JUST AS A beard is the most obvious symbol of the difference between a man and a boy, so is a well-groomed beard the clearest distinction between a civilized man and a barbarian. And yet, despite thousands of years of practice, even the most refined men still have trouble maintaining a smart-looking beard.
Unlike the ancients, whose grooming aids were limited to primitive tools such as bronze knives and red-hot iron plates, modern man now possesses a host of high-tech beard-trimming devices. These resources notwithstanding, do-it-yourself trims continue to produce distressingly lopsided results. All too often, to save his beard, many a man has had to shave it off.
But beards no longer need be sacrificed on the altar of expediency. Grooming aids are relatively inexpensive, and they're easier than ever to use. Experts say the only other investment required to keep a beard under control is time. "There isn't much to it," says Elton Pamplin, a beard wearer since 1971.
Pamplin recommends beginning a beard-maintenance program with a visit to a barber. Considering that Pamplin was the 1971 National Barber of the Year and manages the Rosston School of Hair Design in Anaheim, this may sound like self-serving advice, but a barber can perform the invaluable service of showing how a beard is supposed to look after it's trimmed. Next, former salon owner Robert Diemer, who founded a skin-care company in Fountain Valley, suggests buying a small electric or battery-powered clipper, also called an edger. Clippers designed for home use are sold in drugstores for less than $20, while professional-quality edgers can be found in beauty-supply shops for as little as $50.