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Many believe the rationale behind the rise of facial hair is largely due to its ability to be styled and customized so that it expresses individuality and personality. One reason men may have been to reluctant to have facial hair in the past 50 years or so is that women were reported to find men with beards and heavy facial hair only 2/3rds as attractive as those with a clean shaven face.
In recent years, this pendulum has begun to shift in the other direction and many women are actually beginning to prefer a “hairy” man. While the variety of facial hair options is, seemingly, endless from beards, to mustaches, to goatees; one of the most controversial, yet loved, beard styles has and will continue to be the mutton chop.
What is the Mutton Chop?
Muttonchops are defined as side of the face hairs that narrow at the temples and broad and round at the lower jaws. They look similar to a normal beard on the cheeks but the chin is shaved on the front and underneath. It got the name mutton chop because it resembles the shape of a meat cut donning the same name.
When understanding the origins of the mutton chop, one must be done by first looking at origination of sideburns because a mutton chop is, technically, a type of sideburn with a slight variation. Sideburns are areas of facial hair that are grown out on the sides of the face that connect to the hairline and often run below the ears.
The label, sideburns, came to be in the 19th century as an offspring of the original term burnsides. Burnside came from an American Civil War general, Ambrose Burnside, who was easily identified by his unusual facial hair choices that often connected his thick, bushy sideburns to his mustache but left his chin completely hairless. For this reason, General Burnside is often given credit for making the mutton chops popular though the name didn’t come around for a while.
How do you tell the difference between sideburns and mutton chops?
Sideburns, typically run the length of the ear or less. Mutton chops are a few inches longer than the ear and widen at the bottom. Sideburns are something that just about any guy could wear without, largely, impacting their personal look. Mutton chops, on the other hand, are something that define your look and requires quite a bit of confidence to pull off. As a result, the mutton chop has come to represent a powerful or masculine identity.
Popular mutton chops
In the past, mutton chops were worn by a large variety of men. Pictures show that every economic class from presidents to peasants sported this style. Recently, mutton chops have become more of a fringe option of facial and relay a sense of roughness or a retro appearance.
As mutton chops have recently had a resurgence, of sorts, to popularity. No person or character can be more credited for that than Hugh Jackman’s character, Wolverine. His mutton chops drive home the nature of his character. He is an untamed, animal-like, physically intimidating man that couldn’t be clean shaven or overly groomed.
Elvis had sideburns at first but as he got older grew his facial hair into mutton chops that most remember him having today.
While in the past presidents like Chester Arthur, Martin Van Buren, and John Quincy Adams sported a mutton chops, today, mutton chops are more of an anti-establishment feature. No better person represents this than Ian Fraser Kilmister, better know as Lemmy, the founder and frontman for the British heavy metal rock band Motorhead.
Mutton Chop Styling Options
When choosing a mutton chop style there are two main questions you must ask yourself: Mustache or not? And Long or Short?
We normally think about four different styles when we talk about mutton chop options.
The Hulihee would b be the closest relation to the original Burnside style.
The name, Hulihee, came from a Hawaiian palace rather than an aristocrat of years past like most other beard styles. It is known for its being longer, thicker, fatter chops.
Before moving forward with the Hulihee, know that it is not an option for the faint of heart. It is a style that grabs the attention of the room when you walk in.
Here’s how to grow and style Hulihee chops:
- Grow out a Thick Beard or Mutton Chops you may have. The first step, regardless of mutton chop style,is to let facial hair grow out. Most men need to not shave for at least a couple weeks but more is ideal. The key to obtaining a great mutton chop always begins with having thick, full beard hair growth.
- If you have a beard you now need to remove the chin and neckline with a trimmer after growing it out.We recommend that you get a beard trimmer that has an adjustable or various clip on comb lengths for trimming. Most come with at least a 2 mm, 4 mm, 6 mm to choose from. It is nice to buy a trimmer than can meet any future needs you may need rather than just your current needs. Then, gradually trim down the chin area directly below the mouth and the neck until it is as low as possible with the trimmer. Trimming prior to shaving helps to reduce the tug and pull that you get while shaving and limits the amount of hair that can clog the blades. Beard scissors are a good option when the hair is really long.
- Prepare your Face for the Close Shave. Just as with shaving the entire face, you should wash your face with warm water so that pore are opened up and the hair is hydrated for optimal shaving. Next, apply a good lathering gel or cream to the area that will be shaved (we find a shaving brush is unquestionably the best way to produce a thick lather and ensure that it is applied to the specific area needed. Gel or cream is a must as it will help to prevent cuts, nicks, and irritation.
