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What Are Mutton Chops?

Gregory Hanson
Gregory Hanson

A pair of mutton chops is a style of facial hair. Sideburns are allowed to grow out, as are the whiskers spreading out from them on either cheek. The end result of this process is shaped somewhat like an actual mutton chop, with a narrow top corresponding to the bone where the beard blends into the hair, and a flared lower portion corresponding to the actual cut of mutton on each cheek. Some variations on this style exist as well, and the length of whiskers in mutton chops can vary greatly.

Beards and mustaches have been sported by men in many societies throughout human history, and men have experimented with sideburns as well. Mutton chops truly came to prominence during the Victorian period. Facial hair in general had fallen largely out of favor during the era of the Enlightenment. This trend was reversed in the middle of the 19th century, however, and facial hair of all sorts came back into vogue. Well-known men of the era, such as Charles Darwin, were known to sport mutton chops in respectable society.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

This style of facial hair fell gradually back into obscurity during the early years of the 20th century. Mutton chops have been revived to some extent in the early 21st century, as men have sought out new styles and ways to make an impression. The emergence of a small but passionate steampunk community, dedicated to recreating some of the aesthetics of the Victorian era, has contributed to this process. Rock musicians looking to stand out from a crowd have rediscovered this look as well.

Victorian mutton chops tended to be long and bushy. Some modern men copy this hairstyle, but more often, modern versions of this style feature whiskers that have been more carefully trimmed and closely cropped. This lends modern beards a more precise and orderly appearance.

Some variations on this classic facial hair style exist. The term “friendly mutton chops” can be applied to a pair of chops linked together by a mustache. A mustache in this facial hair style is typically grown to the same length as are the sideburns to tie the entire look together.

Growing this type of beard is not particularly difficult. Some men may have facial hair that is too patchy to grow full chops, however. Others may have difficulty keeping the whiskers on each side of the face even and may prefer to have a barber groom and trim their beards.

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