beardsTo beard or not to beard, that is the question facing men who can actually grow beards. With the annual facial hair growth marathon known as “No Shave November,” men around the nation — and around the world if they take part in “Movember” — not only show us their charitable sides by raising money for cancer awareness, they also show us their manly credentials when it comes to the testosterone-charged competition of who can grow the most facial hair in the least amount of time.

Some guys truly are superstars when it comes to growing full, luxuriant beards, while others might take several months to grow a tiny bit of peach fuzz or a tragic looking soul patch. When November ends, lots of thick, bristly beards — as well as plenty of weedy patches of pathetic stubble — get clipped or shaved off. The macho, caveman beards are no more, and the clean-shaven gentlemen living beneath them are able to emerge once again.

Some men choose keep their beards year round, or at least some sexy, rugged-looking stubble — just like the Nautica male models often don across their chiseled jaws. And really, what guy wouldn’t want to look like a manly Nautica model? Sure, women and loved ones might complain about how “scratchy” your facial hair is, but that’s just a part of life that they’ll have to accept. Why should consumers pay good money for exfoliation and intensive facial scrubs when all they have to do his rub their skin up against the stubble of an unshaven man and watch layers of dead skin flake off?

Certain professions, like bankers and military grunts, might require a clean-shaven appearance, but even here a well-groomed banker’s beard or a special operations solider can bend the rules from time to time and let his facial hair sprout out and reach for the sun.

If your beard is thin and pathetic and only comes in sparse and oddly shaped blotches, you might want to refrain from letting it flower too much, but if, on the other hand, you can handle some respectable facial coverage and your occupation doesn’t prohibit a beard, why not let your in Ducky Dynasty whiskers rise?

Personally, I find a full, bushy beard about as annoying as having to shave every day. You have to trim it, check for food spillage, and if your grooming habits are less-than-spectacular, you might even have to deal with creepy microscopic (pray they’re microscopic) critters taking shelter in the warmth of the new home you so thoughtfully provided for them.

That being said, shaving for thick bearded individuals (like me) isn’t a whole lot of fun either. Scrape and pain, even with the sharpest of blades, is an inevitable consequence of shaving on a daily basis. Thankfully I don’t have to impress anyone too often, so I can let my stumble grow for about a week and then trim it down with clippers, thus straddling the beard/clean shaven divide, which saves me a ton of time (yes, I’m damn lazy, as you may have guessed) and a whole lot of unpleasant beard shaving.

Ultimately, it’s up to every guy to decide for himself if he wants baby smooth skin, stubble, a thin beard or the full Santa Claus look. Personal style, profession and the ability to grow a beard — not to mention the opinions of others, all play into the decision to let a potential shrub take root on your face.