Cool or Tool?: The Goatee

Part-mustache, part soul patch, the high-risk grooming choice proves two wrongs rarely make a right

Once or twice a year, often after an extended vacation, the average adult male is confronted with a face full of scruff and a choice. Nine times out of ten he dutifully reaches for a razor and removes the growth, but every now and then he is unable to resist the temptation to get creative with the shaggy canvas before him. It's at this crucial moment that bad grooming decisions are made—and lives destroyed. The options open to him are many, but few are safe. The mustache, even in ironic form, is fraught with peril—yet still classic enough to work under the right conditions. And though carving out a beard might be a hipster trend, it's hard to argue with a style that makes you look like a man.

Then there's the shaving detour that, if not navigated with pinpoint precision, can lead to disaster. The goatee comes in many forms—the French fork, the musketeer, the Vandyke—but none are easy to pull off. The failed effort is to the face what the clip-on cell-phone holster is to the belt, and is often accompanied by electric-blue neoprene sunglass straps (perhaps the only time such an accessory is a welcome distraction). The bad goatee is worn by the guy who served you at the big-box electronics store, or by beefy men who carry clipboards that match their polo shirts. If it had a soundtrack, it would feature generic mid-nineties guitar rock.

If employed correctly, however, the goatee can offer the illusion of length to men with round faces, or bring strength to a weak chin. For others, it's a natural extension of their identity, a nice complement to a tracksuit or—in the case of salt-and-pepper goatees—a shiny double-breasted jacket. There are successes, but beyond the Central Casting clichés, spotting a successful goatee in the wild is not unlike coming across the elusive Sasquatch. It's all a bit blurry—was it a shadow, a hairy mess, your imagination?

Photograph courtesy of WireImage

COOL: Leonardo DiCaprio

Photo: Lester Cohen/WireImage
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