Ah, the goatee—the easiest facial hair style to screw up. If you do a beard wrong, it can make you look creepy. If you do your hair wrong, you can look totally unkempt. But a goatee can be much, much worse. If you choose the wrong goatee style, you can end up looking like a suburban soccer dad.

You know the guy I’m talking about: the goatee-clad dad with an oversized t-shirt tucked into his shorts, knee-high white socks sprouting out of an overused pair of New Balance sneakers, and his cell phone clipped on the outside of his belt. A bad goatee can make you look like that guy. We don’t want that.

Really, there was a time when I thought goatees just always looked bad. But after seen a few stylish chaps really rocking some goatees the right way (namely, the infamous Douglas Smythe of Howtogrowamoustache.com), I’ve changed my mind and decided to write a guide.

First, let’s get our facts straight…

When most people think of goatees, they think of what’s called a round beard, which is a patch of beard hair encircling the mouth (think of every dad or general contract you’ve ever met). Technically, though, a goatee only refers to hair on your chin. However, if we were only going to use the technical definition for this article, we really wouldn’t have that much to write about.

So, here’s the deal. We’re not going to be super technical about this. We’re going to cover a bunch of different facial hair styles that include hair on your chin. In other words, cut me some slack here, fellas! Nobody likes a stickler anyway. Let’s get to it.

Some quick history about goatees

Where do goatees even come from? Like every other awesome thing on the planet, we can trace goatees back to Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. Specifically, one of the most stylish gods, Pan (not Peter), the god of shepherds, hunting, and rustic music, had a goatee.

Eventually, Christianity became the dominant religion in Europe, and for some reason, they made Satan look like Pan, so he had a goatee, too, which helped its notoriety spread through the world alongside Christian lore. That could also be why scientists have literally proven goatees make you look evil.

 However, since most people didn’t fancy looking like Satan, the goatee only became popular to wear in the United States during the Civil War. Then, when old Abe Lincoln decided to wear one for a while, the goatee earned itself a permanent place in classic men’s style.

Since then, it’s enjoyed ebbs and flows, rising and falling in popularity during different eras. For example, the Beatniks loved goatees (remember the infamous goatee + little round sunglasses combo?).

In our view, goatees aren’t as popular now as they have been at other times, at least not goatees specifically. Beards, however, are extremely popular right now and, in fact, has started to see its own fervent communities of beard enthusiasts, which has contributed to a widespread facial hair acceptance, adoption, and experimentation.

Are we entering a goatee golden age? We have no idea. But just in case, here’s a comprehensive style guide.

Goatee Style Guide: How to Find the Best Goat for Your Grill

The Van Dyke

We chose the Van Dyke because it’s the currently preferred style of one of the leading bloggers in our industry, Douglass Smythe, whose personal image is as much a part of his brand as his products.

The Van Dyke is a mustache and goatee combo with clean shaven cheeks and no connecting hair between the mustache and goatee. There are a lot of variations of this style, but you’ll see it most commonly worn with a handlebar mustache and a soul patch.  In all styles, the cheeks are shaven clean—with the possible exception of a thin chin strap.

If this style feels super European, that’s because it is. The style was named after a 17th century Flemish painter, Anthony Van Dyck. It was also worn by Charles I of England and António María Esquivel.

If, however, this style feels more like a badass pirate/outlaw style to you, that’s because it is, too! Buffalo Bill and General Custer are among the many historic badasses to wear this style. Colonel Sanders wore it, too, and there’s nothing more badass than a good bucket of chicken.

How to wear it: The most important thing about this style is grooming. This is absolutely not a style you can wear messily and get away with it. It’s no coincidence that most of the guys who wear this goatee are also sharply dressed.

If you’re going to try the Van Dyke, be ready to spend some time on maintenance. You should also consider how it fits with your overall style. This is not a goatee that pairs well with grunge. It’s more of a gentleman’s style. Even the outlaws mentioned above had a gentlemanly air about them.

In formal settings, the Van Dyke does surprisingly well with bowties, and it gives you a lot more leeway to wear much older-style clothes. This is one of the few styles you’ll ever hear us say goes well with a pocket watch.

In casual settings, the other stuff (hair, etc.) matters a lot more. Try a clean, well-groomed haircut, for example. You should also understand how to wear, trim and groom your mustache. Additionally, the Van Dyke probably isn’t for guys with skin troubles; it’s just too fickle a style to worry about pimples.

However, if you can pull off the Van Dyke, it’s pretty powerful. It, more than many facial hair styles, gives off the impression of a gentleman. Just don’t screw it up, or you’ll look like you’re in the wrong century.

The Grandpa Goat (traditional, long)

This is a goatee for the purists out there. No mustache. No cheek hair. No chin strap. This is a true, pure, chin hair-only goatee. More importantly, though, this style sports long chin hair.

Of all the styles here, this may be the most difficult to pull off, but it’s also the boldest. High risk, high reward. If you can wear it, it really is one of the few facial hair types you can build your whole style around. It’s just super unique.

