It used to be that things were simple: The Heroes had faces smoother than a baby's bottom and Villains had long, thin, oily moustaches to twirl after tying the Distressed Damsel to a set of train tracks. Then along came the grizzled Drifter with his five o'clock shadow, The Gunslinger with his proud beard, and other Antiheroes who broke out of old archetypes. Thanks to these brave pioneers in the fight for facial follicle freedom it's been okay for heroes to have beards, villains to be clean-shaven, and Antiheroes to blur the lines. However, much like superhero costumes there are still guidelines for who can get away with what.
By default Heroes tend towards clean shaves, whether it's because of artistic inertia or simple cultural popularity is up for grabs.note It is worth noting that the last United States President with any facial hair whatsoever is William Howard Taft, meaning our last century of Presidents has been clean-shaven. Sometimes movies made in countries or/of eras that are friendlier to facial hair have a higher number of heroes and extras with beards and moustaches, though it is still very common to find anachronistically clean shaven male main characters. A full, thick, and above all well trimmed beard is almost always a sign of the good guys (Dwarfs, Santa, mentor characters, etc). The Obi-Wan often has one, as do religious leaders (particularly rabbis, with length indicating level of orthodoxy and seniority). You will never, ever see a good character with a Fu Manchu moustache, nor one with a pencil thin moustache, unless you are watching an Errol Flynn movie, or in fact any movie from the 1930s or 40s. Stubbles are an exception, as they're usually a sign of Antiheroism and Badassitude.
Villains with beards tend to either have long wispy ones, short fancy ones, or wild and unkempt ones. This depends entirely on what flavor their villainy has. Sophisticated villains tend towards clean shaves and devil goatees and will almost always be very fastidious about their appearance. Savage villains are likelier to have a full on uncontrolled beard, possibly with braids or dreadlocks. Back alley thugs or unsavory types are likely to keep thin and scraggly beards, in line with their ratty appearance.
An Anti-Hero, of course, can go either way, although they rarely have the wispy beards. Perma Stubble is popular for antiheroic characters (as well as the generally badass) as a contrast to clean-shaven heroes. One pop culture extreme is to get incredibly elaborate patterns in a full beard. Again, this depends on if the Anti-Hero is the grungy unkempt kind or is going for a Blade like extravagance.
For Evil Minions and foot soldiers one of the few perks they enjoy is complete freedom to go overboard with their beards: long braids, intricate patterns, pencil thin flame designs and more are common. The punk/grunge/barbarian image their intricate styles boast is an excellent cue that they'll soon be wishing they'd spent less time grooming and more practicing to dodge an Offhand Backhand.
Slicked-back hair seems to be a common feature of a number of school bullies and evil businessmen types.
Whether a woman's hairstyle is good or evil depends on when the show was filmed. The good hairstyle of 2009 — long, sexy, but not too smooth — would have been seen only on a villain (like Cruella Deville) fifty years earlier. In contrast, the bad hairstyle of 2009 — big, teased, with floofy bangs — was the good hairstyle of 1985. The implication is that heroines are slaves of fashion while villains are dowdy and out of date.
See also Expository Hairstyle Change, Expressive Hair, Evil Brunette Twin, Funny Afro, Hair Colors, Hair Reboot, Important Haircut, Beard of Evil and Bald of Evil. Compare Good Scars, Evil Scars.
Examples of Characters who Exemplify or Just Have Particular Facial and Head Hairstyles:
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The Obi Wan and Other Mentors
These type of characters often have a neat full beard — especially if they are a wise old wizard. The odder the mentor, the less tidy his beard.
Invoked in Real LifeImperial Germany where teachers were contractually required to wear a beard.
Belgarath of the Belgariad has a neatly trimmed beard. His "brothers" (fellow disciples of the God Aldur) also have beards - long and wispy for the twins Beltira and Belkira, and unkempt birds-nest for Beldin.
A famous example in Commander William Riker's beard in Star Trek: The Next Generation which not only signaled the moment when he was a Kirk clone no more but also created the trope Growing the Beard marking when the series started improving to become the television classic it would be.
These type of characters are pretty likely to have a Thick Moustache or Porn Stache, though this is the hardest hair to pin down. This is something of a Justified Trope insofar as before 1980, the dress codes of some urban police departments mandated mustaches for men, as there was a perception that they made cops look older and more authoritative. Even now "moustache" is a French slang term for "policeman." In British shows senior military personnel will often have a moustache for similar reasons, probably a Kitchener-style handlebar.
