Friday night topic: Facial hair!

So, a few weeks ago, I quit shaving, and for the first time ever, really, I made a full-on attempt at growing a beard that pushed past the itchy stage and into a fuller, er, mane or something.

Yeah, that didn't really work out too well.  I'm just not built to grow a massively thick bunch of hair adorning my jaw like, say, Derek Wilson or Anand Shimpi.  Those guys are facial-hair titans.  So I accepted my fate and shaved the beard down into a goatee, pretty well achieving the Gordon Freeman look.  I'm liable to shave it off at any time or to keep it for months on end.  Who knows?  One starts experimenting with such things when the hair up top begins to retreat.

This little experiment got me thinking, though, about the social perceptions of various facial hair configurations.  My interest was only heightened by the task of creating my character in Fallout 3.  The multitude of choices there, along with the imaginative names for them, really drove home the point about the sheer variety and strangely pronounced social connotations of facial hair options.  I've pretty much always been a clean-cut white guy, and I've been enjoying trying to observe the subtleties of how people might react differently to me when I'm sporting a little lip-and-chin carpeting.  So far, though, I can't say I've noticed much change.  (Most people laugh at me behind my back, so it's difficult to know.)

Anyhow, I'm curious to see what you all think about these things.  What does having a beard say about a man?  What about just a mustache?  Sidenburns? (Heh, yeah, I think I know the answer there.)  A goatee vs. a full beard?  A soul patch?  What assumptions do you find yourself making about a person based on his facial hair choices?

Guys, what various beard configurations have you tried over the years, and what have you learned by trying 'em?  Any beard care tips?  I like to store food in mine for snacking later.  Ladies, is a clean shave the best, or do you like a man with a moustache?


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