Barry's great beard

Barry’s Great Beard

All about beards is proud to add Barry to the featured beards section! A veteran and prolific full-beard grower, here is how Barry describes himself:

My work is as a landscape gardener, which means I mostly get to mow lawns! A large part of my recreation is looking after my own garden.

I’m probably best known as the male version of a crazy cat lady. I’ve owned and shown cats for most of my adult life and have recently begun raising Turkish Angoras.

I’m actually kind of boring.

Scroll down to read the story of Barry’s great beard. Then be sure to visit Barry’s photo album. The photos on this page and in Barry’s photo album are courtesy of Barry and are used with permission. All photos are subject to the site’s conditions of use.

Barry's great beard

What do you think about beards?
I think a beard really enhances a man’s appearance. It’s a natural part of the image of masculinity. I might as well say right off that it always bothers me when people talk about an individual “growing a beard”. We all grow beards from puberty. Some choose to shave theirs, but we’ve got no choice about growing. I let my beard grow; it may sound like nitpicking but I dislike the attitude that a smoothly shaved face is natural and my beard is somehow a deliberate effort. It is a decision, yes -– as is shaving.

I don’t know about a beard making me more manly, either. I love how I look, but there is a quote to the effect that a man’s character tells the world what kind of man he is — the beard is the exclamation point. I like that one.

What do you think about your own beard?
I love it! When I finally got the nerve to just let it grow, it just felt right. When it reached the stage where it had filled in to a “real beard” , that is covering the skin completely, I remember thinking, “I like it”. And then I looked again and thought, “I REALLY like it! It’s staying.”

When puberty hit I was very self-conscious about my facial hair and it took a few years to get used to it. I would never have thought I’d be as attached to my bearded self as I am now. The odd thing is that I always admired men’s beards, and I’ve seen a lot come and go. When any man I’d seen bearded earlier later turned up shaved I always felt a little disappointed. He looked bland.

When you were a little boy, did you ever think about growing a beard in the future when you would become a man?
No, I didn’t. It just didn’t occur to me. I wasn’t the most confident child in a lot of ways. Perhaps I felt a sort of disconnect between myself and the grown men. I often still wonder what I’ll be when I grow up.

Did anyone in your family have a beard before you?
No. My father and his brother always shaved, as did my mother’s brothers. There were some mustaches among the cousins I didn’t see very often. The community where I lived was pretty beard-free.

It’s only fair to state that I grew up in the 1960s when beards were at a high point.  So while they may not have been popular in my family, they were a part of the culture: TV, movies, and just about every musician alive. The idea that beards were standard equipment on men was pretty plain. That had to have an influence.

When did you grow your first beard?
It should have been much earlier! When I was about twenty-two I let my mustache grow ( fashionable in the mid-1970s) and no one has ever seen my upper lip since. After that I thought about a full beard a lot but as Mr. Nerveless, I didn’t follow up. It was around 1995 or ’96 that I finally got the courage to NOT do anything. I wish I’d let it grow before that because I was so happy with the result. It sort of felt like I was me, finally. It’s very hard to describe, and I’ve tried to put it into words, but he closest I can come was it felt like, “There I Said It And I’m Glad!”

What led you to grow your first beard?
I liked my mustache, and just hadn’t gone the next step. I always admired a full beard. I think one thing that held me back was what holds a lot of men back – a combination of doubts.  “Is my beard thick enough?  Will it look impressive? And what will people think?” Yeah. Silly. But there it is. There was only one way to find out, wasn’t there?

All those years of shaving and skipping for a day or more finally led to that moment when it crystallized – there were times when I hadn’t shaved for four or five days and I’d think, “Will I just let it grow?” And yet here I was envying the bearded men I’d see in the media or on the street.

I didn’t like shaving either. And my beard hairs are heavy enough to make a clean shave without leftover stubble a chore.

Barry's great beard

How did you like that first beard?
Once I saw myself bearded there was no going back. I’ve been bearded ever since.

