Aspirational beard growers come to the site from all over the world, and range from teenagers to senior citizens. Lorenzo Simonazzi, 21, of Savosa, Switzerland, came to the board shortly after the end of a relationship. “I felt I needed to change something in myself,” he said. A self-described perfectionist, he wasn’t sure where to place the neck line, whether he should trim his mustache, and if his cheek growth was full enough. Now Mr. Simonazzi is a moderator and spends about an hour a day talking to people.
He said the values he’s learned on the board include patience, delivering feedback and goal setting: “It’s about not putting the bar too high. Don’t have too many expectations, appreciate what you have, and focus on the strong points.”
While beards and a lumberjack aesthetic have been trendy in recent years, the stigma around men who agonize over appearance remains. “I think gone are the times when fathers tell sons how to do stuff,” Mr. Coleman said. “People turn, eventually, to the internet.” In his daily life, he doesn’t talk about his involvement with the board. “I don’t know how people would respond if they found out I’m a moderator,” he said with a laugh.
Mr. Coleman sees his work as a form of volunteerism, helping men feel their best in every aspect of their lives, from job interviews to first dates. “In growing their beard, they start to feel more confident in who they are,” he said.
As for Mr. Peterka, he’s now 10 weeks into his “beard journey.” Though he’s received a lot of support, he’s beginning to realize that a beard isn’t going to happen for him. But he still plans to stick it out a bit longer. Even if he can’t grow a beard, the board has helped him rethink what he considers normal.
“I’m under five-eight, and I always thought I was short,” he said. “But then I looked it up, and five-eight is actually one-third of the population. So I’m like, wait a minute, I’m kind of average.”
“I think people grow up wondering, am I enough?” he continued. “Am I normal? Am I OK? Am I on track?” As a father, he hopes that accepting his imperfect beard will leave an impression. “I want to let my kids know, where you’re at is where you’re supposed to be.”