Anime and Manga
Soichiro Yagami in Death Note (with the exception of the live-action movies) - subject to a Lampshade Hanging about he is "obviously a cop".
Captain Gordon from Godzilla Final Wars sported a badass moustache, which suited a character so awesome he only spoke English in a Japanese movie (that and he was willing to take on Godzilla in a fistfight).
In the live-action Transformers film, Barricade's holographic driver was a police officer simply called "mustache man" by the filmmakers.
In the Twilight movies, Charlie Swan has an awesome 'stache.
Monk's Captain Stottlemeyer sports this distinctive mustache.
Lampshaded on That '70s Show when Kelso joins the police academy and grows a mustache purely because of his new career choice.
In keeping with some of the more "mildly trustworthy" points on the scale illustrated, Ray Carling from Life On Mars and Ashes to Ashes has a droopy moustache which could either be full or the "RS Jake" horseshoe, and he is often rather more on the Cowboy Cop end of things for Sam Tyler or Alex Drake's comfort.
In A Game of Thrones, where Dothraki men wear their hair long, and it's considered the height of masculinity as a warrior must cut his hair if he loses a fight, so the longer his hair, the longer he's been winning. Khal Drogo died with his hair never cut. Not many men can say that.
Morgana and Guinevere from Merlin. In Guinevere's Rags to Riches story-arc she goes from practical buns to long, flowing hair, whilst Morgana's Jumping Off the Slippery Slope arc takes her from shiny, flowing tresses to a bird's nest of messy hair that seems to include dreadlocks.
On Smallville every single one of Clark's love interests have long hair, Lana in particular; contrast with his Unlucky Childhood Friend Chloe, whose hair never goes past her shoulders.
Subverted by the perceptions of the ancient Spartans, who considered their warriors as the pinnacle of masculine beauty with their muscles and long hair. There's a story that Spartan law required men to wear their hair long, as it made the handsome ones look even more handsome and the ugly ones even uglier. Before fighting, they would often get their hair styled as part of their preparation for death.
Although according to legend this was because after a certain war against their eternal rivals Argos the Spartans, who up until then had worn their hair short, started to wear it long while it was vice versa for the Argives.
In The Middle Ages, long hair was a mark of a free man; serfs had to wear it short. In Bavaria, "G'scherter" (shorn one) is still an insult meaning something like "ignorant peasant".
Unkempt, shaggy, or long hair
This type of hair on a man often indicates that he is a Nature Hero, or otherwise close to nature.
Anime and Manga
Oliver Queen started out clean-shaven in the comic-books as well. When Denny O'Neil started writing him and he became a hippie (Queen, that is, not O'Neil.), he grew his goatee in part to signify that he was 'hip' and 'sticking it to The Man.
That, and it would offer a nice contrast with his clean-shaved temporary partner Hal "Green Lantern" Jordan.
It's debatable whether he's a good character, an Anti-Hero, or just a Magnificent Bastard, but Willy Wonka sports a black goatee. At least in the original book he does: both films have him appear clean-shaven. Douglas Hodge went with a goatee and a thin, neatly-shaped mustache as Wonka in the 2013 stage adaptation, a combination that suggests this particular Wonka is, indeed, antiheroic. His successor in the role, Alex Jennings, returned to the clean-shaven approach (though when he first publicly performed as the character at the 2014 Olivier Awards, he did have the goatee/mustache combo).
Ironically, the very goatee styled as "Very Evil" in the picture above sat one the only non-evil character in his entire universe: Mirror Spock, who was at worst an anti-hero and more likely a hero with a bad start, and either way a Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
Marcus Cole of Babylon 5 has very villain-typical black hair and facial hair, despite being heroic, self-sacrificing, and occasionally outright silly.
Gordon Freeman of Half-Life fame mixes the mentor's full beard with a more compact cut when battling oppression and Eldritch Abominations. Apparently even the G-Man thought it was cool enough to keep, despite being a cold, logical person, and practically owning Gordon's soul.
Ezio Auditore da Firenze from the Assassin's Creed series. Since we meet Ezio when he is seventeen and see the rest of his life, we also see the development of the beard.
The Prince in the Prince of Persia series sports a goatee, but is a fairly classic hero much of the time.
Jak trades in his soulpatch for a goatee at the start of Jak 3: Wastelander. His personality changes as well: though still bitter and an Anti-Hero, he's decidedly less tortured and no longer hell-bent on revenge.
