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What is a Neckbeard? (The Slang, The Style, and the Solution)

Neckbeard. A seemingly straightforward word with a ton of complexity. What is a neckbeard? The definition depends on who you ask. 

The term neckbeard has multiple meanings. In its simplest form, it refers to facial hair growing predominantly on the neck area. Neckbeard is also a slang term commonly referring to a male loser who cares more about video games than hygiene and grooming. If a well-kept beard is a sign of dignity and cultivation, a neckbeard signals the opposite.

Read on to learn more about the history of the neckbeard style and its evolution into urban slang.

Neckbeard – slang vs style

If you’re trying to decipher the definition of neckbeard, responses may vary depending on the age of the person you are asking. A 60-year-old is likely to discuss facial hair location, while a Millennial will probably go off on a pop culture tangent.

Neckbeard can refer to an actual beard style and facial hair location or be a derogatory term used for someone with questionable personality traits.

Today, the slang definition of neckbeard is the most popular. Look in the Urban Dictionary and you will see descriptions of video-addicted, basement-dwelling men with a penchant for anime, swords, and My Little Pony t-shirts. Throw in a lack of personal hygiene and you have the stereotypical neckbeard.

Turn back the clock a few decades and the term neckbeard conjured up a more literal meaning: facial hair growing on the neck. In some cases, this was a beard style by choice. However, sometimes it was a beard “style” born out of necessity. If men couldn’t grow a full beard on the face, they capitalized on where they could grow the masculine strands.

The neckbeard style

After digging through the historical archives, it looks like the first time the term “neckbeard” was used, at least in print, was 1847. Charles Sealsfield discussed the five types of beards in his novel Rambleton. Neckbeard made the list probably due to the fact he sported one himself at times.

The true neckbeard style is created when hair grows on the neck only. It is not paired with a facial beard. Some men can grow neck hair more easily than they can facial hair. A neckbeard is an alternative if facial hair is sparse and patchy.

In 2022, however, the neckbeard doesn’t have style status and is sure to receive ridicule. The look is bizarre, resembling a ruffled collar or lion mane gone wrong. Most men dealing with facial hair growth challenges choose minimalist beard styles like the Van Dyke or Goatee.

Was the neckbeard style actually popular?

It might be a stretch to say the neckbeard reached cult appeal, but it did have some high-profile proponents. These men wore it well and seemed confident doing so.

The neckbeard achieved the height of its style status in the 19th century. Neckbeards were most popular among politicians, authors, and those in academia. Some of the most notable neckbeards belonged to Henry David Thoreau, Peter Cooper, and even the Roman emperor Nero.

Author and poet, Henry David Thoreau, grew a pretty impressive neckbeard. In fact, his beard often looked like a ruffled extension of his shirt collar. He attributed this strategic placement of hair to preventing “throat colds.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention politico Peter Cooper’s impressive neck-do. His bright, white puffy neck hair provided a perfect frame for his thin face structure. He went so far as to grow his neck hair up to his ears.

While not quite as bushy as Cooper’s neck tresses, Nero’s neckbeard is forever immortalized in sculpture form. The infamous Roman emperor attracted women from all over the land while wearing a curly, short neckbeard reminiscent of a toothache bandage.

What is the difference between a beard and a neckbeard?

Beard. Neckbeard. What’s the difference? 

Typical beard styles focus on facial hair whether it be on the chin or jawline. A neckbeard is hair that grows from the neck only while the face is devoid of hair. In today’s beard culture, it’s common to see beard styles with some hair on the neck, but that usually involves hair on the face as well.

Celebrities like David Beckham, Justin Timberlake, and Jonah Hill have been known to dip their toes into the neckbeard shallow end, but eventually cleaned it up. Of course, their neck hairs were paired up with some rather impressive facial hair.

The neckbeards of yesteryear just don’t cut it now.

What is the neckbeard stereotype?

Now that we’re clear on the neckbeard style or lack thereof, let’s discuss the stereotypical neckbeard that memes are made of.

The neckbeard stereotype first emerged in the early 2000s and referred to a computer nerd. Over the next few years, the stereotype evolved to encompass an overweight, disheveled male content living in his parent’s basement. His days were filled with food, computer gaming, and fantasy.

The use of this stereotype began to run rampant and neckbeard memes like  M’lady and chicken nugget guy became staples during the next decade.

When did the neckbeard stereotype start?

The switch from beard style to derogatory dig came at a time when online gaming was reaching a new frontier. Xbox consoles and in-game chat functions were revolutionizing how gamers played. 

The earliest slang reference to neckbeard was made on a discussion thread for computer programmers in 2003. At this time, it was a term of endearment among fellow computer nerds. The term changed to include the overweight basement gamer in discussion boards a few years later.

As computers became more user-friendly, they also became a home to more gamers and more questionable behavior. Computer savvy guys, especially those who lived in mom and dad’s basement, would frequently get into mischief when they weren’t gaming.

What qualifies as a neckbeard?

