attract women or men. Many people feel that a man with a beard projects virility and success. Beards, quite often, are complimentary to a man’s face. The beard can fill in a thin face or a weak jaw. There are some beards that are very stylized. The degree to which men design and maintain their beards I believe, tells people about their personal aesthetic.
Glenn Alterman

What do you think a beard says about the man who grows one?

As I mentioned, a beard is a personal statement to the world. By wearing one, a man says my beard reflects some part (or perhaps all) of who I feel I am. In some cases, a man’s beard also may project who I want you to think I am. A beard is an intensifier, an emphasis, a focus of the man wearing it.

Why do you think more men do not grow their beards?

  • Some men can’t grow beards. There are areas on their faces that can’t grow hair. Those men end up with a patchy, scraggly beard.
  • Some lines of work won’t allow or frown upon any kind of facial hair. So those men don’t have much of a choice in the matter.
  • Some men like that wholesome, clean-shaven look.
  • Some men’s wives or girlfriends don’t want them to grow a beard. She may feel her spouse looks better clean-shaven. So to appease her, he doesn’t grow one. It could also be that a wife feels a beard is uncomfortable on her face when they’re intimate.
  • Some men just aren’t brave enough to grow a beard or are just used to the way their faces have been their whole lives and aren’t willing to experiment/explore a new look.
  • Some men start growing a beard but then give up during the transitional, scraggly period. Rather than just wait for it to grow in, they give up and shave it off. To my mind, a man has to be somewhat brave to take on the adventure of growing a beard. Not all men are up for that adventure.

Glenn Alterman: Before the beard

Did anyone in your family have a beard before you?

Actually I can’t recall anyone in my family having a beard. Where I grew up (Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York, long time ago), I don’t recall anyone in my neighborhood having a beard— except the rabbis. I remember those long, unkempt beards the rabbis had. As a young boy, I remember feeling they were kind of frightening looking: long white beards, that often seemed to have (my apologies)
parts of food in them sometimes. But I as I got used to seeing them, I remember there was a sort of majesty to them. As a young boy, they made me feel that these men with their long beards were wise and powerful men.

Do you remember from childhood ever wanting to have a beard when you grew up?

Glenn Alterman

Not really. Since very few people in my neighborhood had them (except the rabbis), I didn’t think about them much. Ironically, I was thinking of becoming a rabbi when I was very young. I even went to a yeshivah. So I was around rabbis and their beards quite a bit during the school day. But the guy who owned the cleaning store or grocery, or any of my neighbors were generally beardless. Once in a while I’d see a man with a mustache. As I think back on it, a mustache seemed pretty exotic, unusual.

Did you ever give much thought to beards before deciding to grow one?

Not really. The only other time I even noticed them was in movies or on television. They usually seemed appropriate for the character the actor was playing; whether it was a doctor or a shrink. I suppose it helped me believe that the actor was the character he was portraying, like the wardrobe they were wearing.

I was also a huge fan of those big Bible movies that were popular back then, films like The Ten Commandments. Who can ever forget Moses’ beard in The Ten Commandments?! The power of that beard…unforgettable!

Glenn Alterman: Growing the beard

When did you grow your first beard?

Probably in my thirties. By then I was a working actor and a very successful print model. I also acted in TV commercials. Growing a beard was a very risky proposition. Your “look” or “brand” was very much determined by your face. I believe what prompted me to grow it was that I started losing my hair and it seemed like it might change the focus from my receding hairline to my face. Since modeling and acting were my main sources of income, I knew this would change things substantially.

What led you to grow that first beard?

I seemed to be getting less modeling/acting work as the balding continued. I tried hair transplants, but that didn’t seem to help. So I figured, why not try a beard?! There was something of the renegade in what I was about to do. It could also be professional suicide. Beards were not very popular for the middle class advertising audience. I knew this change of look, the beard, would either work or totally wouldn’t. It would also mean new head shots, a new marketing campaign, etc. I started off with just a mustache, but I didn’t find that quite satisfying. So I quickly moved on to growing a beard.

It was also around this time that I started writing plays and I had my first book of original monologues, Streettalk, published. Somehow having a beard and being a writer felt very comfortable in that area of my life. There wasn’t a big adjustment there. It was as if I was now playing the role of “The Writer”. The beard worked very well for that.

How did your first beard turn out? What did you think of it?

Glenn Alterman

I guess it looked good. But it did take some getting used to, some adjusting. I’d study my face in the mirror, trying to identify with this new image, this new face. I definitely felt different than the guy without the beard.

I remember constantly shaping it as it grew in. I didn’t realize then that I should have let it grow in first and then shape it. There would be times I would trim it too much, throwing the symmetry off and then having to wait for it to grow back in. There weren’t many computers available for home use back then and I didn’t have the Internet and YouTube or beards.org to guide, recommend, or demonstrate to the beard neophyte.

What was it like seeing yourself with a full beard for the first time?

There seemed to be several first times. The real, real first time was when I saw myself on TV. I was on a soap opera. It was the first time I saw the power the beard seemed to project. It was a dark beard, very dramatic looking. I played the videotape (they had videotapes back then) of that show several times. The more I looked at it, the more I realized that I definitely liked it and it was a keeper. I was glad that I’d made the choice to grow a beard and stick with it.

