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What Is a Van Dyke Beard?

Rachael Cullins
Rachael Cullins

A Van Dyke beard is a style of facial hair featuring a mustache and a goatee with no hair on the cheeks. The style originated with 17th-century Dutch painter Anthony Van Dyck and is also known as a Van Dyck or a Vandyck beard. The beard has many variations. Today, it is most commonly worn in a closely-trimmed version, most notably, by several prominent celebrities and public figures.

The namesake of the Van Dyck beard, Anthony Van Dyck, styled his beard with a long, full mustache, curled at the ends, and a short, narrow goatee. Van Dyck was one of the primary portrait painters in England in the 1600s, painting King Charles I, among other notable figures. Charles I also sported a Van Dyke beard, leading some to call the style a “Charlie.” The beard was popular throughout Europe in the 1600s, falling out of style thereafter. The style became popular in the United States in the 19th century and was worn, most notably, by General George Custer, who wore the beard with a long moutache.

General George Custer was known for wearing a Van Dyke beard.
General George Custer was known for wearing a Van Dyke beard.

Modern variants on the beard’s original style make it relatively popular in the early 21st century. The modern Van Dyke beard features a neatly trimmed mustache and goatee either connected or not connected. The most common way to wear the style is to shave a bit of space between the moustache and goatee. The soul patch portion of the style — the small section of hair just below the bottom lip — can either be shaved off, connected to the goatee, or stand alone with space between it and the goatee.

Several well-known figures wear the Van Dyke beard. American actor Johnny Depp wears the style as did fellow actor Brad Pitt, both closely trimmed and with a long goatee. Former American Vice President, Al Gore, briefly wore a Van Dyke. Colonel Sanders, the icon representing the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant chain, has a variation on the beard.

To grow a Van Dyke beard, it may be best to initially begin with a full beard. All the hair should be shaved from the cheeks and the mustache and goatee shaped to the desired length. The connecting hair between the mustache and goatee can then be shaved, if a traditional Van Dyke beard is desired. This style requires regular maintenance and trims.

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    • General George Custer was known for wearing a Van Dyke beard.
      General George Custer was known for wearing a Van Dyke beard.