What happened to your first beard?
I’m answering this question because quite a bit has happened to my beard over time! I started out keeping it quite short and wondering how long it would grow if I let it. As the years passed I’d let it get longer. It would develop waves and ridges and I’d trim to even it up, and it always seemed to want to curl up on the left chin side and down around to the left on the right. I spent a lot of time making things look symmetrical.

Up until about four years ago I was still an offline holdout and finally we got computerized. Not long after this, my (sometimes very frustrated!) attempts to learn this electronic beast led to an idle search — “Beards” — and I discovered this site.

Reading through and seeing other beard examples inspired me to let my own beard grow longer .  It’s too bad I couldn’t have found this before. When allowed to grow out and take its own shape, the waves fell much more into place and became not only more symmetrical but easier to maintain.

My latest tweak is letting my mustache grow longer. It’s a little annoying at this length when drinking anything, and a bit messy, but I’m enjoying the look.  So I’ll stick with it for now. Beards.org is responsible for this as well — seeing the magnificent ‘staches made me want to try.

So you see while my beard has stayed in place for about twenty years now, there are changes. I wish I could have had access to some of the advice I found online when I’d started, because I was pretty much on my own as to how to cultivate the beard. I made the usual mistake of tying to trim too much too soon, for instance.

Would you say that you are dedicated to staying bearded now? Or is the beard just a sometimes thing?
Bearded forever! It feels RIGHT!

Why do you grow your beard now?
It’s who I am. I’m not sure why. The whole Urban Lumberjack and hipster thing isn’t me. I’m no big tough male; no more than any other little mouse. But after all this time I still catch a glimpse of that hairy guy somewhere, in a mirror or window, and it’s what I want to be.

Does the relative popularity of beards at any given time affect your decision to be bearded or not?
When I started, beards weren’t “fashionable”, especially where I live. In my small home community I still don’t see many. I walked around feeling quite conspicuous for several years, not seeing any other facial hair on anyone except for the occasional mustache. The goatee came along in there somewhere and I felt a little less like the only guy with facial hair.  But full beards remained uncommon. I was happy to see more men let their natural adult appearance develop as the popularity of beards grew.  But from all this you can see that for me, it’s never been about what’s in vogue. We may wake up tomorrow morning to discover beards are “out”, but tomorrow afternoon there will still be at least one bearded man smiling politely at “you should shave!”

How do people react to your beard?
Not very much, actually. I’ve occasionally noticed a quick look from someone that’s plainly beard-related.  And I’ve received maybe two direct compliments over the years.  But mostly I don’t get much reaction. Although one lady did comment recently on a picture of me online. She wanted me to know I have a “breathtakingly amazing beard”. (!) So maybe I get noticed more than I think…

And I have heard small children whisper to their parents that I look like Santa. Well I don‘t think so, but at least it’s positive press for beardedness! I don’t think I look like Santa because I’m 5’ 11” and 140 pounds. That’s why.

Do people ever tell you to shave? If so, how do you respond?
I haven’t experienced that very much, although I have an aunt who doesn’t like beards much! Passive resistance along the lines of “Not Gonna Happen” is my usual reaction. Recently the only thing in this line has been a friend who wants me to trim shorter, which isn’t really the same thing because I recently had a trendy haircut and she thinks the shorter beard length would look good.

Once an older man made a remark about my “disguise”. This was years ago. He was twice my age and respect made me sort of pass it off, but I’ve always wished I’d pointed out that of two men in the room one looked like his natural adult self and the other was still trying to pass himself off as twelve years old — who was in disguise? There. That’s finally off my chest.

I used to be told I was hiding my face. Many bearded men have heard that one. If anyone said that to me today – and I think my own age has halted comments – I would point out this IS my face as nature intended. It took me years to realize that, at least that clearly. It’s more true that a man who shaves is trying to hide his beard.

Do you know if your beard has inspired others to grow their beards?
I don’t know. I like to think so.

