Even though quite popular during different stages in history, the Imperial Beard lacks a clear definition. In fact, it’s more of a group of beards:
The term Imperial Beard designates any style that connects mustache and beard but has no chin hair.
The most common way the Imperial Beard is expressed is with a Friendly Mutton Chops. First officially promoted by American Civil War General Ambrose Burnside, The Imperial Beard is an old-school style that is sure to make you stand out from the crowd.
Imperial Beard Variations
The default version of the Imperial Beard features somewhat neatly trimmed hair.
If you’re going for bushier and thicker growth along the jawline, you’re dipping into Friendly Mutton Chops territory.
Want to go for even more volume? Let the hair along your jaw grow out, and keep the cheek line natural (i.e. higher than the standard Imperial Beard). Closely resembling what Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I wore, this is called the Hulihee variant.
Prefer the opposite? Increase the shaven patch on your chin to the extent where your mustache basically extends across your cheeks and connects to your sideburns. All of your chin and about half your jawline should be clean-shaven with this variant, called “À La Souvarov”.
What Face Shape Best Fits an Imperial Beard?
Let’s face it - if you’re bold enough to wear an Imperial Beard, chances are you don’t care about the ideal face shape.
Having said that, an Oblong face would be just that. Diamond and Triangle shapes tend to work as well, while Square faces are hit-or-miss.
Oh - speaking of miss: Don’t attempt this if your face shape is Heart, Oval, or Round. It won’t fly.
Famous Wearers of the Imperial Beard
Considered a somewhat old-school style nowadays, it’s easier to find proud wearers in the past.
Aforementioned Emperor Franz Josef I certainly rocked an awesome Imperial.
Tsar Alexander II of Russia is usually depicted with an awesome Imperial Beard.
Considered somewhat of an ancestor to this beard family, General Ambrose Burnside wore his Imperial rather proudly.
Supposedly worn to cover facial warts, musician Lemmy Kilmister is a more recent example, sporting what would be considered a Friendly Mutton Chops.
Honorary mention goes to Hugh Jackman when playing Wolverine - sometimes letting the mustache grow, and thereby connecting the sides to an Imperial style beard.
How to Trim an Imperial Beard
- As always, a solid Full Beard is a good place to start, so sit back and grow that beast for a good 4-6 weeks.
- Trim your beard to half an inch across the board to start out clean. You can always grow it out once you’ve shaped it.
- Shave your chin area, drawing a straight line down from the corners of your mouth.
- Shave your neck to bring the neckline up fairly close to the jaw. You want the jaw covered, but no hair extending down the neck.
- Trim your cheek lines into a neat line to connect with the mustache.
- Make sure you keep your chin and neck clean-shaven to provide the best possible contrast for your new achievement.
Congrats! You are now part of an elite club daring to wear an Imperial Beard!
Having reached the peak of popularity in the 19th century, the term Imperial Beard includes any style that connects the mustache to the sides while leaving the chin clean-shaven.
Not often seen nowadays, it’s a daring statement that exudes confidence in facial hair. If you are the kind of guy to pull this one off - congrats. Not many dare. Looking for more options? Check out our best beard style guide.