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captain-haddockWhen I was growing up it was only old men and Captain Haddock who had beards. Now it’s a young man’s game and the upsurge in well kept beards means that they are acceptable in the very best company.

If you do a quick ‘Tube Survey’ in London you will find a surprising percentage of men wearing suits and beards. There are a growing number of male models to be seen wearing beards in adverts and on the cat walks. There is no doubt; the beard is fashionable and not the scrubby designer stubble of the 80’s and 90’s but the big bold brassy full set variety.

I have had a number of beards in my shaving career and these days I would not be without mine. It’s starting to look a little grey with age, but for me growing a beard has always been an amateur hobby. So to get some proper tips on what I should be doing to look after my growth I went to meet Sam Campagna who is the owner of the Alternative Barbering Co. in my home town.

Sam has a couple of theories on the recent trend for beards. Firstly he thinks it’s a mixture of the winter carry over from the huge success of Movember over the last few years. After all many men growing a beard for a good cause will then realise, just as the days are at their shortest, that they can get another few minutes in bed if they hold onto their charitable growths. Secondly he links the rising number of younger men growing beards to them becoming a serious statement piece for younger ‘street fashionistas’

So we got down to talking about beard health. Once you have achieved a couple of week’s growth Sam is clear that you are going to need to start work on your beard. It’s not all about getting a lie in! You will need to get your beard trimmed or shaped in the chair by a professional every couple of weeks. This will leave it looking tidy and orderly enough for the most demanding suited occasions.

Quickly running a set of clippers through it will ensure every hair is the same length, but that’s not necessarily a good look. The key point here is that unless you want the ‘just a little beyond designer stubble’ type beard you need to care for your beard and just like your hair, get a professional involved. How many men would cut their own hair?

Think of a beard trim or shaping as a male spa treatment.  I watched as Sam had his own fine growth trimmed by his exert cutter Colin Cooper relaxing in an antique barber’s chair, feet up and his eyes covered with a relaxing cool cloth he was the picture of relaxation as Colin worked slowly and patiently. Sam later explained a beard is just like the hair on your head, you can run a number two razor over it, same length all over and that is a look that suits some men, but for a more subtle and styled look requires a skilled stylist, clippers and a cut throat to define the edges. Sam says that with a reasonable growth it’s ideal to start defining the beard after about three weeks. photo-4

Your gene’s and the colour of your hair are, according to Sam, the major elements of successful  growth, Sam grew his from his school years and still has one today to hide his baby face’ and hates to be without it. For some with blond hair and little growth on their chins they may have the delight of not having to shave every day but the option of growing a big bush beard is generally out of the question.

With both the increase in the number of men wearing beards and the increase in male spending on grooming products it is not really surprising that there is an upsurge in the manufacturing of Gentlemanly accessories and treatments for beards.

Washing a beard with a strong shampoo strips out all the natural oils and is likely to make you very itchy as it leaves the skin on your face dry and liable to flake. The solution is Beard oil something completely new to me. Sam tells me he makes his own and mixes a good quality carrier oil such as Jojoba or Grape seed with various essential oils such as eucalyptus, ginger or lavender. Two or three drops warmed in the hands and then rubbed in thoroughly will condition your beard hair and also moisturise the skin underneath the beard. Do this every day whether you have washed your beard or not for a fine shining mane.

Just think, getting your beard trimmed every two weeks costs about £10, getting it shaped about £15, with a few drops of beard oil that’s about what you have saved on razor blades and shaving foam. Just love your beard Gentlemen.

Nic Wing was in conversation with Sam Campagna Owner of the Alternative Barbers in St Albans Herts

This article was first published in The Essential Cyclist


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