A major division in the bearded kingdom exists between those who revel in no longer having to bother with maintenance, letting Nature have its luxuriant bushy way, and those who continue to keep a razor nearby—prudently pruning or shaving the cheeks every few days. A well-clipped beard on a kindly man looks as proper as a well-kept lawn on Sunday.

— Phillip Lopate, “On Shaving a Beard,” Against Joie de Vivre: Personal Essays

A couple times, I’ve tried to let mine grow wild for a month or more, hoping that after its wiry rumspringa phase, it will settle down and behave like the wise old elder of my facial community. So far, its rebelliousness has outlasted my patience. It doesn’t help that my beard nation has balkanized into the Brown, Blond and Grey tribes each claiming their own territory, resisting unification. I have yet to achieve the philosopher-king style — more like “clinically depressed fur trapper.”A dedicated topiary practice is still necessary to keep anarchy at bay.