Real life king of Sweden Karl IX (ruled 1604-1611) not only sported a van Dyck, he also arranged the hair on his balding head in the shape of a cross. If this is good or bad hair will be left unsaid, he DID order a bloodbath to get rid of some rivals...
Fu Manchu Mustaches and/or Wispy Beards
This type of facial hair is usually on characters who are villains and/or are Asian.
Anime and Manga
Pai Mei in Kill Bill is one of the few Asian heroes with one. Granted, he was a dick.
And in his original appearances in 60s kung fu flicks, he was an outright villain.
Indeed, Bill describes him as a rotten bastard who's massacred hundreds for reasons as petty as not returning to his friendly nod. He just happens to be mentoring the morally grey protagonist for awhile.
For what it's worth, not returning a superior's bow WAS and is a really big deal in many Asian cultures, but massacring hundreds of peaceful monks was still a thoroughly evil reaction.
Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta Ruddigore makes heavy use of this trope: Sir Despard Murgatroyd, the evil Baron of Ruddigore, usually has an evil goatee. Upon his Heel-Face Turn, he shaves it off, whilst his brother Ruthven grows a twirly mustache and does a simultaneous Face-Heel Turn, also donning a monocle and top hat. Upon Ruthven's Heel-Face Turn at the end, he discards these. Also, Ruthven's sidekick Old Adam's beard usually gets much scruffier when he is evil.
The Master from Doctor Who sports a goatee in the incarnations played by both Roger Delgado and Anthony Ainley.
Another "Mirror, Mirror" homage comes from MST3K, in which Crow gets transported into an alternate dimension version of Deep 13 run by an Evil Mike. Evil Mike has a goatee.
In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Point of View", Apophis in the Alternate Universe had a goatee, as did Teal'c (who, in this universe, was still his First Prime). In the fourth season, "our" Teal'c himself sported a goatee (actually it was more like a chin caterpillar) for a short while.
Perhaps inspired by "Mirror, Mirror" (Spock and Teal'c are both The Stoic of their teams), the alternate universe Teal'cs seem to be exactly the same except for their varying hair styles.
Also, the villain Heru'ur also sports a goatee, complete with Bald of Evil.
The evil goatee originated with one of the most memorable episodes from Star Trek: The Original Series, Mirror Mirror, with a trip to a Mirror Universe of evil duplicates. Spock's duplicate had the goatee; ironically, he was the only one who wasn't really evil.
About 13 minutes into DS9 episode "Defiant", we see William Riker (a good guy; see way, way, above) pull off the sides to reveal himself to actually be... William "Tom" Riker, his transporter-produced twin, who now wears an ("evil") goatee instead of a ("good") full beard! Oh no!
In thisDarths & Droids webcomic, Governor Sio Bibble, Queen Amidala's trusted advisor, is described as having a goatee, although it actually seems to be just a beard. Based the description, the players immediately decide he can't be trusted. Bonus points for linking to both this page and Evil Chancellor.
In the evil mirror universe of Dinosaur Comics, the protagonists all have goatees. Even being big reptiles. The arc begins here.
The Order of the Stick played this one straight: Elan's evil twin Nale sports a goatee — and Haley, being Genre Savvy, suspected he was evil well before it was actually revealed for exactly this reason. Nale later takes advantage of this by cutting off his own goatee and sticking it to Elan's chin with Sovereign Glue. Nale also later admits he sports a goatee in honour of this trope, saying it is not just for show, it is a part of the Linear Guild's whole evil opposites theme.
Many James Bond supporting characters fall into this, although no Big Bad in any Bond film was bearded until Hugo Drax in Moonraker.
In Hitchcock's Topaz, most Cubans had Fidel Castro's beard, and even uniform, maybe suggesting a personality cult or anything. They were sometimes hard to differentiate: the main villain, fortunately was red-bearded. Fortunately, female Cubans did not sport beards.
Many characters in the Anthology ComicThe Beano have toothbrush moustaches including the Teacher from Bash Street Kids, Dennis the Menace's Dad and Minnie the Minx's Dad. All of these characters originated from the 1950s and nothing is often said about these moustaches they are just there.
Older versions of J. Jonah Jameson from Spider-Man has this kind of moustache.
Barty Crouch has one of these in the Harry Potter books, for some reason. He's a textbook Well-Intentioned Extremist, and he had massive political ambitions in his heyday... it doesn't gel very well, but it does gel just enough to make you wonder if Rowling is just that riled up about government excesses.
