A well-maintained beard can enhance a man’s appearance, especially when worn in a popular style. One such style that seems to have great appeal among beard enthusiasts is the French beard, sometimes called a van dyke. This classic beard actually consists of a mustache and beard combination. The mustache curves down on either side of the mouth and typically connects with a beard that covers the chin only, not the cheeks. Generally, a thin column of hair is also grown down the center of the chin, running from the middle lower lip to the center of the beard.
One of the main characteristics of a French beard is its neat, trim appearance. The mustache portion of a French beard can range from very thin to medium thickness. Some men prefer a bushier mustache, but a thicker mustache can detract from the intended dapper look of the beard. Ideally, the smooth skin of the upper lip should be visible on either side of the mustache, and it should connect with the beard fluidly just below the corners of the mouth. In some variations, the mustache will not connect with the beard, and there will be a 1 to 2 inch (about 2.5 to 5.1 cm) space between the ends of the mustache and the beginning of the beard.
The lower portion of a French beard generally has a rounded shape and should only cover the curve of the chin right at the jawline. The facial area, including the cheeks, from the base of the earlobe to the corners of the mouth should be clean shaven and free of stubble. A narrow, rectangular column of hair is classically grown in the center of a French beard and typically extends from the bottom of the lower lip to the center of the beard itself. This column of hair is sometimes referred to as a soul patch. The skin under the lower lip on either side of the narrow column should also be clean shaven and free of stubble.
The length and thickness of a French beard can vary. Due to the intended style of the beard; however, many men opt to keep the beard itself short, often less than 1 inch (about 2.5 cm) in length. Still, some men do prefer to wear longer beards, even choosing a longer goatee style with a pointed rather than a rounded base.
The sideburns worn with a French beard should also be kept trim and neat. Typically, mutton chops, or sideburns that extend onto the face and cheeks, do not blend well with a French beard. To maintain the integrity of the style, the sideburns should not be allowed to grow below the earlobe and preferably should be kept above the center of the ear.