With everybody and their grandmother rocking a beard these days it is hard to stand out by growing some facial hair.
This beard trend really sucked the fun and originality out of having facial hair to make a statement.
That is unless you grow out some mutton chops.
This timeless sideburn style is different enough to look edgy, and also classic enough to give a retro vibe.
In this article I will go over some tips on how to grow them, how to maintain them and what styles you can choose from.
What is a mutton chop?
If you ask anybody what it is these days, they will tell you that a mutton chop is a long, thick sideburn.
Back in the day, people knew that mutton was a sheep and was eaten very often. Think of what a pork chop looks like and then all you have to do is connect the dots that lamb also has chops that look similar.
Since more people ate mutton than pork as it was, and still is, a cheap cut of meat they nicknamed that style of sideburn after the ovine version rather than swine.
If you look sideways at a mutton chop, you can see how it looks like a bone with a chunk of meat at the end.
Sideburns vs Mutton Chops
When does a sideburn become a mutton chop?
Sideburns can really vary in length according to how one’s beard grows as well as what somebody’s personal style dictates.
So when exactly do you start calling long sideburns mutton chops?
Sideburns can be long, but the general rule is that they end at the bottom of the ear at their longest length. Beyond just how long they are, they are also straight. Basically they stay rectangular and an even width from where they meet the hairline to where they end around the bottom of the ear. Those are just long sideburns.
When the end of the sideburn flares out and has a more unusual shape, again similar to the rib chop of a cut of mutton, then it is a mutton chop.
There are different kinds to choose from, which I will go into in a bit. There are variations that can be attached to a mustache, or some that are shaved tightly or some that grow quite wild.
Who should wear mutton chops?
It may seem obvious that mutton chops are not for everybody.
Do you work in a creative type of job? Then you can likely get away with mutton chops.
Do you have a button down corporate job? Unless you are looking for creative ways to get fired then the mutton chops are probably not going to work in this environment.
Back in the day, mutton chops were in style among the military elite like generals and commanders. Nowadays it is a symbol for those that are a bit rebellious and like to forge their own path.
Am I talking about hipsters? Well, a hipster could certainly get away with mutton chops. Really anybody who is kind of counter culture or a creative type. Maybe somebody rebellious.
Of course, anybody who thinks it would suit their style could wear them but I have to say not everybody can pull it off.
What are “Friendly Mutton Chops Beards”?
When I first heard the term friendly Mutton Chops, I assumed it was meant to be a style that wouldn’t make you come across as an outlaw biker. I figured maybe a librarian or Walmart greeter should grow them.
Then I asked around and I learned that Friendly Mutton Chops beards just has to do with the fact that there is a mustache connecting the two sideburns. It’s almost like the mustache forms two shaking hands indicating that the two separate chops are friends with each other.
Hence the term “Friendly Mutton Chops Beards”.
Kind of a stretch, I know and not exactly intuitive, but that is what it means.
How to Grow and Shape Friendly Mutton Chops
There are no set rules exactly for how wide or long your chops should be for a friendly mutton chop shape.
My opinion is that they look best when cut close around the edges and then trimmed down to a moderate length.
Let your beard grow out for a couple of weeks to have enough length to be able to envision exactly the shape that you want. When you only have stubble it might be hard to really get a sense of where you want the edges to be. You run the risk of it being way more narrow than you like and you’ll have to wait for it to grow back in.
Once you have enough length then use a beard template to properly shave the edges around the cheeks.
Under the bottom lip, you will shave down to the skin and then under the jaw line. This isn’t a beard, remember, so the sides should only go down as far as the jaw at the lowest.
This also makes it easy to keep that line. You’re always just going to be using the jawline as a guide.
Once again, you can let them grow as long as you want, but I think the best way to go with these is to trim them down. Even a rocker like Lemmy in the picture above didn’t let his go crazy!
You can use the longest guard setting on a set of beard trimmers or free hand it with some scissors if you have the patience.
Classic Mutton Chops
When you think of mutton chops you probably think of them being sideburns and not mutton chops beards. So, usually there is no mustache.
The shape can vary, but once again, the jawline is about as low as you will want to go.
