I used to be The Wolf Man.
At least, that’s what a big guy named Fletch used to call me in tenth grade homeroom. He said it with a hearty, bug-eyed giggle while pinching and tugging the soft patches of thin, black hair extending from my ears to my collar bones.
Now, I wasn’t just born The Wolf Man. No, I had to create the identity by first building up the guts to trim my thin, soft mustache and sideburns for the first time. That first shave was a nerve-wracking ordeal, with a fresh razor, a steamy mirror, too much lather, and too much blood.
And I guess being around fifteen years old and new to this whole slicing the hair off your face with a knife thing, I didn’t realize that you were supposed to get the whole neck area, too. So I didn’t get the neck area. I completely missed the neck area. So for a good couple of weeks, I walked around high school with a smooth, freshly shorn face, and an untamed, hairy neck area.
But you know, looking back, I really do miss it. I certainly couldn’t pull off the Gratuitously Hairy Neck look these days, unless I wanted to leave Cubicle City to become a mountain guide, longshore fisherman, or professional scarf warmer-upper.
And it’s not just the Hairy Neck look that deserves mention. There are so many other classic facial hair experiments:
6. Mutton Chops. Although it seems obvious, mutton chops are so named because they look just like big lamb chops. The thicker, the hairier, the better, as you can tell from the photo of famous 19th century Norwegian playright Henrik Ibsen. His closest rival for the Muttonchop Crown was probably Elvis, but really it couldn’t have been that close. I mean, just look at those beautifully shaggy chops.
5. The Chin Strap. This chin strip is the result of a deep study in the art of making perfect lines with a sharp razor. It shows form, style, and patience, because nobody can really nail it without messing it up a few times first and shaving the whole thing off in frustration.
4. Weird beards. Ever seen someone who couldn’t grow a beard grow a beard anyway? And it sort of looks like a splotchy brown mess of assorted band aids and bread crumbs? Yeah, that’s a weird beard. Most guys have a few secret weird beards buried deep in their past.
3. Soul Patches. Apparently, the soul patch became popular with jazz trumpeters in the 50s and 60s because it provided a nice, comfortable place to rest their trumpet. Yeah, for real.
2. Handle Bar Stache. Also known as The Hulk Hogan or the Fu Man Chu, this classic moustache just screams business. You can’t have a Fu Man Chu and be a local politician, elementary school teacher, or birthday party clown. No, you have to either be a bartender at a dive bar, a cowboy, or in college.
1. Too Much Time On Your Hands. This is any intricate and detailed facial hair involving lightning bolts or abstract images that look like they’re from Spirograph.
So yeah, I miss that youthful freedom of bizarre, anything goes facial hair. Because there’s something liberating, creatively satisfying, and fiercely expressive about experimenting with a dull razor in a steamy bathroom mirror.
And remember: no matter how crooked your chin strap, how tiny your mutton chops, or how splotchy your weird beard, whatever facial experiment you’ve got going on is always just a little bit