- Shave with Small, Smooth Strokes. Remember this is only to the area that is intended to be clean shaven (the chin and neck. Using small, smooth strokes limits any pulling or improper cuts and provides a cleaner, smoother shave. We always recommend using a reliable safety razor like the Edwin Jagger Double Edge Safety Razor. Make sure when shaving that you rinse the razor really often. Hair and gel/cream often get caught in the blades and it impedes the shave. Men who don’t wash their razor or have a sharp blade will have nice chops with bumps and nicks in the clean shaven area. This will greatly reduce the desired effect of the shave.
- Rehydrate and Close Pores. After finishing, you should rinse the face with cool water. This will infuse the area with moisture and close all pores to limit irritation and debris from entering pores. Next, use a towel to pat the face dry and apply a good aftershave cream or lotion to the clean shaven face that will soothe and calm the skin. Last, we would apply a good quality beard balm or oil. Beard balms or oils are crafted to moisture the skin and hair through deep penetration. This will result in a softer facial hair and a lack of facial dandruff. It allows one to keep the beard tamed and prevents flyaway hairs. Place the oil on facial hair then take your hands and working it into the hair then brush through the facial hair so that it gets deep and evenly coats the hair. Doing this makes the hair healthier and will keep it looking and smelling great all day. We like the Seven Potions Citrus Tonic beard oil because of its great smell and results.
- Lastly, style your chops.There are really two style options on the cheeks with the Hulihee. It can be brushed up or down. Many men use a beard brush and brush the hair down so that the hair is somewhat tamed. Other more adventurous men, decide to brush it out or up. This is how many of the forefathers wore their chops. The above mentioned beard balm with help shape and hold the style. Since the Hulihee does have a mustache, many men decide to style that as well. After applying beard or mustache wax, they, often curl the tips, brush down the mustache, or style it straight out so that it makes long points on the tips.
Unlike with some of the upcoming chop styles, there is no need to shape the cheek line because the Hulihee beard tends to have a higher cheek line than others, like the Friendly Mutton Chops. The Friendly Mutton Chop follows the natural hairline.
The Friendly Mutton Chop
They get their name because, unlike standard mutton chops, the sides meet each other through a mustache. They have the same thick growth down the jawline that regular mutton chops do and are similar in most other regards as well.
Many statesmen of old sported this look and while it is not an extremely common style today, Lemmy from Motorhead has been long known for this style.
While the Wolverine is a different style completely, Hugh Jackman also sported the Friendly Mutton Chops (as well as the Wolverine) when portraying Wolverine in the X-men movies.
How to get killer Friendly Mutton Chops
- After growing out your beard or chops (we suggest 4 weeks for most men), use a trimmer or a good razor to reduce the height of the cheek lines but make sure to still leave the sideburns wide and large. They are deemed to have a medium-height cheek line. Make sure go step by step on each side so that you don’t cut too much or leave the sides uneven.
- When you have your chops where you desire, use the trimmer or blade to define sloping contours that exist from the sideburn area to the cheek lines. The chops should have a nice even line to the mustacheon each side.
- As with any chop, clean shave the neck and chin. Allow the jawbone to serve as a guideline and clean up all hair to that point. The neck should always be hair free. Next, shave the chin. Some men opt for a really narrow width of clean shaven area. It is acceptable to go as narrow as the width of a razor blade (4 cm) but most shave the area so that it is even with the corners mouth or so. Remember to wash the face with warm water before clean shaving and rehydrate and close the pores after.
- Lastly, trim the hair to a decent, even length with a trimmer comb. The Friendly Mutton Chops are not meant to be wild and untamed like some of the other styles, but rather meant to be more sculpted than other chops. They are similar to a Boxed Beard in that regard. For this reason, they are often deemed a more professional mutton chop than other styles. .Most men do not style the mustacheso that the transition from chop to chop looks seamless.
The Regular Mutton Chops
This is the standard for what many men think about mutton chops. It is somewhat similar to the Friendly Mutton Chops but without the mustache and usually has less length on its sideburns. It is sculpted and has a medium cheek line height.
Here’s how to obtain one:
- Again, start with growing a beard then decide how long you want the chops to be and what length. Once the hair is at the length you desire you can now begin shaping the chops.
- After determining the length, shave a clean straight line where you want the bottom of the sideburn to stop. This will give a good guiding line to not go beyond and gets a great starting point to shape around. Men who want to make sure that they get a true straight line can opt for a beard shaping tool. This work like a ruler of sorts that fits over the face so that you can shave long the edges and get the exact shape and style you want.