One of Isaac Asimov's short mysteries averts this when a distinctly admirable high-school principal is described as having "a brief moustache of the kind Adolf Hitler had put out of fashion for at least a generation."
This kind of moustache is a classic look for black hat villains in Wild West serials. Extra points if it's curled into twin spirals. Other than Hercule Poirot, it's hard to imagine anyone but a villain or a Smug Snake with one of these.
Anime and Manga
Oddly, inverted in LazyTown by the hero Sportacus, who wears a pencil mustache so sharp it looks like it could double as a scalpel.
This is further inverted by Harmless Villain Robbie Rotten, who is clean shaven to the point you wonder if the actor isn't wearing a rubber mask (actually, he kind of is). His otherwise meticulous good grooming is also a bit off on the evil-dress-o-meter, but being in a dark purple color scheme helps.
One short for Dexter's Laboratory had Dexter artificially grow a super beard and pair up with Action Hank to fight a cartel of evil bearded men, all of whom use "beard fu". After beating the rasta and long bearded henchmen, Hank and Dexter face off against the Big Bad french chef, who along with his pencil mustache had a sheathed sword-sharp goatee!
Captain Hook is usually portrayed with a wax-tipped pencil mustache, with or without the curls. See Disney's Peter Pan and the live-action Hook.
In Buffy the Vampire Slayer you can usually tell how villainous or sympathetic Spike is meant to be in a given episode by where his hair is on the spectrum between tousled (Anti-Hero) and slick (villain).
On the topic of Ace Attorney, Manfred von Karma's Beethoven-ish hairstyle probably counts.
In Devil May Cry, Vergil, Dante's evil twin and main villain of the third game, has slicked-back hair. The game even includes two dramatic cutscenes of him slicking it back after it gets out of place, and seeing him do this in UMvC3 heralds incoming pain.
George Strombolopoulous, former Muchmusic VJ and current host of the CBC talk show The Hour, sports one of these. Since The Hour is seen by some as a transparent attempt by the CBC to appear hip and draw in younger viewers, George's anti-hero status is disputed.
A Five O'Clock Shadow or Perma Stubble
This kind of facial hair is a classic way of saying "gritty".
Wolverine's face is pretty consistently fuzzy while rarely ever being clean shaven. One almost wonders if it's one of his mutant powers. Yet he never acquires a real beard beyond those sideburns.
Wolverine is also notable for his super-hairstyle, which always forms two neat peaks at the sides, just like his mask. He once disguised himself beyond recognition by shaving his head.
As a matter of fact, his hairstyle is a function of his regenerating ability, according to some sources. Notice how his hair returns to normal after he's reduced to a skeleton.
In the Weapon X limited series by Barry Windsor-Smith, the crew at Weapon X remove all of Logan's hair before the procedure. However, just a few minutes in they notice it's growing back at a highly accelerated rate.
The mercenary drow elf Downer, titular Anti-Hero of the comic by Kyle Hunter, sports tousled hair and shaggy side-burns despite the fact that D elves usually have no facial or body hair. But then, Downer is a tough-as-nails loveable rogue and proven loser who only survives by wit, reflexes, dark gallows-humour and a lot of fast-talking his way out of situations (except when he actually dies, which happens a couple of times, and is brought back from the dead by magic, usually to punish him further).
Indiana Jones apparently shaves when lecturing students but gets instant perma-stubble when adventuring.
Max Carrigan of Across the Universe isn't precisely in the antihero category (more like the leftovers in the Two Guys and a Girl setup) but features something resembling perma-stubble in his earlier scenes and something closer to a scruffy hippie beard in the later.
Wesley Wyndham-Pryce of Angel gained a permanent stubble when he Took a Level in Badass and started Dating Catwoman. Lampshaded in that he had a reason to suddenly stop shaving: his throat had been cut, and the wound rather got in the way.
Gregory House of House usually has this. In fact, being shaved in a 5th season episode was an indication that he is a bit Out of Character.
Jack Shepherd, from LOST, not only has five o'clock shadow, it DOESN'T GROW FOR 108 DAYS. After he leaves the island, though, he is shown with a Beard of Sorrow after three years. Think of all the money he saves on razors.
They did actually show him shaving with scavenged razors at least once while on the Island. Most of the men of the show had surprisingly permanent shadows for a long time, although some did advance into full on beards.