To grow and shape them, follow the same directions as before by letting your beard grow for a few weeks.
Once you can see the natural shape of the chop, then use a beard template to shape the beard around the cheeks.
Shave off the mustache and then decide where to leave the edge of the chop. For instance in the photo above from Instagram, you can see this guy opted to have it point up toward the edge of the mouth. You can also shave down so it is disconnected from the mouth altogether.
Use the points of your mouth on either side as a guide as to where to shave the chin. Go straight down from either point and shave it down.
Wolverine Mutton Chops Beard
Even if you aren’t a fan of comic books or action movies, you still may feel inspired by Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine mutton chops beard.
This definitely has more of a beard feel to it over being just long and wide sideburns.
It’s mainly distinguished by the fact that instead of being joined at the mustache like a friendly mutton chop, it joins at the chin under the mouth.
In some pictures it will be totally connected by a thin strip and other times it may actually be slightly disconnected.
To shape this one, just do as you would for the classic mutton chop, but under the mouth, only shave down to the bottom of the chin.
The shaved area above the chin should look like a V. So start at the points of your mouth and shave a line from the point down to the cleft of the chin and stop there. Do the same on the other side with the point of the V being right at the cleft.
This one you can definitely let grow as wild as you want. After all, we’re talking about a savage Wolverine here and not a hamster!
Imperial Mutton Chops Beard
This is the sort of style created by the military elite back in the 18th and 19th centuries. The picture above is a sort of mild version that works for those of us who aren’t in charge of a Continental Army.
The basic idea of this one is that the chop portion of the mutton chops are longer than the area closer to the ear and hairline. To really maximize the effect, it should flare out and kind of stay there.
You’ll need to grow this one out quite a bit to achieve this look, but I would start with the shaping early on.
It’s way easier to shape it up around the edges when it is a few weeks old compared to when you have some long facial hair after a few months.
Use a comb to brush down with the grain to detangle any of the long hairs.
Then use a brush to push from the bottom out to kind of fluff up the beard.
Put a small amount of the wax in your hand and rub it around to melt it enough to apply it easily to the beard.
Then use your fingers to pinch it into the hair and rub it all around to get it evenly coated. The repeat with the brush to bring the ends of the hair out to flare away from the mouth.
With that beard wax, it should stay put all day.
How to maintain your mutton chops
Yes, even rebels need to do some proper beard and mustache care to keep their facial hair looking good. No matter what the style.
Take care of your mutton chops beard and it will take care of you.
You can read my article on the ultimate guide to beard care for the full details, but here is a condensed version to get you started.
Keep it clean
Use a good beard wash to keep your beard clean and shiny. Don’t use the same shampoo you would use on your head as your facial hair is different so it has different needs.
You only need to do this twice a week at the most. Otherwise, your skin and beard will get dried out.
Use beard oil or balm
After you’ve washed your beard you’ve stripped it of the natural oil called sebum that it needs to stay hydrated and nourished. Time to put it back in by using a beard oil or balm. Basically, you are going to condition your beard.
Oils and balms contain tons of carrier and essential oils that have many different properties. You will hydrate the skin and hair keeping it soft and strong. You will get rid of any brittleness and split ends and keep the beard from getting tangled with knots.
Brush it out
If you plan to style your mutton chops, particularly if you are doing the Imperial version, you need a good beard brush.
Try one with boar bristles as they will not ruin your beard like plastic bristles do. Not only is a brush good for styling, but it will distribute the beard oil or balm evenly and leave your beard smooth.
They even help stimulate the skin which increases blood flow to the hair roots which will grow your beard faster and strengthen the cuticle.
I hope that you plan to grow one of these mutton chops beard styles. If you do make sure to leave us a comment with a link to your Instagram so we can all see it!
I think it would be great if we could bring back the mutton chop. Well, maybe some of you wouldn’t want that to happen. After all, it would be nice to be able to have some facial hair style that stays out of the mainstream. That way you can stand out from the bearded crowd!
Let me know if you have any questions by leaving a comment in the box below! We love getting questions and comments and will answer as soon as we can!