The decade in facial hair was bookended by two extremes: boy-band Etch A Sketch stubble and the "weird beard" hipster mullah. Fortunately, as we head into the New Year, things are settling somewhere in the middle. The light beard is everywhere—on A-listers like Jake Gyllenhaal, James Franco, and Robert Pattinson, along with a host of top male models like David Gandy and Noah Mills. "I like having five days' growth," says Mills, 26, whose work includes the latest Dolce & Gabbana fragrance campaign. "It adds a little ruggedness and makes me look a little older—not old, but more distinguished."
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There's a nuance to getting the half-beard right, and a few millimeters can make all the difference. The first test is touch—the whiskers should feel softer than sandpaper but not bushy. As for length, if you pull them with your fingertips, you should pinch a little skin. A light beard works even with fair facial hair, but if you have large patchy spots on your cheeks after three days of growth, it's time to abandon the mission. And just because you're sporting chin shag doesn't mean you can ignore your neck. "It's really important to shave under the jaw as far down as the Adam's apple," says Carl Cwiok, master barber at The Art of Shaving. "If you let that grow, you'll look like a mess."
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