One of the easiest ways to show that a male character has fallen into depression is to show him with unkempt stubble or sometimes even a full beard after a Time Skip. Happens to be Truth in Television, of course. A common symptom of depression is loss of interest in personal appearance; and in men this might cause them to quit shaving. This is frequently accompanied by the Drowning My Sorrows trope.
Subtrope or perhaps Brother Trope to Good Hair, Evil Hair: just as a goatee indicates evil, so does stubble/an unkempt beard indicate squalor. Also a subtrope of Expository Hairstyle Change. See also Mangst. Contrast Perma Stubble, which is the mark of a Badass, and Wangst, which is telling, while this trope is showing. Also contrast Perma Shave, where no facial hair grows.
Tenma from Monster not only ceases to care that his beard is unkempt and his hair growing all over the place, but he goes to the degree of negligence where other characters are complaining of his smell and emaciated appearance.
In the 1986 feature film version of Fist of the North Star, Kenshiro grows a textbook version after he loses to Shin. In the anime, he grows one in the time skip after defeating Raoh.
Soul Eater: Stein grows some stubble when he is framed for killing Buttataki Joe.
Kiryu in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds doesn't grow a beard, (he may not be capable of it) but when he hits a huge slump in Crash Town, his hair grows quite a bit because he's not bothering to cut it.
Commander Erwin from Attack on Titan has one while recovering from the loss of his right arm and processing the fact that all titans may be humans once.
John Constantine of Hellblazer, when he falls into an alcoholic depression and takes to the streets after Kit leaves him.
When Tony Stark/Iron Man became an alcoholic this happened.
Elongated Man: Ralph Dibny grows this after those Running the Asylum at DC decided that a funny, healthy, loving marriage can't exist for as long as his did, and raped andretroactively raped in flashback and killed off his wife Sue. Also, his face looked completely different.
Cyclops: Scott Summers does that a lot. Fans have taken to calling it "The stubble of angst". and comment on how fast he grows it.
Jamie Madrox in the recent X-Factor series grew one, after accidentally absorbing his son.
Cosmo in ElfQuest - The Rebels after he killed someone
Franky grows one in The Goon: Chinatown & the Mystery of Mr. Wicker, when he gives up on life and becomes an alcoholic because Goon loses interest in their criminal enterprises.
One time when Thor came home to find Asgard laid waste and all his friends missing, The Mighty Thor returned to Earth weeks later with a beard. This wasn't so much because he was depressed as because he had been searching for weeks nonstop and just hadn't taken the time to shave. (The beard looked pretty awesome actually, since Thor arguably shouldn't be clean-shaven in the first place.)
Earlier than that, Thor was forced to grow a beard after Hela cursed him to never die, but never allow his wounds to heal. The beard was meant to hide his facial wounds.
Flycatcher in Fables grows a massive orange beard whilst mourning his lost family. He later implies that he hadn't even noticed it.
Superman grows one while traveling space to protect the earth from the split personality he developed out of guilt after executing three Kryptonian criminals, although that may just have been because he didn't pack his shaving kit, since he was going on a voyage into space, after all.
Also, most post-apocalyptic versions of Superman are be shown as having grown-out beards, most likely due to their inability to prevent the aforementioned apocalypse.
Fantastic Four': Reed Richards grew one during his exile in the past. It was lampshade when he told his family that Doc Samson suggested that he shaved it so it won't remind him of the past.
Savage Dragon did this early in his series when a girlfriend was killed.
Bruce Wayne dons one in the Legends of the Dark Knight story "Venom" when he finally emerges from the Batcave after detoxing himself of the titled drug.
In Noob, the Wham Comic was bad news for both one of the male characters and his Fanboy, making both of them grow one.
Played for laughs in The Symphony Verse. Kurt is going to be studying abroad for one semester, meaning that Kurt and Blaine will be apart for almost five months. Blaine decides that this is a good opportunity for him to explore his "rugged mountain man side" and grow a beard in Kurt's honor, which he calls the "Glorious Beard of my Barren Solitude" (GBOMBS for short). He doesn't shave the entire time Kurt is gone, and Kurt's first comment when he comes back to New York is that Blaine looks like the Unabomber.
Ron Burgundy grows one of these in Anchorman right after his career apparently goes down the drain.
In The Butterfly Effect it's subtly used, but there. In the futures that Evan loses Kayleigh in he's always grown out a full beard. When he's still with her in the "frat-boy" future he's shaved it down to a goatee, but it isn't until the very end of the movie, when he's put her being a part of his life behind him that he's clean-shaven.
