“Show me a man with a beard and I’ll show you a real man.” Theodore Roosevelt.

There are many stages in a man’s life when he takes yet another step towards becoming a real man. Some of those are inevitable or done out of necessity like reaching puberty or getting his first car. Others are done by choice, like helping an elderly woman cross the street, getting a 401K plan or growing out his beard. This last one is what I’d like to discuss here.

At some point in his life, every man must grow out his beard to know how he looks with a beard and to know what his beard looks like. It’s kind of like another part of you that remains hidden beneath the skin and is just waiting for its chance to be seen. It is usually best done on a lengthy travel abroad so that work and other commitments don’t get in the way and require you to shave it.

The minimum length of time is one month to fully realize your beard. And when you have the beard you should make it a point to acquaint with other male friends quite often so they can appreciate the beard across its various stages. It’s a real topic of conversation among men (how long have you had it? why doesn’t it grow in that spot? when are you going to shave it?) But not women. They couldn’t care less.

Beards are kind of like beer bellies: other men appreciate them; women just don’t understand them.

It is also a good idea to meet with business partners and clients when you have your beard (provided it’s been trimmed at the edges and looks respectable). They will take you more seriously and your sales numbers will go up around 25% for the quarter. I haven’t proven this number yet but it’s a ballpark guess.

If you’re Asian or extremely Anglo, you may run into a bit of difficulty getting anything to show, especially in the early days.  But don’t be discouraged. Give it a couple of weeks and you’ll see the results.  Plus, other men will appreciate the effort and you can be sure that your beard will be a topic of conversation.

I ended up not shaving my beard for the first two months of my trip. I had no intention of growing it at first but the longer it grew the more fascinated I got. And after meeting other travelers with serious beards I decided I would grow it out for a long time. My initial thought was I would grow it out for 6-12 months and really see what happens.

But after just one month it began getting too much. After the first week it started itching and that’s when other beard growers shared with me the secret of shampooing it to keep it soft and scratchy-free. I did find myself stroking my beard when I was lost in thought and that was kinda cool. Now I just play with my hair. Not as cool. I kept it through the Annapurna Circuit trek as every hiker needs a rugged look. But after that I was done with it. And since I was going to be flying on airplanes, me with a beard generally incurs additional security checks and sideways glances from airport security and travelers alike. No need for all that extra attention.

I’d now like to share with you some of the key features of my beard (your experience may be different):

  • it began to cast its own shadow on the ground.  This one really surprised me. It started doing this around weeks 4-5.
  • it began requiring some attention to smooth over.  Not needing a comb necessarily but a comb would definitely have helped.
  • it began requiring its own shampoo session in the shower, no longer satisfied with the remnants of suds from washing my hair (yes, my beard made all these demands)
  • it made me look 10 years older
  • i always managed to get food or fuzz caught somewhere on the beard and never knew it until someone pointed it out
  • it is a real hassle to finally cut it off, and that was one of the reasons i waited so long to do it.
  • I found very early in my beard growing process that I’ve got a lot of red facial hair on the cheeks and sideburns and near the bottom lip. This confirmed my Nordic roots of many generations ago.

There you have it, a whole post about my beard. And as I write this, I’ve got a 10 day beard going already. And in case you’re wondering, Teddy Roosevelt never said that quote above, but it kind of sounds like something the Rough Rider himself would have said.

And here, in all its glory, is my beard at its apex, the height of its glory, right before it went under the knife, to be flushed down the drains of Pokhara, Nepal.