What happened to your first beard?

I kept it. It’s still on my face, but much grayer now. I never shaved it off. It’s been part of who I am for many years. It’s had some variation over the years, but not much.

Glenn Alterman: Being bearded

Why do you grow your beard now?

My beard is very much a part of my identity. I have experimented trimming it shorter for a while, but presently am wearing it full out. I seem to be content with a full beard. It actually grounds me in some way, aside from making me more confident with my appearance. I’m growing it a little fuller these days. If it gets too overpowering, I’ll just trim it a bit. For now I’m liking how it’s growing in.

What made you go permanent with the beard?

Success. When I decided to grow the beard, modeling and commercial work started coming in again. At that time I also started shaving my head to deal with the receding hair. That balding look combined with the full beard gave me a very distinct look. Some said it made me look very distinguished. I noticed the increase in jobs. Perhaps the biggest job at that time was a commercial for MasterCard Platinum, which ended up shooting in India. They were searching New York and Los Angeles for a man who could look European as well as American, a man who projected wealth. I got the gig and it was a big deal, brought in a lot of money.

Glenn Alterman

How has the beard affected the different aspects of your multi-faceted career?

In commercials and print modeling, I often play the doctors, upscale, wealthy men, shrinks, European types, CEOs, etc.

As for my books and playwriting, the beard projects the perfect image for a writer. Some say it makes me look knowledgeable. About twenty years ago I also became an acting coach. Once again, the beard projected the right image for that line of work. Students meeting me for the first time seemed to buy into the fact that I might very well be a good teacher. It’s fascinating how the image of a beard affects both the man wearing it and the world at large

Have you ever had to sacrifice the beard for an acting or modeling job?

Not to my knowledge. I know that I don’t get many job calls that ask for clean shaven types, but that’s fine with me. I’m in a smaller group of potential actors and models. When I’m right for a job, I’m very right for it. I have been asked at castings if I’d shave my beard for the job. If the money involved is substantial, I usually say yes. But in all my years of this kind of work, no one ever booked me and then requested that I shave it. The beard had become my trademark.

Does the issue of being bearded ever come up for your acting students?

If you’re referring to their potential work, I let them know that they may decrease their odds of potential work by growing a beard. But the group that they will then be a part of has a lot fewer actors/models. So in a sense it all equals out. Without a beard, there are more possibilities, but the competition is much higher. With a beard there might be fewer opportunities, but far less
competition.

Do you think that aspiring actors are reluctant to grow beards? Wouldn’t they most likely only grow a beard if it’s needed for a specific role?

Yes, they generally are aware that there are fewer roles if you’re bearded. If it’s important for a role, they can always grow one.


Do you see beards gaining acceptance and even popularity in your field?

It seems that in general, there are more men wearing some sort of beard these days. Some, permanently, others for shorter periods. Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Jon Hamm have grown them for different periods of time, or for specific roles.

In film and television, the “look” of a character for a role is very defined. Stylists and hair people are very much part of the decisions. If it’s decided that a character should have a beard, the type of beard, its length, etc. are all subjects for discussion by the hair and make-up people, the director, and of course, the actor.

In the theater, an actor can attach a fake beard if it’s decided the character should have one. Or, he may, as many actors now do, grow one for that role.

What would you say to those who are reluctant to grow a beard for fear of not looking sufficiently professional in any field?

I’d suggest growing one during a vacation or during some period where they won’t be at work. First of all, they can see if they like how they look in a beard. Also, there is usually a period of scruffiness until the beard grows in. They might be perceived as unkempt at work until it grows in.

Glenn Alterman

The bottom line is you need to find out if a beard is right for you. And the only way to find out is to grow one. You may be very pleasantly surprised how different you can look.

If most men are like me, there is usually a certain amount of bravery involved in taking on the challenge of growing a beard. In my case, it had to do with the line of work I’m in. But in general, there’s a leap of faith that you have to take, a belief that at the end of the growing process you may find you look better, more like who you feel you really are, who you want the world to see.

You have grown the full beard. How did you choose the full beard?

To be honest, I didn’t think that much about it. I was just “growing a beard”. I figured I’d see how it played out as I went along. I’d just let it “do its own thing”. When it it finally grew in and looked/felt right, I just kept it that way. I’m not big on little beards or goatees for me; they’re just not me. To me, a full beard has substance, stature, power. That’s just my personal choice for my face. I’ve seen smaller beards on other men that are very becoming — for them.

Do you vary the shape or length of your full beard?

I trimmed it substantially shorter last year for the first time, as an experiment. It definitely looked cleaner. But in the end, I wasn’t pleased with it. Recently I’ve gone back to the way I’ve always worn it. I have a thin face and my beard help fills in my facial structure, especially my cheeks and chin.

It seems for many guys, short beards, or stubble is very trendy these days. I have seen electric razors that now trim to a two- or three-day beard stubble. For some, that works, but not for me.

Do you shape and trim the beard yourself?