Forrest Gump decided to just start running non stop after Jenny left him. He didn't care about anything besides running and as a result grew a long beard.
Lt. Dan also has one when he first meets Forrest again after the war.
Hancock's Perma Stubble is eventually revealed to also be a Beard of Sorrow. Having lost his memories and sense of belonging, he's drifted into a self-perpetuating slump. His rise out of this drunken depression is marked by his removing the beard. With his fingers.
Lucius Malfoy sports some stubble on his otherwise aristocratic face after sharing his home with Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. Either he's very worried about Draco, or he just misses "Snakey".
Rainn Wilson's character grows one of these in Hesher after his wife dies in a car accident. At the end, he shaves.
Inverted in The Hobbit: according to Word of God, Thorin Oakenshield has a short beard as a sign of mourning, and might grow the beard again should he succeed in claiming back Erebor.
Inverted in Hostage. Willis actually has a beard and unkempt hair BEFORE the sorrow.
Inception: Cobb, although it may qualify more as a Stubble of Sorrow.
In Jack, Jack grows one of these after he's forbidden to spend time outside due to health problems.
James Bond ends up with a Beard of Imprisonment in Die Another Day, one of the few times he's seen with any kind of facial hair on screen. (His chest hair, on the other hand...)
Mr. Rochester of the 2011 Jane Eyre film has one when Jane goes back to him after she finds out that Thornfield burned to the ground and that Rochester's wife, Bertha Mason, is dead. It's unknown whether he grew the beard after Jane left him or after the fire, though.
Allan in Monkey Shines after his accident: Part of the reason he grew a beard in the first place is that said accident rendered him a quadriplegic and he couldn't shave on his own. However, he only gets his caretaker to shave it once he starts to take a more positive outlook on his life.
Moulin Rouge! opens with a grieving bearded Ewan McGregor. You find out why later.
In Pirates of the Caribbean, Norrington is clean-shaven while he is accepted in society, but while he is disgraced (and has lost his love), he doesn't shave.
Subverted in Rasen: Ando attempts to slash his wrist, but can't go through with it. Cut to him shaving for work.
The recently widowedInspector Lynley stops shaving and washing during his trek along the Cornish coast in Careless In Red.
Captain Blood: His Odyssey: Peter Blood goes through a period like this when depressed after believing he's lost the love of his life:
He was degenerating visibly, under the eyes of all. He had entirely lost the almost foppish concern for his appearance, and was grown careless and slovenly in his dress. He allowed a black beard to grow on cheeks that had ever been so carefully shaven; and the long, thick black hair, once so sedulously curled, hung now in a lank, untidy mane about a face that was changing from its vigorous swarthiness to an unhealthy sallow, whilst the blue eyes, that had been so vivid and compelling, were now dull and lackluster.
Inverted in The Way Of Kings, shaving the beard he grew as a slave is one small piece of Kaladin becoming a warrior once more.
In The Stone Of Tears, while Richard is being hauled down to the Old World to begin training as a wizard, he grows a beard. Although it probably qualifies as a Bad Ass Beard as well, he originally started growing it after he believed Kahlan betrayed him and forced him to go (she really only did it to save his life). He removes it at the end of the book—not shaves it, but uses his magic to make it not exist—at the end when he reunites with Kahlan and all is forgiven.
In Carl Hiaasen's novels, the recurring character of former Florida Governor Clinton "Skink" Tyree. In flashbacks to his governorship, Skink is described as being clean-cut with movie-star looks. After he is run out of office by corrupt special interest lobbyists, Skink takes refuge in the Florida Everglades, where he grows a long beard which he keeps in braids.
In "Person of Interest," John Reese has one in the Pilot, as he's mourning Jessica's death.
In Doctor Who, the Eleventh Doctor grows one of these while held in the Tower of London by the Holy Roman Emperor Winston Churchill. It's a long story.
Burn Notice: In "Good Soldier", Michael Westen adopts the persona of an alcoholic and stops shaving.
Heroes: Nathan Petrelli in Season Two. General reaction among fans (and even Nathan's own kids) was Kill It with Fire - thankfully, it vanished after two episodes.
When House switches to methadone and becomes as happy as House can be, he shaves his Perma Stubble. The other characters are taken aback by this, not to mention the fans.
LOST: Jack at the end of the third season. The beard was massive, probably because it stood for alcohol and pills. Frank Lapidus of the Freighties also sported a beard, as he was busy drinking before being recruited. He shows up again, relatively happier and clean-shaven in season five.