Shawn Spencer from Psych nearly always has stubble as well as an amazing head of hair in which he takes great pride. He and Gus also judge other people by their hairstyles.
Lassiter: At this point it looks like an accident.
Shawn: Like your hair.
Lassiter: Really? Down to hair jokes, now?
Extradition British Columbia:
Shawn: Is your hair starting its own cult?
Any Given Friday Night at 10pm, 9pm Central.
Shawn: Lassie, your haircut is worse than Joyce Hyser's in Just One of the Guys.
Dr. Cox of Scrubs sometimes falls into this one. Usually head first.
The Tenth Doctor on Doctor Who has permanent five o'clock shadow. Seems due less to directorial intent than to the fact that David Tennant's face is too meatless and bony to hide even the tiniest hint of stubble.
Parodied in the Excel♥Saga episode "Butt Out, Youth!", where all the delinquents have ridiculous pompadours. The toughest of them all, Binbou, has a pompadour that extends about fifteen feet.
Ditto Amamiya Ryu aka Bokuto no Ryu from Shaman King, who not only has a six-foot pompadour, but also a six-foot-long pompadour-shaped motorcycle helmet. He's also VERY pissed off when one of his rivals cuts his pompadour in half.
Hanamichi Sakuragi from Slam Dunk has one of these in the first part of the series. He shaves it later as self-punishment for the loss against Kainan.
In at least one case, Spider-Man 3, the eponymous hero fixes his hair to match the evilness imparted by his badass new black suit. Taken from a thread discussing the movie: "Evil hair. Because that's what people do when they give in to the forces of evil and hatred. They mess up their hair."
There is, in fact, one of The Simpsons Halloween specials wherein Snake, the notorious white trash criminal, gives his hair to be donated after he has been executed. It is given to Homer, and the Evil Hair makes him kill Apu, Moe, threaten Bart, and otherwise epitomize Bad.
Harold:(to a Viking, believing him to be Billy misbehaving) Young man, you can be rude, break furniture, run up phone bills, shave the cat, and even harass your mother! But when you mess with the pomp, it's GO TIME!
Power Hair is the usual symbol of a female politician.
Crew Cuts are associated with male Yanks with Tanks and other militaries.
The mohawk. Good guys with this type of hair tend to be rebellious or gentle despite appearances. Bad guys tend to be savages or criminals.
Blake and Gan from Blake's 7 both have curly hair and are both (initially) the most innocent characters - Gan is literally incapable of killing anyone in a Life Is Cheap universe and Blake remains a comparatively innocent idealist in a crew comprised of convicted criminals - he is the only one innocent of the charges against him.
Chuck Bartowski from the NBC series Chuck sports curly hair, and either an ear to ear smile, or a sad kicked puppy face.
OK, the Fourth Doctor doesn't quite count as innocent, but definitely on the side of the good guys.
He's definitely one of the more light-hearted incarnations, however. And probably the most iconic.
The Eighth Doctor has rather long curly locks, and starts out quite innocent and childlike due to an unfortunate spot of amnesia. Even when he starts getting his memory back, he's still very pacifistic and forgiving. Another aspect of his appearance which emphasizes his innocence: he walks around barefoot for quite a few scenes (even though he apparently doeslike shoes).
Fran Drescher of The Nanny belongs firmly in this category.
Ironically, Faith had curly or wavy dark hair by default, yet when she had her Face-Heel Turn and she became a little Ax-Crazy in the third season her hair was worn straight.
Glory had strawberry blonde, wavy hair making her looked innocent but also Ax-Crazy.
While certainly not Ax-Crazy, the curly-haired Sixth Doctor from Doctor Who was one of the Doctor's nastier and more unstable incarnations.
The Fourth Doctor belongs in both connotations of the trope due to being Creepy Cute in both appearance and personality. He's childlike and quirky and hopelessly adorable, but also capable of doing unspeakable things while smiling about it.
River Song. She's one of the good guys, usually, but was raised from birth to be an assassin, identifies herself as a 'psychopath' and makes Daleks beg for mercy.
Sabine from The Order of the Stick is one of the very few curly-haired characters in the comic, although it's her red leather outfit that actually tips off the Genre Savvy Haley to the fact that she's evil...
The Makara family in Homestuck all have curly hair of an impressive size. They worship the main villain and his sister. There's also )(er Imperious Condescension, who has spectacularly large and curly hair, to the point where one wonders how she can handle it underwater.