For years I only had barbers trim it. But after watching what they were doing, it seemed I could do the same thing by myself and save the time and money. For the last few months, I’ve trimmed both my beard and hair. I think I do it pretty well, but I’ll check in with a barber every now and then for a more defined shaping.

Have you tried any other style of beard?

Other than trimming it shorter, I have not. It generally hasn’t fluctuated too much over the years, other than last year’s shorter version and the present experimentation with it fuller.

Has your beard had any effect on your self-confidence or how you see yourself?

Originally, it really did. Once I decided it was a forever thing, I was aware of how it made me feel about myself. As the years have gone by, it’s just part of who I am. I would say that if I cut it off, perhaps I’d feel undressed, less secure. When I see photos of myself or on TV commercials I’m in, I become aware of how it really defines who I am. I see why the client chose me to represent their product.

What do you think of your own beard?

I like it very much. I’m glad I have it. It becomes me.

Do you ever compare your beard to other beards that you see?

Not so much now. Maybe during the honeymoon period when I first grew it, I compared the way I looked to how other men’s beards looked on them. Now when I look at other men’s beards I’m generally looking to see if it compliments them, overpowers their face, or is too small for their faces. I’m not so much comparing it to mine as evaluating how it does or doesn’t work for them.

Do you take a lot of pride in your beard?

I suppose I do. But it’s a pride that I’ve gown quite accustomed to. Like most things, at the beginning it’s all a big hoopla of pride. But eventually that calms down and it’s a daily pride that becomes part of the fabric of who I am to myself.

What kinds of reactions to your beard do you get?

Always, always, always positive. From directors I’ve worked with to photographers to stylists, to hair and make-up people. Socially, too, on many, many occasions I’ve received many compliments. I suppose that, too, builds your confidence. If over the years I had heard any negative comments, I may, may have re-evaluated. But it really is me and why fix something if it’s not broken?

How do you feel about any compliments you get on your beard?

I accept them graciously and move on. Compliments certainly make you feel good about yourself, you appreciate that someone has taken the time to acknowledge how you look.

If you get any negative comments about your beard, how do you respond?

I never have. I mean never, ever.

Do you have any thoughts on why some people can be surprisingly negative regarding beards?

A person’s looks are very subjective. People comb their hair a certain way, bleach or dye their hair, wear different styles of clothing. We all judge how others look to some degree. Who knows what life experiences people who dislike beards may have had? I think the best thing to do is not take it personally if someone dislikes your beard. That’s their issue, not yours. If you like how you look with your beard, then that’s all that’s really important. Letting others’ judgments about you change how you feel about your beard (or anything else) is empowering them over your own feelings about how you look.

What do you like best about your beard?

These days the fullness, the way it compliments the shape of my face, the way it brings out my eyes, the way people react to it and mention that they like it. I also like how it feels.

Do you have any complaints about your beard?

Only how once in a while it gets wiry and dry. I swim in a chlorinated pool several times a week. I have to condition it more often now. I’ve learned from different hair and make-up people on print/commercial jobs, that a few drops of olive oil or jojoba oil or, even better, argan oil, applied to damp hair, can instantly bring the sheen and body back in a beard. I use one of them every day now. It makes the beard very manageable.

What have you learned from your beard-growing experiences?

That to grow a beard, you have to be patient. That you have to go through a transitional period until you get to see how the beard will eventually look. That you must groom your beard just like your hair (if you have any) and not let it get amorphous and wily.

Glenn Alterman

I’ve also become aware how people react to men with beards, especially full beards. As I mentioned, there seems to be a sense of respect from many people for men who have strong beards.

Also, as I reflect back, I recognize the degree of bravery it takes to grow a beard. You are exploring changing the way you look to the world (and yourself).

Would you recommend to other men that they grow full beards?

I would suggest other men at least try it and see if they like how they look. Change for some men can be very threatening. But growing a beard is relatively painless and well worth the try; at least once.

Do you know if your beard has inspired anyone else to grow a beard?

I know of several print models who know how successful I’ve been in the print/commercial field. They decided to grow beards, too. One or two of them actually mentioned that they grew theirs after seeing my beard. I certainly took that as a compliment. Every beard on every face is different. Once they grew their beards, they may have booked jobs that I might have booked otherwise.
I’ll never know.

How do you feel about being featured on beards.org?

I actually think it’s kind of an honor. Looking at all the men from all over the world on the site and then being asked to be featured is quite a compliment. It reestablishes to me how prominent my beard must be to be asked. It also opened a door of insight and knowledge about the world of beards. There is so much more to all this than just growing some hair on your face. Reading the other interviews is quite fascinating. Seeing how other men relate to their beards and the experiences they’ve had has been quite eye opening.

What do you think about beards.org?

I think it’s very interesting how one feature, facial hair, has become the subject for a web site. It’s fascinating how many different kinds of stories men have about their experience of growing and maintaining their beards and the impact it’s played in their lives.

It’s also quite amazing to see the many, many types of beards there are and how they look on men’s faces.

You think when first coming upon the web site that you know what it’s about. But as you explore the site, you realize it’s much more than the initial expectation.

Glenn's photo album

Click on the image below to go to Glenn’s photo album.

Click to go to Glenn's photo album.

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