The Office: In the US series, Roy grows a Beard of Sorrow after Pam breaks up with him. This does involve alcohol (and a DUI). Later, reeling after his breakup with Angela, Dwight also rocks the depression stubble.
At the beginning of the second season of 24, Jack has one as he is shown missing his wife and daughter and possibly contemplating suicide. It takes the killing and beheading of a peodophile to snap him out of it and reach for the razor.
He notably has stubble in the TV movie Redemption, as the events of the previous two seasons saw him being tortured beyond the brink physically and mentally and then by the end saw him giving up any sort of a normal life, so at this point he's a shell of his former self.
In Band of Brothers, Don Malarkey has quite a scruffy beard, starting right after two of his best friends get killed, and another has a Heroic BSOD, in episode 7. It's not until episode 10 that he's shown clean shaven and (seemingly) happier.
Scrubs: Dr. Cox after accidentally killing three patients spirals into a depression that involves drinking and growing a much heavier beard (as opposed to the regular stubble he had for much of that season).
Also, Eliot's boyfriend Sean grows an impressive beard in a minimal amount of time after he gets dumped, explaining to J.D. that he is part Bulgarian.
Dr. Romano in ER, after his arm gets cut off by a helicopter blade.
The Shield: Actor David Rees Snell, who played "Ronnie Gardocki" on "The Shield", upgraded in his trademark moustache to a full-fledged beard in between seasons two and three of the series (largely to sidestep the issue of his character being brutally disfigured in season two by having a beard cover up where his scars were). The character shaved off the beard midway through season six, to please a new girlfriend of his, but after finding out that fellow Strike Team member Shane Vendrell had not only murdered Ronnie's friend Lem, and had exposed Vic and Ronnie's involvement in robbing several million dollars from a local crime syndicate's money laundering ring, the beard came back for revenge as Ronnie sought (unsuccessfully) to save himself from being destroyed by Shane and Vic's war.
Titus- In fact, taking time to shave was an indication that he was going sober.
Lucius Vorenus grows a "mourning beard" after his wife dies. His friend Pullo grows one as well out of solidarity.
Angel - Starting towards the end of Season 3 after he gets his throat cut, Wesley, the formerly clean-shaven, glasses-wearing nerd loses his glasses, his boyish optimism, and his boyishly smooth cheeks. He kept it up for the rest of the series, too- this was The Stubble That Would Not Die. According to the Season 6 comics, not even when its owner did. It was part of Wesley's character development, a visual aid to his newly acquired badassery. Alexis Denisof once commented in one of the episode commentaries how difficult it was to maintain the stubble rather than either keeping clean-shaven or just actually growing a full beard. This was also Lampshaded in the memory-loss ep. "Spin The Bottle", where Wesley, who, along with the rest of the gang has woken up thinking he is in high school after a memory spell goes awry, scratches his chin thoughtfully and remarks "I seem to have grown about three days' worth of beard."
There's a triple example during the New Caprica story arc. After the Time Skip humanity is doing pretty crappy and both Saul Tigh and Chief Tyrol sport big scruffy beards while Admiral Adama had a case of a mustache of sorrow. They all lose their facial hair around the same time when the status quo is returned and they're able to leave the planet. Starbuck can also be said to have grown Long Hair of Sorrow during the same arc, while Apollo leaves his hair untampered with but has the Weight Gain of Sorrow to show his misery after Starbuck leaves him, marries Anders, and she and Apollo stop being friends, both of which also go away quickly after they're back on Galactica.
Similarly, Gaius Baltar grows a beard during his trial after the events of New Caprica and loses it once he slips away into hiding.
In an episode of Sledge Hammer!, Sledge starts showing up to work looking disheveled and with unkempt stubble after the love of his life was stolen from him... that love being his gun of course.
On Charmed, after Phoebe rejects and divorces Cole, he grows a beard, goes insane, and attempts suicide only to discover that he's Nigh Invulnerable.
When Grey's Anatomy's Dr McDreamy became depressed about losing a patient, he went dark and twisty and retreated to the woods. While sitting in a lawn chair in front of his trailer, feeling emo and contemplating giving up neurosurgery, his face acquired a startling amount of bush. When he finally got his crap together, and was ready to go back to the hospital and propose to Meredith, the beard disappeared and quite a lot of viewers let out a sigh of relief; if not because of the proposal and his return to work, then because Patrick Dempsey looks a lot cuter clean-shaven.
