In the manner of the rain that has, of late, lashed unceasingly against the dank grey pavements of the city, navigating the puddles and potholes of my days I found a singular repetitive thought drumming against the roof of my brain. What the hell to do with my hairstyle.
I wasn’t drowning in options.
Having drawn the follicular short-straw and watched my forehead increase alarmingly in size over the last few years, it was a toss up between the backward combover flaunted by the Turkish guy in my Local 7 Eleven…
and Uncle Fester.
I tended towards the latter, simply because it was easier and cleaner and I’m a sucker for control and at times when I let it all hang out I’d catch my reflection and see patches where my hair wouldn’t grow and feel old and vagrant.
But the Fester option also came with problems, most notably the ‘head doubling as flashlight’ syndrome. The amount of light bouncing off the top of my melon was a source of contention. Useful for directing pals to my whereabouts on heaving dancefloors, but I was taking driving lessons, what if my dome was deemed hazardous to oncoming traffic by the DVLA.
Could I tan the shine out of me.
I mulled over the Coolio vibe.
Out of nowhere one sticky evening of early summer, scanning Netflix for some mindless flatscreen daydream to wallow in for a couple of hours, an answer arrived.
The message came loud and clear. I was focusing my energies in the wrong hemisphere. I went to the bathroom, steadied myself and summoned a deep intake of breath. With a deft swivel of the Braun series 9 titanium-coated beard-sculptor, a door to a new room in my soul creaked open. I walked tentatively through.
I had entered an unchartered realm.
The realm of the goatee.
I dusted off the loose stubble, splashed my face with water, towelled myself down, and focussing in once more I surveyed my reflection in the mirror. Staring back at me was someone I had never met before. I took some more photos.
Turns out I wasn’t the only one who was happy about it.
But something alarmed me. I’d had my fair share of questionable hairstyles over the years, but this was different. Never before had I, in under a minute of fairly unconcentrated coiffuring, revolutionised the way I looked at myself, how I perceived my own identity. There was something about the goatee that changed the interior of my being, deep down inside me. That took my 37 year old script, ripped it to shreds and flipped it on its head. That brought out a long forgotten darkness from my soul, something I knew I wasn’t going to be able to come back from. Lurking within its angles and symmetry, was something absolutely terrifying.
What was it exactly. It’s not like I was the first to test-drive this particular style. There was Brent.
But then there were some cool cats too. Brad, Leonardo, Pacino. I was in esteemed company. These guys were the epitome of class and continental allure.
In fact, these guys begged an all important question. If you don’t have a goatee, who the hell even are you. What had taken me so long?
And still my reflection terrified me. I wondered if it was the no hair plus goatee combination. Did a decent mane up-top adroitly balance out the sheer ridiculousness of having a goatee. What could be more intense than a goatee. What even is a goatee. An M25 for your lips, a holiday home for your chin. Pronounced and yet peculiarly isolated. The thing about stubble is that if you don’t shave stubble just happens. But a goatee is a whole new level of care and deliberateness. With my Uncle Fester flex, would going full Walter White draw too much attention to the rug doing a rodeo of my molars.
Or was I just doing that thing fat people do to give themselves a jawline.
Questions poured down like the falling rain. Five hours in my crisis was hotting up, and on the verge of shaving it off I got a text from my mates inviting me round for a casual last-minute dinner. In the name of banter I kept it to show them, fishing out some festival Raybans to complete the look.
When I got there something unexpected happened. They said hello, we shot the breeze, and they passed no comment on my getup whatsoever. And when, after a second glass of wine I gingerly removed my shades and asked if there was anything peculiar about my appearance, they said simply ‘oh yes look, it suits you mingo, you look good’. I upturned the table, said something disparaging about both their mothers and got the hell out of there.
Walking back home in the fading light I caught my reflection in a car window and flinched. And I understood. At last it made sense what this darkness stomping around in a sealed-off wing of my soul was up to. Whatever the goatee was, was the opposite of who I wanted to be. And in the space of a few hours, like a broken mirror, it had fractured my identity.
I wanted to be a good person, to put good into the world, to connect with people, hold doors open, smile at strangers. Looking like this, I couldn’t do those things. I didn’t feel sensitive and polite and accommodating, with an especially hairy vagina for a mouth I felt the opposite. And were I to try and be the first things, looking like I did, I would come across as a weirdo. Real cross the street to the opposite pavement vibes.
So I took an iron to the wrinkles of my malaise and got rid. But not, as my man Myles suggested, without going full Danny Trejo.
More like it.
The cool thing about trying to be as cool as Danny Trejo is accepting you’re going to die from uncoolness in the attempt. The extended handlebar ejected me instantly from the realms of the deeply tenuous beard-style, straight to looking like a knob. And this was breathing space. I felt superb.
I tried on a shirt I hadn’t worn in years.
Hit up the library.
Busted around the supermarket.
Around me audible gasps and bottled selfies soundtracked my day, I was the man and everyone knew it. In a post-covid world my handlebar was flipping the script, I could tell strangers just wanted to be near me. On a solo trip to the cinema, killing time with some peanut m&ms before they opened the auditorium, I lensed a killer selfie.
And from the corner of the screen my world came crashing down.
What’s with the screw face, I asked the kid who’d just photo-bombed me.
You look like a twat, he said.
I took his word for it, went home and fell asleep for a week. So came to an end my saga with the goatee and the extended handlebar. Both bad looks, in different ways. The goatee didn’t work for me, its legitimacy rendered it confusing. On the strained expressions of the folk I encountered was writ the question: are you for real? The goatee was awful, too forced, too laboured, too deliberate. It made me feel strange. Even stranger that the only two people who commented on it said it actually suited me. That was the terrifying thing. And then it took a ten year old in a cinema to affirm that I actually looked like a twat.
If there’s a moral to this nonsense, it’s think twice before you get out the beard trimmer in an inquisitive state of mind. But more accurately, as a wise man once said, you’ll stop caring what people think about you when you realise how seldom they do.