If you follow Hollywood, you’ll undoubtedly be aware of George Clooney’s luxurious beard. The actor graces the covers of plenty of men’s style magazines sporting a full and thick beard. He’s also regularly featured in newspaper articles, usually alongside his buddy Matt Damon.
The pair have become unlikely celebrity spokesmen for the fashion industry, championing traditional British sportswear styles and contributing to haute cuisine by eating blue ribbon burgers at famous steakhouses in town.
Their popularity among men (and more recently, women) grew out of their screen presence and celebrity. Yet it wasn’t always thus, and the talented pair might still have a dark side, one that they’ve never really spoken about – a side that even fans might never have guessed at.
Here, we’ll explore how they managed to cultivate such an iconic and enduring beard, how you can too, and the fascinating history behind it.
The Early Years
George and Matt Damon grew up in suburban New York, and their formative years were spent in relative obscurity, overshadowed by their more famous cousins, Jason and Patrick. Their mother Dina was a homecoming queen who favoured the company of men more often than women, and George and Matt were sometimes left in the care of a young nanny.
Dependency upon a woman wasn’t something that appealed to George or Matt at this time, and both men clearly felt their need to be independent. This resulted in the pair making their way to Los Angeles, where they would eventually form their own film company and begin their Hollywood careers.
The Making of an Iconic Beard
It’s fair to say that there’s no one-way ticket to becoming a fashion icon, especially when you consider the many different ways in which people can be adorned in this iconic image. Yet, over the course of 50 years, George Clooney has definitely seen his fair share of success, arguably even eclipsing his famous cousin, Matt Damon. It seems that becoming a fashion icon is something that you simply have to go through life doing.
The actor wore his hair long and grisly in the 1960s, and sported a full and bushy beard, which he kept well into his thirties. The look was slightly ahead of its time, as beards were more commonly seen on men in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Since his feature in national newspapers and magazines began, Clooney has always been portrayed as a man of action, and even occasionally as a man of few words. While his persona might be unassuming, his actions on the screen have always ensured that he’ll be remembered.
The Man Behind the Beard
There are a variety of theories as to the origin of Clooney’s famously majestic beard. Some say that the starlet adopted the look after noticing how her father’s friends mostly sported them, while others believe that it was born as a practical joke, with the actor’s friend Richard Simmons, whose stage name was The Beard, providing the inspiration. Still others think that it was a deliberate act of rebellion, with Clooney perhaps wanting to shock and frighten his parents by acting in a rebellious manner.
The truth is that we may never know for sure where Clooney’s beard came from, as he has rarely spoken about the subject. The closest that we get to an official statement on the subject is probably actor/director Danny DeVito’s comment in 2015, “I think it’s just common sense. You put your hand in your pocket, you’re gonna find a few hairs there.”
Clooney’s Rules For Growing a Beard
It’s fair to say that George Clooney wouldn’t be George Clooney if he didn’t have a set of rules for growing a beard. The actor is clearly aware that he could be considered an authority on the subject, and has published a book, “How To Grow A Beard”, which outlines the “do’s” and “don’ts” of bearding. The tome also offers general advice on grooming as well as tips on creating the perfect ‘stache.
In keeping with the spirit of rebellion that he seems to inhabit, Clooney’s rules are quintessentially English, and emphasize traditional male characteristics, such as strength, independence, and authority. “You must learn to embrace your inner wolf,” he writes. “A wolf is a majestic creature, and you should feel proud to own one.”
Let’s take a closer look at these rules, shall we?
Rule Number One: The Hair Must Be Long
Like most fashion rules, this one seems pretty straightforward – if you want to grow a beard, you must have hair. The amount of hair that you have is irrelevant, as long as it’s there, it’ll do. Interestingly, the rule only applies to facial hair – goatees, small mustaches, and the like are all acceptable, while other forms of hair grooming, like a hairstyle, are not. You’ll notice that most people in Hollywood sport a long hairpiece, and it’s become a symbol of the ‘70s fashion scene.
As for the hair on your neck, again, it’s a no-no – it’ll make you look like Bertie Bott’s odd-job man. It’s also a bit of a vanity issue – if you’re going to wear a beard, make sure that it’s not visible under your collar, as this is where the majority of hairs are located, give or take a few chest hairs.
Rule Number Two: The Beard Must Not Cover Your Upper Lip
If there’s one place that people tend to mistake your beard for, it’s at your upper lip. They’ll often grin and ask you if you’re growing a ‘stache, and then proceed to inform you that you’re not. This can be mildly irritating, so keep your upper lip free of facial hair and you’ll never be mistaken for Joe Pesci.
Other than that, this rule is fairly self-explanatory – if your upper lip is covered by your beard, it’ll make you appear to be either a comedian or a man prone to laughter, neither of which are particularly endearing. The implication here is that your beard should only cover the lower half of your face – if it’s going to scratch your chin, it should be doing so above your lower lip.
Rule Number Three: You Must Learn To Respect Your Beard
This rule is more about etiquette than anything else, but it’s still important enough to warrant its own rule. You must learn to respect your beard, or at least acknowledge its existence. Many people in Hollywood, from the greats like Spencer Tracy and Gary Cooper to the not-so-greats like Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, all wore beards – so it’s certainly a classic look, and one that you should learn to embrace. One way of doing so is by stroking your chin with your index finger as you contemplate – it’ll give the illusion of fullness, while still leaving your mouth open for speaking.
If you feel that your beard is going to be a bit much for the ladies, or the men you happen to be with at the time, you have to accept that this is a manly face, and that you might perhaps find it off-putting. This is why you should always keep your mouth closed and your tongue behind your teeth when you wear your beard – it’ll make others think of a bulldog, and you’ll certainly look the part.
Rule Number Four: You Must Eat Frequently
This rule isn’t specific to growing a beard, but it’s certainly applicable – if you want to keep your beard looking healthy, you must eat frequently. The best way to do this is without doubt, is by simply eating what you want when you want it. If you find that this habit makes you look gaunt, then you need to up your food intake, or go on a diet. The point is that you shouldn’t starve yourself in order to look a certain way, as this will only make you uglier, if that’s even possible. Some men in Hollywood avoid this issue by going on shooting diets or veganism, which helps them stay at a relatively even weight, making them appear more toned – it’s all about perception, as always.