Do you encourage others to grow their beards?
I was doing a little encouraging on Beards.org the other day! Usually I think it’s a personal decision. There are many clean-shaven men I respect and admire. A beard doesn’t make you more of a man.

Now if you mean right here, right now do I think a man should let his beard grow? Then my answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

I think I can guarantee you will feel differently about yourself afterward – and until a man has experienced this form of self-expression, I can’t really describe how it feels. I don’t think it makes me a better man or in some strange way superior. It just feels male, I guess.

Barry's great beard

Why have you chosen the classic full beard?
Well for starters, because I can. I have a good thick beard that looks good this way.

Aside from that, the full beard is the most natural style, and I like that. Because it’s the most natural, I think it looks best. Add to that, it’s the easiest to maintain and my choice is clear.

I used to shave my cheek line lower but once again this site inspired me to let it grow higher. I felt the cheek line was too uneven for that but when I tried it, it turned out it works well; even easier to maintain! I do have a few hairs high on the cheek just under the eye that need evening up, but that’s a matter of a minute or two every few days.

Do you shape and trim your beard yourself? If so, how did you learn to do it right?
I had very little guidance to start .  My barber had been bearded and had some advice on starting.  But he offered to trim for it me, and that was the last time I let him.  He trimmed it too short and I had to go through another few itchy days. I wanted the longer, fuller look anyway, and I decided to go with the “do it yourself” method.

Trimming was trial and error mostly. Eventually I learned to follow nature and try to trim the way my beard wanted to go.

Seeing longer styles made me want to try growing longer, and it turned out my Adam’s apple is just about my terminal length. Today I mostly trim to keep stray hairs within bounds but not to shorten, and to even up a little under the eyes. My beard doesn’t grow very neatly; it waves and sticks out here and there, and I’ve learned to go with that as my own “look”. I sometimes would see a curl or uneven area that looks too long or out of place and I’d trim a bit. We’re very tuned to symmetry in our faces and notice very small discrepancies. I learned to trim less, as often what looks like a quarter inch too long is more like a sixteenth. So you have to be careful not to take too much off.

I also discovered that my beard looks best when left mostly to grow naturally with minimal trimming.

How do you care for your beard?
Mostly I just wash with soap and water along with the rest of my face – although lately I have been shampooing more, as the yellow in my beard has been showing more and I’ve been using a product that whitens (or at least appears to!). I comb as necessary — mornings obviously, and a neatening up through the day. Well, sometimes. My beard is allowed to take its natural form and as such doesn’t need a lot of grooming. It’s kind of hard to mess it up.

Do you take pride in your beard?
Yes. It’s a part of my appearance that is unique, and so few men grow full beards and even fewer the fuller, bigger style. Even with beards more popular in recent years, I still feel I stand out from the crowd.

What do you like best about your beard?
I like the fullness, and oddly enough in a youth-obsessed society, I like the color. When my beard was dark, it tended to take on a single, dark undefined character from a distance. The whiter beard is more defined in shape and detail.

And it’s difficult to describe to the non-bearded what the wind feels like, or water flowing through it. There’s a sensual pleasure to a beard that a man has to be behind to appreciate.

Do you have any complaints about your beard?
I could say I would have liked a little more length, but really I like it as it is. A naturally shorter beard is also easier to look after. Would I really want a waist-length beard?

Sometimes I wish I could have more of a handlebar effect in my mustache, but really I’m very happy the way things are.

What is your opinion of Beards.org?
I wish I could have found Beards.org earlier. It’s nice to have the feeling of encouragement, that other people “get it”. And the site is respectful of the men, and the women, who visit. I’ll risk saying that some other sites I’ve seen are more than a little adolescent. Beards.org is focused on appreciation of beards, as well as the men who grow them.

What do you think about being featured on beards.org?
I feel highly complimented! I would like to thank you for inviting me.

Click on the photo below to go to Barry’s photo album.
Barry's great beard

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