It's a rite of passage for veterans. The morning of the day they're set to receive their DD-214 is one of the last times for a long time that many vets will pick up a razor. Some still shave to maintain a professional appearance when they enter the civilian workforce, but the most important thing is that it's their choice to give their face a trim.
Those veterans who do decide to sport their well-earned lumberjack style may run into a few speed bumps along the way. The vet beard isn't for everyone — but those who can rock it look like glorious vikings ready to storm the bar and take every keg of beer with them.
If you're struggling to keep up with these majestic-as-f*ck vets, here's a few pointers:
1. Patience is a virtue.
A great beard takes time. Throughout the growing process, there'll be many great moments, like the point where your mustache gives you an 80s action-hero look. But then it'll grow longer to the point where you're getting a mouthful of mustache whenever you take a bite of food — not to mention the constant itchiness. But you'll have to endure if you want that vet beard.
Many of the these downsides can be addressed with proper care. As long as you treat your beard right, you can minimize the downsides and simply enjoy envious looks from your peers.
Growing a beard is actually pretty easy. You just have to wait.
(Cpl. Brandon Burns, USMC)
2. Your beard is still hair. Use conditioner and brush it.
It's surprising how few people actually care for their beard as it's growing out. You shampoo and condition the hair on top of your head in the shower, why skip the hair on your chin?
You can also brush it to keep it in proper form after you're done in the shower. This also helps get out all the accidental bits of food that occasionally get trapped in there. Using conditioner and regularly brushing will help the scratchiness of your beard and help it from basically becoming Velcro on everything.
If Luke Skywalker can keep his hair and beard on point despite being on some deserted planet for years, you can take a few seconds out of your day to put some shampoo in yours.
3. Beard oil isn't some magical, instant-beard formula
Oils are (usually) exactly what is being advertised. They'll help if you think of it more like a leave-in conditioner that will make your beard smell nice, but many people who buy beard oils are under the impression that it's more like a type of Rogaine for your face — it's just not going to immediately give you something like in that episode of Dexter's Laboratory.
Oils marketed to promote "beard growth" will actually make your beard grow in healthier and prevent breakage, so your beard will appear thicker and longer, but it still won't happen over night.
If you know what you're buying, it's fine. Just don't expect much other than a slightly more luscious beard that smells nice.
(Photo by Marc Tasman)
4. Trim it down to maintain a professional appearance
If you're down with looking like a bum, by all means; you can do whatever you want with your facial hair in the civilian world. That's your choice now. Still, if you're looking to make strides in the professional world, first-impressions are important — arguably more important than an extensive resume.
Even if your beard puts a Civil War general to shame, tidy it up with a pair of scissors to keep an organized appearance. You can also shave off the under-chin and the scraggly bits on your cheek to make your beard growth look intentional.
Kind of like how Mat Best does it. Still professional, yet bearded.
5. If you can endure the summer heat, you'll do well in the winter
Summers suck with long beards, but things start getting better after Labor Day. If you live an active lifestyle, no one will fault you for cutting it down in the summers to keep the sweat out. But don't chop it all off if you want a head start when things cool down
and you'll probably look like a thirteen year old when you do.
Soldier through it and, when the winter chills start hitting your chin come December, you'll be happy you took the extra few months to grow your own face protection.
I'm going to go out on a limb as say that the dudes from ZZ Top don't care about touring in the northern states during the winter.
(Photo by Ralph Arvesen)
6. There's no shame in shaving what you can't grow
The ability to grow beards is entirely hereditary. If your dad could grow a bear, you're probably good. But the person you should probably look toward for a better indication of your potential beardliness is if your maternal grandfather. That's just how it works; genetics are funny.
It's all a roll of the dice. If your face is better suited for a goatee, rock it. If your granddad could be confused with Gandalf, go all out. If you can't grow a beard, embrace it. That's just you.
Or shave it however you want, like what Tim Kennedy does every now and then. Welcome to the civilian world, where you have options again!
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill)
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