Certain beard types has always seemed to fit in specific lanes. Take for example a thick, unkempt beard. It has long been associated with a more masculine, rugged man. At the same time, a styled mustache often is associated with a man who dresses slightly dapper and has a more whimsical personality.

While most beards tend to fall into a similar wearer category, one beard seems to transcend any particular stigma, the Van Dyke beard.

Wearers of this beard have ranged from King Charles I to P. Diddy. Before unpacking this idea any further, let’s unfold all the mystery behind the Van Dyke beard.

The Look of the Van Dyke Beard Style

The Van Dyke beard can be considered a goatee with a slight variation. Take a mustache and add it to the goatee. Then, separate the mustache from the hair on the chin at the corners. You should be left with, both, a mustache and hair on the chin that are pointy looking so that the beard looks more classy and groomed.

How do you obtain the Van Dyke beard style?

Van Dyke Beard Style

When beginning your pursuit of the Van Dyke, there are two theories on how to begin.

Some men will tell you that growing a beard and shaping it into the Van Dyke is the best way. While we usually agree that a full beard is the best platform to begin for any facial hair, the Van Dyke is the exception.

We believe it is far easier to get a great Van Dyke by giving the face a good close shave 1-2 weeks before shaping the face into the Van Dyke. We think it is easier to style and trim and style new hair because you only need roughly a quarter of an inch or so of beard hair to give you a good start for the Van Dyke.

In our step by step guide, we will assume that you are clean shaving moving forward.

  1. A week or two out, clean shave face so that it is clean shaven completely. We recommend using a safety razor like the Edwin Jagger DE Safety Razor to achieve the best shave. It does not require the extend of a learning curve that the straight razor takes but delivers a far closer shave than a cartridge razor or electric shaver. This would mean less strokes on your face while shaping your Van Dyke. When shaving, make sure you wash your face with warm water first. This will open up pores and stimulate the hair for a better quality shave. Make sure that you use a good shaving cream or gel so that your face a heavy lather. Using a shaving brush produces the most lather and makes it easy to apply the cream to the face evenly.
  2. After giving the face a week or two to grow out, shape the beard into what is called a circle beard. We begin shaving, with a safety razor, near the ear and remove the sideburns from the middle of the ear down. Our favorite safety razor, as indicated, is the Edwin Jagger. Replacing the blades are easy because it fits all standard double edge blades. After shaving the sideburns, work over to the cheeks. Continue to shave until you get roughly 2 inches to the corners of the mouth. Don’t touch the mustache, chin hair, and where the two connect when you do this but shave all other facial hair left. Make sure to clean shave the neck and underneath the jaw. When you look in the mirror, you should see a goatee that mirrors one that you saw many men sport in the 90s.
  3. Wash off the face with cool water and apply some aftershave. First, you need to remove all the shaven hair that is left on the face. Washing with cold water will close the pores and limit irritation and razor bumps. Applying aftershave will reinforce this so that the skin has no bumps or redness after shaving. We like Proraso Liquid Aftershave for a no fuss product that will calm down the skin and reduce any irritation. It has an oil school feel and scent to it that we think you will love. If your face is broken out, it will greatly limit the effect that is desired with the Van Dyke.
  4. Next, trim the chin hair. You want to have a little bit of length of chin hair but you don’t need depth underneath. We place our thumb underneath the tip of the chin and use it as a guide. Any hair that remains beyond the thumb should be shaven.
  5. You must now severe the connection between the mustache and chin hair. If the hair is long you can use scissors but most men can first use a trimmer to quickly remove the hair. Scissors however, allow for more accuracy while trimming. Remember that a true Van Dyke has a point to both the mustache tips and the beard. We, then, follow that up with a few swipes of the safety razor for a clean shave in that area.
  6. Now that the Van Dyke has some shape to it. Trim the mustache to the length you desire. We normally use a trimmer with a comb at around 6 mm for this. Since the mustache can easily roll over the lip, we like to brush the hair down and use scissors to trim the hair evenly above the lip.
  7. Last, we wash our face off and make sure that there are no stray hairs we missed. Run the back of the hand along the areas that are meant to be clean shaven to see if you missed any hair or see if there are any rough spots.

