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Stubble Or Clean Shaven? 5 Guys Discuss

August 23rd, 2016

Thoughts on the merits and drawbacks of the five o’clock shadow

We’ve already heard what the women think, now it’s time for the guys to share some thoughts on stubble, a.k.a. the five o’clock shadow.

Adam Lehman, Writer at He Spoke Style

Ah, stubble. I have such mixed feelings! Well, maybe not that mixed. To be honest, I love stubble, especially in today’s fashion environment.

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about recent menswear trends has been the movement away from super-clean, permed and pressed, and razor sharp towards a more relaxed, effortless, and a little rough-around-the-edges kind of feel.

In that way, I think that a bit of well-maintained scruff attached to a decent sense of fashion has the same effect as a vintage tee under a relaxed blazer, or some perfectly faded jeans. Sure, crisp and clean has it’s place, but I’ve been extra enthusiastic about a well-executed ‘I woke up like this’ look.

So where do my mixed feelings come in? Pretty much entirely from the fact that I’m unable to grow some decent-looking stubble myself. Damn you, Dad, for passing on some generally lacking facial hair genes!

My stubble comes in bare in some patches, brown in some and blond in others, and somehow makes my already young-looking face look even younger. The facial hair equivalent of a kiddo playing dress-up in his dad’s clothes.

If I could grow some quality stubble, I’d be a stubbly guy through-and-through, but I’ve resigned myself to a scruff-free life and moved on.

Aleksandar Cvetkovic, Writer at The Rake

Stubble is a funny one. At once associated with rugged, debonair, strong-jawed heartthrobs, its also commonly associated with scruffiness and dishevelment – a funny balance to get right.

Myself, I’ve always kept to the view that one should make the effort to either be properly bearded or else clean-shaven. My logic being that if you’ve got a suitably strong-jawed face, you’ve got no need for facial hair

However, if you want to work a bit more shape into your face, a well cut and clean-lined beard is the best way to do it. Stubble can actively detract from the shape and lines of one’s face, rather than sharpen them.

I also maintain that a polished look, with a well-pressed shirt, sharp suit and tie, lends itself to either a crisp clean shaven look, or a well-groomed beard. But, then, I am rather a traditionalist and have appallingly chubby cheeks, so I’m rather biased on the subject.

Luke Ditella, Model and Ex-Pro Surfer

I prefer stubble over a clean shaven look. Stubble adds depth. It’s versatile in comparison to longer facial hair. For me, it works whether I happen to be wearing a suit or jeans and a tee. I feel like it conveys a little bit of edginess. Like you wouldn’t be afraid of a fist fight.

Alex Mroz, Goorin Bros. Shopkeeper

I am a devout stubble practitioner. To my mind, stubble is the forgotten hero in the great debate between beards and being clean shaven. I hate that in the debate, as with most things men’s style-related, there is no right answer and I have alternated between all three – classic clean shaven, a full, well kept beard, and three to nine day long stubble. Interestingly, it’s the latter I get the most positive feedback about.

I’ve often wondered why and here’s the best I can come up with.

Stubble is the closest you can get (in terms of facial grooming) to sprezzatura, that perfectly imperfect nonchalance that also happens to look masculine and add some depth of look without the cumbersome baggage that a beard carries in some people’s minds, but certainly not the studied structure and babyface cleanliness that a once a day shaver portrays.

Beards are fun but they’ve become “A Thing”, and unfortunately, proper upkeep is largely just not happening out there. A smooth, clean shaven face has it’s time and place but I find it can be a bit boring after a while.

Good stubble has the advantage of being fleeting, like a sunset. And it just looks natural and easy – like a good tan in July or faded denim jeans.

Brian Sacawa, Founder of He Spoke Style

Whenever I think about stubble, I always think about the section of the humorous book, The Hipster Handbook, devoted to men’s facial hair styles.

Among the many different examples is one called “The Permashadow” and the ensuing description says something about George Michael killing it. That always makes me laugh. But I digress.

The permashadow, or stubble or five o’clock shadow, is a facial hair style that I personally embrace. To me, it’s a rugged and masculine look. Plus, it also helps to define my jawline.

I totally agree with Alex that stubble is sort of the grooming equivalent of sprezzatura. It takes some upkeep to get that perfectly disheveled look. The magic stubble formula for me is three days growth and then trimming the neck area with my clippers set to a ‘1’.

That said, there are definitely times to be clean shaven. Just like choosing an outfit, you’ve got to know the situation and occasion when it comes to rocking the five o’clock shadow or not.

What are your thoughts on stubble? Chime in below.

Photography by Rob McIver Photo

Brian Sacawa

Brian Sacawa is the Founder of He Spoke Style and one of the original men’s style influencers. Since 2013, his goal has remained the same: to provide men the advice and inspiration they need to dress well, develop their personal style, and gain more confidence. Brian’s interest and passion for men’s style and luxury watches has led to his writing for The Robb Report, The Rake, and Sotheby’s and he has been quoted on menswear in publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal,, Brides Magazine, and the Huffington Post. He lives in the woods north of Baltimore with his wife, Robin, kitties Nick and Nora, and German Shepherd/Collie mix Charlie.

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