Berzinsky’s grooming bits do well. One, called “How I Style My Beard,” has more than 2.9 million views. His message is self-effacing and surprisingly relatable. Though he sports a stunning beard, he reminds viewers that he wasn’t able to grow it until he was about 50. He refers to his beard as a “comb-over,” meaning it achieves its gloriously dense appearance only once it has reached a certain length. Many beards are that way. “I think people look up to me as a father figure,” Berzinsky said when I called him recently. “I get a lot of people asking for advice. And then because my beard came in late, I offer hope to a lot of guys who have weaker beards maybe in their 20s.”
Berzinsky sometimes makes videos with his son, Victor, 22, who can grow a dense chinstrap and sideburns but not much on his upper lip. “I cannot grow my father’s famous handlebar mustache, which is kind of surprising to both of us,” he says in an early video. It’s okay, though; Victor works with what he has. He got a retro sideburn trim from his dad on camera, and later a barber helped him rock a Wolverine-style look (also on camera). Now commenters on his Instagram call him Logan, after the X-Men character. His father loves it. The internet, Greg told me, has given men the freedom to talk about grooming. “It’s not about being masculine. It’s almost clinical,” he said. “I have that car, and I have this beard. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re less a man because you spend five minutes on your beard.”
If straight, cisgender men do feel more comfortable with blow-dryers and cleansers and creams, credit is at least partially due to Jeff Falberg, who started Beard Board 18 years ago. Falberg, alias “the Goatee King,” is a 54-year-old dad in Bridgeport, Connecticut, whose passions include video games and long-distance running. A software engineer, he recently returned to work after two years out of a job. On the phone, he comes across as soft-spoken and almost frustratingly modest. “We just want people to be happy, and try to help them with what they want to achieve,” he said.
The story of Beard Board starts with a costume. Falberg, who had long worn a mustache, decided to dress up for Halloween as Mark McGwire, the electrifying slugger for the St. Louis Cardinals. The costume called for a goatee. Halloween parties came and went, but the new look remained, and it kept filling in. At a certain point, Falberg posted pictures to a now-defunct site called Beard and Mustache Oasis. “I was encouraged by the friendliness of the people there,” he said. “They encouraged me to keep going. I’d say 20 years after the fact, I’m still happy with what I have.”
Falberg calls Beard Board “more of a hobby than anything.” He’s not as actively engaged with the forum as he once was, letting his staff of volunteer moderators and administrators (with honorific titles such as Beard Wizard, Beard Legend, and Beard Titan) keep it running. The site, which sits on a platform called Tapatalk, hosts ads but hardly makes any money, Falberg told me. He said it receives an average of 150 new posts and comments a day—not a huge number, but not nothing. As we spoke, I couldn’t help but wonder why he hadn’t turned Beard Board into a full-time gig—upgrading the website, promoting products, turning a profit. He deflected, saying he didn’t have the time or the energy, at least not as a solo entrepreneur. “Family seems to come first,” he said.