Maintaining the Van Dyke

While the Van Dyke is not a hard look to obtain, it does require consistent maintenance to look at the level it should. Here is how we approach keeping the look neat and tidy:

  1. Clean and wash the beard. We recommend using a reliable beard Shampoo like the one from Seven Potions. A clean beard is a happy beard and it will make your Van Dyke look as nice as possible. The shampoo has olive and castor oil so that it conditions the hair while cleaning with honey and antiseptic essential oils. This will ensure that the beard does not itch and beard dandruff is eliminated.
  2. Brush the beard after the wash. Usually the boars bristle beard brush is the must have when brushing a beard. A beard brush will work but the best tool for the job but also a mustache and beard comb is a great addition. Since the Van Dyke has much of the face clean shaven, a small comb allows you to ensure that it only combs the hair with the accuracy you need. The Baxter of California makes our favorite comb in various sizes. Wetting then combing helps remove all food crumbs, debris, and makes it easy to identify inconsistent and stray hairs. Remember, the Van Dyke is meant to look classy and lack of proper management will show with this style more than most styles.
  3. Work to ensure that the shape and lines of the Van Dyke beard style are clearly distinguished. The mustache doesn’t require large amounts of daily attention but the chin hair must be kept up or the look will be hindered. Daily attention with a trimmer to limit new beard growth is a must and you can limit your razor shaving to only every few days. Most of the trimmers do a great job of trimming hair to any length with 20 length settings.
  4. Apply a quality beard oil like our favorite Citrus Tonic. It is a nice lightweight formula that doesn’t make the beard feel greasy. It makes the facial hair soft, healthy, and gives it a beautiful sheen. Beard oil will keep the hair looking and feeling better than anything else you can do for it.
  5. Last, add a level of class to the look with some beard or mustache wax. Our favorite wax is again, the Seven Potions one which gives enough hold for the day while it doesn’t make your beard look unnatural and crunchy. It works like hair clay for the beard. Wax allows you to turn the tips of the mustache up and straighten out the beard. The wax lets the hair stay in place but look more natural and less glossy. This takes any Van Dyke to new levels. All it takes is a little wax and the twist of your fingers.

History of the Van Dyke Beard

The Van Dyke beard style has been around for a really long time and is formally dated to the 17th century when it was given it’s namesake.

An eccentric Flemish painter, Anthony van Dyck wanted to modify the classic goatee and trimmed his facial hair into what we know know as the Van Dyke, though it was originally called the Van Dyck. While his chin hair would have been slightly longer than most people choose to wear it today, the Van Dyke has been a well known facial hair option since.

As the Restoration came into Britain, many men abandoned the Van Dyke for more French styles and began to don wigs. As the Restoration ended, so did the French stylings and the Van Dyke began to grow in popularity again.

This beard style has not always been loved though.

A US columnist, Edith Sessions Tupper, was famous for her constant written dislike of the Van Dyke. She claimed that the look made men appear “selfish, sinister, and pompous as a peacock.” The term, pikedevant, was used for a time to describe this beard but the Van Dyke has been it main label throughout the years.

Famous Wearers of the Van Dyke

One of the first famous embracers of the Van Dyke beard style was King Charles I of England. In a beautiful form of happenstance, the most popular portrait of King Charles I, where he sports the Van Dyke, was painted by, none other than, Van Dyke himself.

While the beard style was associated with royalty and class from the beginning, it has transcended that in famous people who have worn it.

Some revered and loved figures like the American Civil War legend, General Custer have sported it; while some controversial figures like the Russian controversial figure, Vladimir Lenin have worn it as well. Even Colonel Sanders, founder of KFC and “king of fried chicken” have been famous for their versions of the Van Dyke.

Today, two of the most popular longtime Van Dyke wearers are the above mentioned, P. Diddy and Lord of the Rings star, Viggo Mortenson.

Still, the Van Dyke continues to have a resurgence of sorts. It is not uncommon for huge movie stars like Christian Bale, Johnny Depp, and Jeremy Renner to have the Van Dyke at any given time. The logic behind this is the Van Dyke allows a man to look masculine yet, also, remain groomed and professional. For this reason, both masculine men and those that don’t identify as such have both been known to wear a Van Dyke proudly.

Cowboys have worn the Van Dyke as well as men wearing a bowtie and the look works well with both variations.

Closing Remarks

There’s no better way for a man to make a statement than with his facial hair. It shows who you are as much as the clothes you wear and shoes you have on.

Few facial hair styles have the lasting effect that the Van Dyke. It gives a level of whimsical yet still looks professional and classic. It is a style that is easy to create and can be maintained fairly easily.

We hope the article give you some guidance if you are looking to jump into the world of the Van Dyke wearers and hope you love your new style.