One of the main benefits of the Grandpa Goat is that it’s easy. All you have to do is shave everything else and let it grow. It can even be a little messy, and it still looks okay, and that’s great for a lot of guys with more relaxed styles.

One thing to keep in mind is that this style looks old. It’s not going to make you look like an old many or anything, but it’s definitely going to make you look traditional in almost any context. That’s mostly because there are some very iconic historic figures who’ve sported this bold goatee, namely Uncle Sam (not even a real person, but obviously an icon) and Henry M. Hoyt (pictured above).

How to wear it: There are really two ways you can wear this style: super sharp or super messy. It doesn’t particularly matter if the Grandpa Goat is messy or neat; what matters most is that you pick one end of the style spectrum or the other.

This style doesn’t look very good in the middle. So, you can wear this with a very sharp, clean, well-dressed style. Or, you can wear it with a kind of rock-star, grungy style.

However, more than any other style, the Grandpa Goat depends heavily on your personality. It’s a very, very bold style, so you really need to wear it with (1) confidence and (2) a smile. Seriously. If you don’t smile with this style, you’ll look like a total turd. This alone is what makes this a difficult goatee to wear.

The Round Beard

This is what most people think of when they think about goatees. If the Grandpa Goat is the most difficult to pull off, the Round Beard (or circle beard) is the easiest to screw up. This goatee is exactly what it sounds like: a circle of hair that goes around the mouth and covers the chin.

Really, this particular style was nearly ruined by the last three generations of soccer dads, who mostly paired it with high-top tennis shoes, acid wash jean shorts, and braided leather belts. I honestly have no idea why this goatee style is the go-to for nearly every style-less old guy. Maybe there’s a secret suburban dad style forum I don’t know about; who knows.

The point is: wearing this style is going to be an uphill battle, so you should be ready for it. Because it carries a rather drab connotation, you’ll have to be prepared to make up for it in other areas of your style.

So why would anyone wear it? There are two reasons, really. The first is that it’s pretty easy. All you need is a mediocre beard trimmer, and you’re good to go. It’s a no-nonsense goatee, and that’s appealing to some folks. Secondly, it pairs exceptionally well with certain face shapes, and when it does work, it tends to look fantastic.

How to wear it: At the risk of sounding insensitive, one of the most important things to consider here is going to be your face shape. Basically, heavier guys should stay away from this style. The soccer-dad connotation is just too strong to overcome if you’ve got a rounder face, and you’ll usually end up looking like a car salesman. It is sometimes possible for larger dudes to wear a circle beard if you fill it out a bit (a la Zach Galifanakis).

Additionally, guys with longer faces should steer clear. Even if it’s not true, if you have a longer face, this goatee typically makes you look like you’re trying to hide your chin, and it just ends up being weird.

That mostly leaves guys with fit, balanced faces, and it typically works best when the goatee is more of a square than a circle. That said, if you can get it to work, the Round Beard works well with virtually any style.

The Billy Goat (traditional, medium)

This style is closely related to the Grandpa Goat. In fact, it’s the same exact style with a different hair length. However, that doesn’t mean that you can treat it similarly. It really is very different, so listen up!

The Billy Goat has a few of the same rules as the Grandpa Goat (e.g. it’s a distinctive style), but it’s going to make you look a lot more modern, and you’re not going to be able to pair it with traditional, old-timey styles.

One of the unique effects of this style is that you can essentially move it up or down your chin for different effects. It’s going to look totally different if you start growing it right under your bottom lip than it will if you wear it only on the bottom of your chin, making it a pretty flexible style.

How to wear it: Of all the goatees listed here, the Billy Goat is going to give you the most degrees of freedom, mostly because, while distinctive, it’s just not a lot of hair, which makes it considerably less bold than the others.

It’s understated, and most of the rest of the face is clean-shaven, which makes it look a lot more professional. So, if you’re a working man, this is a good go-to goatee.

Consider shaping it instead of just wearing it round. The Billy Goat tends to look great (if a little evil) if it’s groomed to a point.

The Infamous Soul Patch

Let’s wrap this up with something everyone knows: the Soul Patch. The Soul Patch is a well-known goatee that’s fairly difficult to screw up. If the Van Dyke and the Grandpa Goat are high risk, high reward, the Soul Patch is low risk, low reward.

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock for your whole life, the Soul Patch is a tiny patch of hair just under your bottom lip, usually shaped into a triangle.

It’s just a little something extra. It also has the unique effect of being slightly gentle—even effeminate, which hardly any other facial hair styles can do. On the flip side, it can also come across as devious depending on how you wear it.

If you’re looking for some good examples,

How to wear it: The Soul Patch pairs well with sharp, casual styles. Think sport coat, sharp jeans and a casual dress shirt. Even if you’re going to wear it with something a little messier, it should still be well-put together. A really great example of a Soul Patch paired with a sharp-but-still-messy style is Tommy Lee.

The last thing you want with this goatee is to look like you were just too lazy to shave that last patch of hair, which, unfortunately, is the case with many patches I see.

That’s it, folks! As always, if I missed anything, leave me a comment below or shoot me an email. Cheers!