There are so many descriptions thrown out for neckbeards that it’s hard to whittle down the qualifications. Browsing Reddit and sub-Reddit boards can lead down a creepy, dark tunnel and make you feel like you should scrub down with Clorox afterward. 

The essential neckbeard qualifications are large size, an unhealthy interest in video gaming, a lack of social interaction, and a weird fascination with graphic tees. They may also wear a fedora and trenchcoat.

The stereotypical neckbeard is overweight due to his sedentary lifestyle. His days are spent playing video games like World of Warcraft and using his computer geek skills to get into trouble in the far corners of the internet.

Neckbeards are considered social outcasts never making any traction with the ladies. They live in the same crumb-crusted T-shirts day in and day out. 

Is neckbeard an insult?

Should you be offended if someone calls you a neckbeard? Unless you are extremely thick-skinned, probably so!

Neckbeard is considered an insult since the name is associated with a list of loser qualities. Most people don’t enjoy having their large size, lack of hygiene and social ineptitude pointed out – especially if it isn’t accurate!

I’m sure there are some men out there that would wear the moniker as a badge of honor. So, if you don’t mind being called out for your laziness, weirdness, and messiness, then embrace the term. However, if you would rather be known more for your achievements than for your idiosyncrasies the name-calling might sting. 

Why do neckbeards wear fedoras?

Have you ever heard the phrase “neckbeards wear fedoras”? What does it mean? Glad you asked!

In 2013, someone in a Reddit group posted a picture of actor-comedian, Jerry Messing, tipping a fedora. Jerry’s physical appearance and obvious neck hair caused him to become a poster child for neckbeard memes. Many neckbeards also have an obsession with 1950s fashion which highlighted the fedora.

The Jerry Messing picture soon went viral. He claims it was an old headshot to help him get back into acting. He had no idea it would be used to further the neckbeard movement. Ironically, he started Fedora Productions.

The hit show Mad Men first aired in 2007 around the height of the neckbeard label. Many so-called neckbeards binged the show perhaps believing that if they had been alive during the fedora-loving 1950s, they would be highly sought after instead of shunned by women.

How do you know if you’re a neckbeard?

If some of the above traits and qualities are starting to worry you, don’t panic. Just because you might be a little lazy in the grooming department and have a fondness for Mortal Kombat doesn’t make you a neckbeard.

You know you’re a neckbeard if you obsessively listen to neckbeard-created music, a katana is your prized possession, you solely wear obscure teen clothing, and you avoid the outdoors like the plague.

Still wondering if you’re in danger of the neckbeard tag? Here’s the true litmus test – You might be a neckbeard if:

  • You listen to Blues Traveler on repeat – I’ll admit their one hit is worth a listen, but if you know any of their other lyrics by heart you might be a neckbeard. If John Popper (neckbeard extraordinaire) posters wallpaper your basement abode, you KNOW you are.
  • You never leave home without your katana – The world is a dangerous place, but if you’re always ready to slay dragons with your sword, you’re definitely a neckbeard.
  • Your wardrobe was exclusively purchased at Hot Topic – T-shirts are wardrobe staples, but if you only wear Twilight Sparkle Pony or My Hero Academia graphic tees, you’re a neckbeard.
  • The last time you saw the light of day was the Obama administration – It’s perfectly normal to crave a few hours of solitude to clear your mind and binge on Yellowstone, but if you’ve taken up residence in a basement tomb and still think it’s 2016, you’re a neckbeard.

How do you fix a neckbeard?

If you’re rubbing your neck right now and feel a little stubble, no need to fear. If you don’t want to bring the neckbeard back, no problem. It’s an easy fix.

Regular shaving of the neck area is the best way to fix a neckbeard. Beard hair grows at different rates in different areas. Neck hair grows faster in some men than the hair on the face which can lead to an unbalanced beard.

Reversing the signs of neckbeardom is easy with the right razor and some frothy lather.

How far down your neck should your beard grow?

How should you groom your beard to avoid a possible neckbeard situation? 

A little hair on the neck is acceptable. If you have a shorter beard, neck hair will be more noticeable and can make you look unkempt. If you have a longer, fuller beard, some neck hair is normal. A good rule of thumb is to shave any neck hair that is visible below the lowest point of your beard.

As long as you have some facial hair partnered with your neck hair most people won’t judge. However, if the neck hair takes center stage, it’s time for a grooming session.

Can a neckbeard ever look good?

Neckbeard beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but in today’s world, there’s a fine line between trendsetter and weirdo. 

While 19th-century women might have been attracted to a well-worn neckbeard, today’s women aren’t as enthusiastic. The neckbeard is not attractive to most women. Even men who wear one admit it’s a “bad look.”

One of the most recent examples of a neckbeard is pro football player Andrew Luck. He grew a pretty impressive one a few years ago but admitted that both his mom and girlfriend hated it.

He also admitted it didn’t look good, but he hated shaving during the season. No surprise, it soon met its demise.