What is the Difference Between a Van Dyke and a Goatee?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A goatee and a Van Dyke are two types of beard styles worn by men. They are both quite popular, but the Van Dyke is often more popular and is more often considered a professional look. The two styles are often confused because of their similarities, but a goatee only covers the chin, while a Van Dyke also includes a mustache.

A neatly trimmed Van Dyke.
A neatly trimmed Van Dyke.

Essentially, the goatee refers to a beard grown only on the chin — there are no sideburns and no connecting hairs leading to the upper lip. The term may come from the long hair grown on the chin of a goat. Contrary to many mis-definitions, this beard does not include a mustache, but refers only to growing a short to long patch of hair on the chin.

A goatee only refers to hair on the chin, while a Van Dyke also includes a mustache.
A goatee only refers to hair on the chin, while a Van Dyke also includes a mustache.

Conversely, the Van Dyke, also called the Van Dyck after the 17th century painter Sir Anthony Van Dyck, incorporates the goatee, but also has a mustache. The earliest Van Dykes were worn with elaborately curled mustaches. Today, most men wear a thin to moderately thick mustache with the beard, which is not waxed to curl upward. No hair is grown on the cheeks, so it is not a full beard.

The Van Dyke is a variation of the goatee, and some also refer to the classic goatee with this name. Hair worn only on the chin may also be called a chin beard if it is very long.

Another variant that has gained popularity is the patch of hair on the chin connected to side burns by growing hair across the bottom of the chin, and up the cheeks. The sideburns are grown long to meet the beard on the jaw and lower cheeks, and no mustache is worn. This is sometimes generically called a goatee, or more specifically a chinstrap or chinstrap beard.

Some further make distinction between these and other forms of beard. For example, a Van Dyke, when it completely connects the goatee to the mustache, may be called a circle beard. Many simply call this still a Van Dyke, or think of it as the classic form. Technically, however, a Van Dyke does not require connecting hair, and can merely be a combination of the mustache and goatee.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


Considering we're speaking English here, if people commonly use "Goatee" to refer to a mustache that connects with chin hair, then that makes that definition correct by usage.

If we're going to be pedantic about it, a Van Dyck is a handlebar style mustache, pointed at the ends, and a small pointed duck tail beard (covering only the front of the chin), that do not connect.

I usually hold my tongue when I hear these geniuses correcting people about something that they themselves get wrong, but not this time!

Call it what you will, but correcting people who refer to the facial hair pictured above as a goatee only shows the ignorance of the corrector.


I love it when people compliment my "goatee," which is definitely a good feeling, and now that a friend of mine told me I have a Van Dyke I relished the fact that it wasn't just a "goatee," but my trimming had paid off and I now had a Van Dyke! Mine is to a point and two inches. It's fun to test the system!


I am continually correcting people (more for fun than that I really care) that I have a vandyke, not a goatee. I think I learned the term playing Ultima Online, actually. Your definition is consistent with my understanding.


My friend and I have been in the longest argument about Gordon Freeman's facial hair from the game Half Life. I said it was a Vandyke, but she thought it was a goatee. Thanks for uploading this!


this settled a huge disagreement in our family! we have been fighting this for awhile now! Thanks for the info.


I agree side burns with chin hair and no mustache should be called "the Abe Lincoln."


Actually the goatee that connects to the side burns with no mustache which Abe Lincoln wore is known as a chin curtain.


I would say the goatee that connects to the side burns with no mustache should be called an Abe Lincoln.


Many people get this wrong - I have always heard Van Dykes referred to as goatees; it seems to be the popular word for both.

Post your comments
Forgot password?