Also one in the first season. Granted, he's been stranded Robinson Crusoe-style on a planet where technology just...stops working, but then you remember that A) he genuinely believes his shipmates abandoned him, and B) when one looks at the natives, there's not a beard or woman with leg hair in sight.
The first episode of Chuck's third season sees Chuck grow one of these after he loses both Sarah and his spy job. He shaves it off after making the decision to try winning her back. We actually see it growing in a series of cuts as Chuck's life wastes slowly away.
Rob Fitch (Katie and Emily's dad) has one in series 4 of Skinsafter the bank shut down his gym.
Parodied in Weeds by Andy when Nancy leaves to be with her Mexican gangster boyfriend. People keep commenting on it, and he eventually shaves it, after much hilarity.
On That '70s Show, Eric gets one after his breakup with Donna. (Well, the first one.)
In a sixth season episode of Medium Joe grows a Beard of Sorrow while Allison is in a coma. It's a pretty impressive beard, though it turns out to be a dream.
Lampshaded in the season 3 episode of How I Met Your Mother, where Ted grows a beard after breaking up with Robin. Also played with, in that the beard only showed up for less than two minutes of screen time before it was shaved off, in stages, as he kept walking in and out of the bathroom to shave off portions of the beard between taking part in a group conversation in the living room. Each time he comes out of the bathroom, he is given a different name by his friends, including "Old Timey Inventor", "Our 21st President, Chester A. Arthur", and "Persian Nightclub Owner".
Mulder of The X-Files grows one of these in times of stress, ranging from stubble in season 2 when Scully is missing to a full beard in the six-year interim between the end of the series and "I Want to Believe".
Byers has very subtle one. In the episode "Three of a Kind", he has a dream sequence about living the American Dream. At the beginning of the dream he has a short and neat beard, but his beard becomes longer after his dream is shattered.
NCIS: Gibbs, after being blown up, and retires (temporarily). Even if it is just a mustache.
Danny Messer, after being shot in the back on CSI NY. It started with a few month time skip between seasons and then only lasted a few eps after the season opener, getting shaved off when he found he could walk again.
Constable Fraser talks of this happening with his father, Bob Fraser, after his mother's death in Due South. He recalls his dad then suddenly coming out of his depression, shaving, and making breakfast one morning.
Subversion however, in that it's Perma Stubble and he doesn't seem particularly unhappy. That's more due to his new role as The Chessmaster.
After going through a the events of Condemned: Criminal Origins, main character Ethan Thomas went from being a clean cut Federal Agent to a bearded alcoholic transient transient by the time of the sequel. Considering the events of the game, it's hard to blame him.
After getting half his face toasted off and his mother killed at the end of Act 3, Snake spends the Act 4 Briefing of Metal Gear Solid 4 with a stubbly jaw, although he's shaved it off by the time he becomes playable again.
Heavy Rain: After his son Jason is hit by a car in the prologue, a formerly clean shaven Ethan Mars sports a beard for the rest of the game.
He will shave it at the end of the game if his other son Shaun is saved and he forgave Madison. He will appear beardless in a scene of the epilogue where he is looking for a new place to stay with Madison.
Both Kane and Lynch games have Kane with one. He grows one in the first game's final act after his wife is murdered by The7 and he is forced to travel to Cuba to get revenge. He begins Dog Days with one after his daughter tells him to his face that she hates him and never wants to see him again.
In the trailer for Gears of War 3, Dom is shown with a heavy beard. This is likely due to the fact that he was forced to mercy kill his wife in Gears of War 2.
Max Payne has this in the upcoming third game, in addition to being fat and bald.
By Mass Effect 3, the default male Commander Shepard's perma-stubble has begun to evolve into one.
Jim Raynor in StarCraft II. It's four years after the Brood War, where the woman he loved used him, betrayed him, and killed off many dear friends. Mengsk's propaganda machine has marginalized him and his rebellion, making it nearly impossible to fight effectively. Jim's taken to drink and become far more bedraggled in appearance than he was in the first game.
Steve from Questionable Content grows one after a break-up. He is also seen drinking heavily. He keeps it after getting better, albeit groomed instead of fluffy-lion mane.
Indie Rock Pete from Diesel Sweeties can literally grow a beard as he is told depressing news.
Something Positive: Davan grows a beard when his mother dies and he becomes focused with taking care of his father. Ironically, he still has this beard once he gets over his issues and is seen smiling. He eventually shaves it off, but no show is made over it.
In The Gamer's Alliance, Refan grows a beard after the Cataclysm because he feels he betrayed the world for not killing his brother when he had the chance, which might have prevented the rise of the Godslayer.