- Begin at the top of the ear and trim and shave away the hair that is no longer desired.Remember to wash face with warm water before clean shaving for best results. You should shave the mustache, chin and neck completely or to nothing more than a stubble. Once the chops are initially shaped it is easy to maintain by trimming and shaving the stubble as often as needed.
- To achieve true mutton chops, the bottom of the chops is always intended to be the widest of the facial hair. It should look like flared or bell bottom jeans in its shape when done correctly.
As you probably guess this is a beard style made recently popular by the X-Men character. It is considered masculine and makes a huge impact. It is considered of hybrid of mutton chops and a full beard because of how it handles the chin hair. It leaves a little hair on the chin so that the chops meet unlike any other chops.
Here’s how to rock The Wolverine:
- I bet you guess it by now, you need to grow out a full beard. Since it needs a small amount of chin hair, it is best to just grow a full beard and shape it. Once you have gotten a full beard you can then shape and mold your chops.
- Use a trimmer or razor to shave an inch or so from just above the chin line to the mouth. A small amount of hair should be left at the base of the chin so that the chops have the ability to connect at the base of the chin.
- Trim or shave the hair into a V shape from the corners of the mouth down. The hair should taper down to the chin and make a slope on each side until it touches the connection point.
- Extend the V shape up past the lips and remove the mustache. This will shape and define the chops. You can do with just the trimmer or use a razor for a close shave.
- Use a trimmer or razor to shape the cheek hair line. The hair should decline towards the mustacheso that everything looks uniform and evenly lined.
- Lastly, shave all the neck hair from the jaw line down.Make sure to get the Adam’s apple and other, often forgotten areas. You want to look clean not unkempt. Don’t forget to open and close pores how we said above.
- Style and form the chops.Most men will prefer to have the hair simply brushed down but some men like to make it look fuller by brushing it up. We recommend using a good beard balm or oil for nice, healthy facial hair.
Products for maintaining your chops
As stated above, we recommend you using a beard oil or balm on your facial hair. Both beard oil and balm will keep the hair healthy and soft.
The main difference between oil and balm is that beard balm contains beeswax. As a result, it makes the hair stay in place better but does has a little different texture to it than oil. Both of these will work and it is up to your own personal discretion to choose which you like. Again, we like Seven Potions for beard oil and Botanical Skin Works Natural Man for Balm.
Beard Shampoo is a good idea as it will limit any itching and keep the beard clean. Look for a natural beard shampoo that has antiseptic properties so that free radicals are given the ability to interact with the skin and beard. We like the one from Seven Potions for any beardsman’s needs.
Your facial hair will not simply lay in place as it gets longer. This is why an excellent beard brush like this one is a must. Not only does it groom the beard but it hair of all debris and foreign matter. Boar Bristle beard brushes are without question the best option. They hold in moisture and lift away dirt. The bristles stay firm and do not break down easily. Those that have really long facial hair would benefit from having a comb as well. A comb gets deeper and better handles hair that requires deeper penetration.
A good trimmer for beards is a must when maintaining mutton chops. A trimmer is the easy way to maintain and sculpt your chops. While it is possible to achieve mutton chops with scissors and a razor, having a trimmer allows for easy daily polishing and fine tuning in a fraction of the time. We like the Philips Norelco 7200 Vacuum Beard Trimmer Pro for a good trimmer. It has a vacuum that catches cut hairs and limits runaways. It has 20 length settings and works for up to 80 minutes on a mere hour of charging.
For customized styles and a nice controlled facial hair look, use a good quality beard wax like this one here. It serves as a hair gel for the beard. All facial hair is styled and manipulated with ease after using beard wax.
Remember, before applying wax to facial hair make sure your face is clean and dry. After combing out the facial hair, simply apply wax to the hair and work and form. Men use beard wax to, either, make their chops lay flat or make them stand up more. They style and form their mustache as well. Many men like to curl or twist their mustache tips for an added level of personality. Make sure to dab a towel on the beard if it seems to be to greasy or oily from the wax.
A few closing thoughts
Your mutton chops will leave a lasting effect on people who come across them. If sculpted correctly, they can give the appearance of manliness and sophistication at the same time.
If you are tired of looking like everyone else and want to standout in a crowd, consider a solid pair of chops for your future facial hair style. Mustache or not, it doesn’t matter just find the form that works for you and happy chopping.