A good beard can be a godsend. Whether it's compensating for the lack of a distinct jawline, or providing a more symmetrical look for a naturally misshapen head, a well-placed arrangement of facial hairs can work wonders aesthetically. As someone with very little personality to speak of, I've often let my beards and goatees do most of my heavy social lifting. They have taken many forms over the years, but there has always been some great cultural or historical figure whose renown I have in some way been attempting to capture through follical mimmickry. These are the major contributors to my facial decisions, in increasing order of influence.
10) Jason Motte Relief Pitcher - St. Louis Cardinals
This is the most recent entry on the list, and it first came to my attention during last year's World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers, in which Motte played a significant role in the Cardinals' eventual win. This beard represents a sort of ideal form of what I've recently been trying to accomplish. The variation in lengths - trimmed tight on the cheeks and shaggier on the chin and lip - is perfect for someone whose natural growth pattern is thickest in the goatee region. This is what my own beard looks like in my head in between cold, lacerating bursts of reflective reality.
9) Seth Bullock Composite Lawman
This look is more of an eternal pipe dream, I being unable to grow a full enough mustache to accomplish it and, at this point, unwilling to indulge in the current cultural propagation of the whispy mustache look that has doomed some of the best and brightest of my generation, etc. Whenever I accidentally trim too much off of one side of my face and have to do a complete reboot, I try this look out for all of five minutes before shaving it off in fear before I somehow become able to molest myself through the mirror.
8) Quentin Tarantino Writer, Director, Film Historian, Foot Worshiper
Yes, that's a strange, abortive, lip-barnicling soul patch. And yes, I tried it for a while. Let's just move on.
7) Banky Edwards Sexually Conflicted Tracer
The films of Kevin Smith were very formative for me. His creative heyday, such as it was, perfectly aligned with my adolescence to a degree that I once considered his movies to be the apex of cinematic expression (I know, I know). Anyway, Jason Lee's contribution to the ouevre made him a key focal point for my personal aspirations (I know, I know), and since Brodie didn't sport a look that enabled one to hide behind the adornments of scruff and cap, it was Banky or bust. The possible encroachment of his abrasive, insensitive, and ignorant personality onto my own (as well as my exit from cinephiliac pubescence) swept this one right the fuck off of my face.
6) Robert Altman Candidate, Greatest-Ever American Filmmaker
This is another sort of inevitable future thing - my own hairline will hopefully creep no further beyond my crown than his, and as such I wanted to test drive this style of goatee with disconnected mustache. As has been shown to be a recurrent problem, however, my mustache will never have a strong enough presence to justify it's independent placement atop a pair of smooth lip-sides. Perhaps as I get older and my face begins to wrinkle into itself, that will change, but for now this look will have to have a pin placed deep within it.
5) James Hetfield Songsmith/Thunder Summoner
This is representative of what is a perhaps best unlooked-upon period of my life that I have no recourse but to refer to as my "Christian Metalhead" phase - which is to say that I was a frightened, confused teenager trying to convince myself that I was not going to be sent to hell for listening to Metallica. I ended up briefly caving and trading them in for Paradise (worry not, for I have since switched back), but this particular chin accessory was once-again-convenient for what I assumed at the time would be a mid-adolescent inability to grow a full, thick mustache.
(Ed Note: At the time referenced in this entry, Hetfield was obviously at a point between his Snake Pit-era Cavalry Beard and the more standardized van dyke he sported once the band cut their hair for the Load album. This represents more a poetic license on the part of the author rather than a lapse in memory/research by same).
4) Fyodor Dostoevsky Political Dissident, Literary Genius
Mainly because this photo could serve as a fairly accurate projection of what I will look like in twenty years. Plus, the extravagent tuft of hair at the bottom of the head is a nice over-compensation for the fallow harvest on the top (something I've had to begin thinking about a lot lately). There's a genuine blaze of genius-dancing-on-the-edge-of-crazy in those eyes that I'll never be able to fake, but if I can get my hands a suit that looks like his then I think I'll be able to at least fool a few people before they get too close.
3) Jeff "The Dude" Lebowksi Bowling Enthusiast, Rug Appraiser, Amateur Sleuth
Because really, Jeff Bridges is just about the apex of everything that a human being can want and need to be. And because it's The fucking Dude. And because such a prominent protrusion of chin hair can only lead people to assume that my reproductive member must be equally as robust (right? RIGHT? Please...?) All kidding aside, I had an old driver's license photo that looked like Duder had eaten one too many ice cream sandwiches and gotten pulled over and hauled in for Ineffectual Approximation of an Unaffiliated Mastodon Hype Man.
2) Stanley Kubrick Unassailable Genius
He started growing it during the filming of 2001: A Space Odyssey and doesn't seem to have stopped for the rest of his life. The above is pretty close to the pose I would affect in the mirror whenever I would try to grow my beard to the fullest in my younger, more idealistic days (it's also the position I would ruefully mimic whenever I impulsively and foolishly decided to shave it off). Sadly, mine is the type of facial hair that, while of an acceptable consistency when close-to-medium-cropped, once grown out too fully resembles a tennis ball that has been dropped on a bathroom floor, and so needs to be kept a little more kempt.
1) Eddie Vedder Singer, Songwriter, Surfer, Savior of Lost Adolescent Souls
If the arc of my adolescence were to have any sort of pictorial avatar, it would likely be a sloppily scribbled, barely resemblant approximation of the resiliently handsome Pearl Jam frontman. I can trace many of my most important decisions to the example set by the ukelele-toting songsmith - my preferred choice of notebook, my first buzz cut, my post-religious political awakening (I didn't have a father, what do you want?). Once the pudding-voiced baritone grew a beard at the outset of his band's 2000 tour, I knew I had to follow suit. I quickly gave up the hope of approximating its exact shape and eventually moved on to embrace my own pattern (I am, despite all evidence presented in this article, my own man, after all), but it was a stepping stone to what has since been more or less an entire adult life spent looking out from a variantly hirsute visage.