For many, the true meaning of a 5 O’Clock shadow is a myth. The idea is, of course, that a beardsman who shaves at 8 am and heads off to work will have a fresh face of stubble by the time he leaves the office at 5 in the afternoon. Of course, a few bearded legends tend to grow whiskers faster than Usain Bolt can run the 100 meters, but they are few and far between. For the average beardsman, a 5 O’Clock shadow is at least a couple of days worth of growth.
But even if it takes you well past 5 O’Clock to sprout this look, it doesn’t mean we can’t rock it just as well as those who are more beard-blessed than the rest of us. Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, and George Clooney have all mastered the art of the 5 o’clock shadow, and so can you.
In this guide, we will go over how you can learn to grow and groom the perfect 5 o’clock shadow, so let’s jump right in.
What is a 5 O’Clock Shadow?
In short, a 5 o’clock shadow is just a fancy way of saying light stubble. The term referring to short beards was coined way back in the 1930s by the Gem safety razor company, when they claimed their razors offered such a close shave that you’d never see a 5 o’clock shadow beard. They were, of course, referring to the hint of growth that occurs for some men by the end of the day. It’s so subtle, it’s more like a shadow than it is hair, but since then, the term has morphed to mean something closer to a stubble. It is about the shortest possible beard a man can have. Think one step above clean-shaven. It’s the hint of a light whiff of a beard and when groomed properly, the style can be sophisticated and sexy, just like the smell of our oud cologne.
Today, the 5 o’clock beard is popular because it’s an easy, effortless way to achieve a powerful, masculine look. As workplaces become increasingly comfortable with relaxed dress codes and grooming expectations, beardsmen all over the world are taking the opportunity to rock a look that takes them from plain to noticeably rugged. Let’s take a look at how we can achieve this look ourselves.
How to Get the Perfect 5 O’Clock Shadow
The perfect 5 o’clock shadow is one of the easiest of the short beard styles to grow. In just a few simple steps, and a few days worth of growth, you’ll be rocking the shadow and turning heads. Here’s how:
Step 1: Trim
You’ll need to start with a little bit of growth as a first step in achieving the perfect shadow. From there, you’re going to want to trim your growth down to the perfect length. There is no correct length for a 5 o’clock shadow, which means it’s entirely up to you how long your shadow stubble will be. Don’t be afraid to rock it how you like it, concerning yourself less with the exact definition of a 5 o’clock shadow and more with what you like to see in the mirror.
When you trim your whiskers down to the perfect length for you, it’s always best practice to use an electric beard trimmer. A trimmer is going to give you that uniform length across your entire face. Choose the attachment that matches the length you want and buzz away. You may need to trim daily or every other day to maintain that perfect length, so remember which attachment you used!
Step 2: Shape
Tidy up any unruly hairs and shape along the edges of your beard for a neat look that brings a refinement to the rugged 5 o’clock shadow. Cut hairs that may be longer than the 5 o’clock shadow length you’re looking for that escaped your initial trim. It’s a good idea to look at your beard from several angles during this step to pinpoint any stray hairs.
Step 3: Shave
Many who rock the 5 o’clock shadow choose to shave their neck and clean up the cheek area. This can bring a finished, polished look to the overall style. You’ll use a stubble razor for this step as you trim along your neckline and your cheekbones. Each beardsman’s preferred shape will differ, so don’t be afraid to make it your own.
The Post-Shave Routine
Now, it’s time to take care of those whiskers. Even though your beard is just a little bit of stubble, a good beard brush will help you to exfoliate the skin underneath the beard, freeing debris from your pores and follicles. It will also keep your look tidy and neat. The most important beard care step following any shave, though, is your beard oil to feed those whiskers the nourishment they need to stay healthy and keep growing normally.
How to Maintain the Perfect 5 O’Clock Shadow
Maintaining your 5 o’clock shadow is relatively easy, but here are some key tips to keep in mind.
1. Find the Right Length
The length you choose is entirely up to you. There is no right or wrong length. Some beardsmen may find they like the look of shorter stubble while others might want to rock a bit more length in their shadow. Our suggestion is to find the length you like through a bit of trial and error and then make note of it, and aim for that length with each trim.
2. Get Electric
The electric beard trimmer is the best tool for maintaining your perfect five o’clock shadow length. It’s a better tool because it gives a clean, uniform trim all over. You can choose the attachment of your choice and get the same length each time you use it. With an electric razor, you don’t have to go down to the skin each time you shave, maintaining your 5 o’clock shadow.
3. Nail the Timing
Each beardsman’s facial hair is going to grow at a different rate. Through a little bit of trial and error, you should nail down the time frame of each cycle starting with your trim. Identify how many days will pass before you’ll need to trim your beard again to maintain the stubble look you’re going for. Once you have the timing down, it’s as simple as adopting a routine to keep your scruff looking its best each day.
4. Keep the Neck Clean
You may wish to wear your stubble a little bit longer which means you’ll need to shave your neck to achieve a neat and tidy look for the office. Avoid the dreaded “neckbeard” by cleaning up any growth on your neck, especially if it goes beyond your Adam’s apple. We recommend shaving your neck up to about an inch above your Adam’s apple. A clean-shaven neck can bring a true sense of refinement to the five o’clock shadow, bringing it all together.
5. Moisturize Your Face and Beard
Moisturizing your whiskers is the key to avoiding patchy growth and maintaining a soft, health stubble. You can do this by washing with a proper beard wash and beard conditioner and following up each wash with a top-notch beard oil. This routine won’t strip the natural oils from your whiskers, and it will prevent product and dead skin build-up around follicles, which can slow growth. From time to time, apply beard butter to your beard before bed for a deep-conditioning and moisturizing treatment. Don’t neglect your shadow stache!
6. Maintain It
Your routine is going to depend on how quickly your whiskers tend to grow but the perfect 5 o’clock shadow will need maintenance at least every few days. Trimming and shaving will keep it the length you want, while daily moisturizing will keep it healthy and soft.
Recommended Beard Care Products to Use
Forget the shampoo, body wash or bar soap. Your beard needs a beard wash so you’re not stripping away its natural oils and drying it out. When you follow that up with a beard conditioner, you’ll be able to avoid patchy growth from dried-out facial hair. Daily use of beard oil is a must no matter what beard style you’re rocking, and a beard brush isn’t just for men with long manes. Your short stubble beard will benefit from a quick brushing every morning. These products are going to keep your 5 o’clock shadow looking healthy, feeling soft to the touch, and growing evenly, all while smelling great.