Today we’re discussing one of life’s greatest questions for men: to patch or not to patch. If you’re looking in the mirror thinking about a change in your appearance, that includes and different path for your facial hair, inevitably the soul patch will cross your mind. Of course, you can shave it off, but at some point, you will open that front door and declare to the world that you’ve settled on a soul patch. What exactly does this say about you?
Certainly, a soul patch won’t define all the manliness that is you, but until you open your mouth and people can discover your true being, this facial hair style will express something very specific about you to casual passersby. We believe, like any commitment, your relationship with a soul patch is not something to be entered into lightly. Let’s break this down by understanding the history, popular opinion (of both men and women), and what it takes to create this facial hair.
What is a Soul Patch?
In the olden days, men had three choices: clean shaven, the mustache, or go full on beard. Today, your options are only limited by the genetics that kick-start the growth of your facial hair. Enter the era of the soul patch.
The soul patch, also known as a mouche (French for fly) or a jazz dot, is a tidy patch of facial hair just below the lower lip and above the chin. This style was essentially the first truly personality-defining beard-like growth. Jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie made the style famous in the 1940s; so much so that it was coined a “Dizzy Gillespie Beard” for a time. It was especially useful for catching the spittle that ran down the chin during prolonged performances of brass instruments.
Since then, the patch has enjoyed many incarnations. It really came into its own when the beatniks sported them in the 50s. Somebody, somewhere decided a small growth of hair just under his bottom lip said something a little edgier, a little less talking, and a little more poetry than any other previous option. Can you dig it, man?
After the 50s, this look went into a long hibernation, but the proverbial damage had been done. A few popped up after the 70s; Tom Waits and the Blues Brothers being the most notable. Who really brought it back you ask? Jason Priestly in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We’ll leave that one alone. Since then it caught fire. It spread like, well, a 5 o’clock shadow.
Growing a Soul Patch
One does not simply wake up with a soul patch. It requires forethought and planning. This is serious business.
It should originate just below your lower lip, so leave a tiny space where your lower lip ends and your facial hair begins. The rest of your face should be clean-shaven. The length and width of the soul patch are up to you, but you don’t want to let it grow too much and metamorphose into something completely different. Make sure always to keep the edges neatly pruned. You have an image to uphold.
To rock a solid soul patch beard, you must start off with a clean, dry beard at least 1cm long. While you can achieve magnificent soul patchiness with a manual razor, we have to suggest investing in some electric trimmers. Using a full-size trimmer, bring your facial hair down to around 3-5mm, leaving the hair on the middle region under your lip longer.
You’re getting there; you’re on your way.
Now for some precision work. Imagine a line running down the center of your face. Pointed or square, your soul patch beard needs to be evenly distributed on both sides of this line. Start trimming 8-10 mm below the lip and stop above the dip in your chin. Beyond that, there are no rules and no limits. The power of the soul patch is now all yours.
The next logical question is how to maintain this magnificent face art. The good news is it’s even easier to maintain than it is to develop. Simply keep the rest of your face clean-shaven, and use your stubble trimmer, or precision trimmer, to reshape your patch to fit your every whim and mood.
What Do People Think?
Here’s where it gets dicey. This style of facial hair has gotten a bad rap based on some questionable reputations of those who have sported it. In the beginning, it just said you were a bit off-beat, in a good way. It meant that a man went against the grain, they didn’t fall in line just to keep the peace. A man that wore this first go-round of the mouche was approachable with just a hint of danger. In short, women thought they were sexy, and other men thought they were cool.
Now a soul patch can mean a couple of things. First, it can mean that hiding in your VW van, is a pair of round John Lennon glasses. You like you some Thoreau, you could talk for hours about the meaning of life, your girlfriend is drowned in patchouli, and you will only drink craft beer or PBR now that it’s considered a “cult classic.” If this isn’t you, don’t worry. The soul patch is a sneaky little tuft with other statuses.
The next idea people have about the patch isn’t a great one. You’re trying to look cool. Did you catch the subtle difference? In the first example, you are, by all accounts, cool. In the second example, you are decidedly not cool, but you are also completely unaware. If you’re pretty sure this isn’t you, please take stock of your life before attempting the patch. Talk to friends, family and the occasional stranger to get a read on their thoughts of your cool factor. We take our responsibilities seriously and want you to have all the information needed to make a well-informed choice for your face.
But what about Kevin Costner, Howie Mandel, and Billy Bob Thornton? They’re cool, right? Well, we think in certain circles, yes, they are. If you and your circle are waiting with bated breath for the return of Deal or No Deal and can’t get enough of America’s Got Talent because you long to be just like Wowie Howie, you can sport this style with confidence that you will be held in high regard.
Overall, we’re going to refer you to the advice your mom gave you in middle school: it doesn’t matter what other people think, it only matters what you think. Yeah, we struggle with that one too. It matters what your boss thinks, so check your company’s policy on facial hair. It matters what your grandma thinks, consider her health for God’s sake. It mostly matters what your significant other thinks, so there’s that. Bottom line, haters gonna hate.
We have two schools of thought here. Some of you should go for it. If you’ve been tossing around the idea of this look for a while now and you’re not faint of heart, do it. You’re not getting any younger, you only live once, blah, blah, blah. You’re not committing to a tattoo of a soul patch on your face, something we have very strong nay feelings about. This is hair. You love it; you keep it. You hate it; you get rid of it. If your relationships take a hit because of it, you can rebuild or replace.
Some of you fall into the nay category. If you’re still battling nightmares over your blonde streaks in college, this will be a tough blow to your psyche years from now. The only way to avoid this becoming part of your permanent history is to give it a shot, look in the mirror, and immediately shave it off if you get queasy. You test it out for a night or two, and you definitely run the risk of it becoming etched in stone on your girlfriend’s cousin’s best friend’s neighbor’s Instagram and Facebook. Feel you can’t run that risk? Don’t do it, man, don’t do it.
All in all, we give the soul patch a solid Meh. On one hand, good for you. You’re confident; you don’t care that interpersonal relationships may take a deadly hit over a small tuft on your face. You laugh in the face of trends and norms. What matters to you is the whole-hearted expression of all that is you, and the place you’ve decided to let that shine is right below your bottom lip and slightly above your chin. We, mostly, can’t fault your decision.
On the other hand, we’re not sold. We believe there are more respectable ways to show off your facial hair personality. We think the full beard is a bold and brave statement. You’re not waiting for hockey playoffs; you go for gold every single day. The Tom Selleck mustache has an undeniable level of charm and charisma. Who doesn’t want to be a PI in Hawaii? The soul patch? It’s been done many times, in an unsophisticated and artless way.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you. Hey, you may be the guy that brings us full circle and makes this facial hair a perfect place to catch some sort of dribbling saliva again. Good luck to you, we’d love to see it happen.