Tariq grows a beard at the start of KateModern series 2, apparently out of grief.
Futurama: Whenever Bender stops drinking, he develops a beard-shaped patch of rust. Fry occasionally develops a Beard of Sorrow in a few episodes.
Homer Simpson of The Simpsons. He grew it over the course of one day — could sorrow increase the growth rate of a beard?
And Smithers, during the 'Who shot Mr. Burns?' plotline.
Sol Butcher of Sons Of Butcher has one of these in the pilot episode, and it reappears several times through the series. He actually refers to it as his "Alcoholic Beard".
Being prepubescent, Aang of Avatar: The Last Airbender had to grow Hair Of Sorrow after being killed and brought back to life. During that period he was forced to let people continue to think he was dead, which didn't sit well with him. He shaved it again right before leading the attack on the Fire Nation capital on the dramatically named Day of Black Sun.
After The Venture Bros.' first (onscreen) death, Dr. Venture grows such a beard while traveling around the world "finding himself".
Clone!Roy Harper sports one during the five-year time skip in Young Justice after a dose of Cloning Blues
A common symptom of depression is that sufferers stop caring for their appearance, so beards of sorrow are pretty common in Real Life.
Inverted by Alexander the Great who reputedly shaved off all his hair after the death of his lover Hephaistion. At the time, this was a standing custom.
Vice President Al Gore gained weight and grew a scraggly beard after losing the Presidential Election in 2000. He was one of a handful of candidates to win the popular vote, yet not the office, so if he was kinda depressed for a while, it would be no surprise.
There is a tradition of Popes growing beards when Rome is conquered.
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer grew his beard as a sign of mourning after Henry VIII's death. Cranmer may have been the only person in England who was genuinely sorry Henry was gone.
It is customary for Jewish men to not shave during the Shiva, the customary week of grief and mourning. Some actually extend this to a full month.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Strike Beard; both David Letterman and Conan O'Brien developed impressive beards after vanishing from the air during the WGA strike. They didn't last long, but they made an impact. Stephen Colbert, of course, parodied this by having a massive Rip van Winkle beard the first time he appeared after the strike.
Many people noted that during the breakup of The Beatles and the stress that resulted, Paul McCartney grew a beard, something he was not previously known to do (even when the other Beatles were experimenting with facial hair, McCartney was usually noticeably clean-shaven) and only rarely seen to do since. It was suggested that this trope might have something to do with it.
Jim Morrison of The Doors grew a beard while in depression before he died. He was noted as taking heavy drugs and drinking a lot of alcohol, so the beard was just the finishing touch.
Christian singer/songwriterSteven Curtis Chapman has had a clean-shaven appearance for most of his career. He grew a beard for a while in 2008-2009, after the death of his youngest daughter that because the subject of his album Beauty Will Rise.
A standing custom in Roman times was to wear ragged clothing and stop shaving or cutting their hair to show mourning or to inspire pity when prosecuted.
After the disastrous battle of the Teutoburg Forest, the Roman Emperor Augustus had a breakdown, letting his beard grow, banging his head against the walls, and shouting "Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!" Varus had led the 17th, 18th and 19th Roman legions, all of which were destroyed by German troops; Varus himself fell on his sword to avoid capture and execution.
M. Porcius Cato the Censor, who grew his beard during the civil war between Caesar and Pompey, and mourned every Roman citizen who died.
This extends to myth as well. Charon, the Greek/Roman ferryman of the dead, is portrayed as being permanently dirty, disheveled and unshaven, since, as someone who always deals with the dead, he's in a constant state of mourning.
A former example - Gary Weddle of Ephrata, Washington is a high school teacher. After the events of September 11 2001, he vowed not to shave his beard until Osama bin Laden was either dead or in US custody. At the time of his decision he thought it would only take a few months; as time went on he had to start explaining to incoming freshman classes the whats and whys behind his facial hair, the students having been too young to remember the events of that day. Mr. Weddle ended up bearded for nearly ten years and ultimately bore some resemblance to the infamous terrorist before bin Laden's death in May 2011 allowed him to shave again.
There's an old Italian custom; when a loved one has died, a man doesn't shave until the funeral.
Kaiser Wilhelm II grew a beard during his exile in the Netherlands. There are very few potos of him during this period, so that's why the Kaiser Beard is not nearly as famous as the Kaiser Moustache.
Some Valentine Tapley swore to never shave again if Lincoln was elected in 1860. He died in 1910.◊
Some Taiwanese/Chinese people don't shave after the death of a loved one as a sign of grieving.