Beard trend requires keen attention to grooming
BY CHARLES BERMAN firstname.lastname@example.org February 10, 2014 6:16PM
IN NATALIE’S CHAIR
Anderson’s 15- to 30-minute beard maintenance process:
» Trim sides with clippers or scissors
» Clean up the chin area and lip line (important for kissing, Anderson said)
» Straighten cheek lines from the top of the cheek bone to the lip
» Shave the neck just below the jaw line
» Take care of the back line, straightening the sideburn edge along the ear
» Deep conditioner and hot towel
» Straight razor for a clean finish
Updated: April 14, 2014 4:37PM
Manliness isn’t seasonal, and it certainly doesn’t come easy.
Beards aren’t relegated to winter months and don’t just serve as linemates to deep playoff runs by the Blackhawks — those in the Chicago beard community say the trend has been growing for a couple years now. And doing it right demands regular appointments in a barber’s chair.
“It’s not for winter warmth. I don’t think anything can keep you warm this winter,” said Rich Alapack during a Sunday morning beard trim at Floyd’s 99 in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood.
The 35-year-old Bucktown resident, who has been rocking nature’s scarf for a couple years, grabs a seat in Natalie Anderson’s chair every two weeks.
Some of Anderson’s clients stop in more frequently. It’s no different than women who treat themselves to regular manicures, she said.
“There are beards; then there are respectable, gentleman’s beards,” said Anderson, a Palatine resident who has become the big beard specialist at Floyd’s 99, 1400 N. Milwaukee.
The Floyd’s experience isn’t your father’s trip to the barber. Beards don’t turn heads when the barbers have fluorescent hair and intricate tattoos. The energy of a busy Sunday — same-day appointments pack the black-leather waiting area — is amplified by music and rock posters.
“Most of the giant beards in Wicker Park seem to be in my chair lately,” said Anderson, explaining that beards reach epic levels when the neck disappears.
Alapack’s beard, however, isn’t jaw-dropping. His beard is neatly trimmed, some might say professional.
“When I first started my beard I found myself checking out other dudes’ beards to see how mine stacked up to theirs or how theirs stacked up to mine,” the advertising salesman said. “That’s just a weird phenomenon to me.”
But comparing beards isn’t awkward; Anderson said it’s usually followed by a nod between men passing on the street.
“Having a beard is like being in a motorcycle club,” Alapack agreed.
Pete Huels said his is at least eight inches.
“Always, bigger is better. With everything, don’t you think?” said Huels, the owner of Pete’s Barber Shop, 2873 N. Elston, in the Avondale neighborhood. “Everywhere I go I see guys with beards,” he added. “The people that I hang out with, my scene, have always had pretty gnarly beards, but in the last year to year and a half I’ve been seeing more people getting into it.”
Most barbers are trained to tend to beards, but Anderson and Huels are the local experts.
“They trust me because I have a beard. I have people who see me outside and figure they have to come to me,” said Huels, who estimates about half of his business comes from beard services.
Anderson said her workload blew up after she received glowing reviews on Yelp.com. She specialized after meeting her now-bearded husband, Tyler, who is a barber at a Park Ridge shop.
Tyler’s beard is massive, which Anderson said often proves easier to maintain. It’s the neatly cropped beards that require great attention to detail. “When the beards get longer it’s really just an upside down haircut for the face,” she said.
For the giant beards, Anderson adheres to the blow-out bar philosophy: Using heat from a blow dryer, she shapes and smooths the beard to lay flat with the contours of the face.
After the roughly 30-minute service, which generally costs about $1 per minute, Anderson tamed an unruly curly beard, adding three more inches to the length.
At Pete’s Barbershop, Huels offers free beard maintenance — trimming, shaping or thinning — with each $19 haircut. The straight razor with hot lather treatment adds $25 to the service.
In between visits, Huels and Anderson both swear by beard conditioners and oils, specifically the Bearded Bastard products.
“The Bearded Bastard is the sexiest smelling thing I’ve ever encountered,” Anderson said. “It smells like the Northwoods of Wisconsin, campfires and fighting.”