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What was once the unintentional stubble after a long day at the office is now a signature style that many men seek to recreate today. The 5 o’clock shadow is the perfect middle ground between a clean-shaven face and a full-on beard—it’s less irritating on the skin than a daily razor cut but more conservative than a long beard. If you want to grow and maintain this rugged but well-kept look, follow these five simple steps.

1. PLAN IN ADVANCE

There’s no specific estimate on just how many days will provide the perfect base for a 5 o’clock shadow since every guy’s facial hair grows at a different rate and thickness. It may take a day and a half for some men while it takes one week for others. If you’re clean shaven now, allow about 24-48 hours to get your facial hair to a workable length.

2. PREP YOUR SKIN

Once you have a generous layer of facial hair to start your journey to the perfect 5 o’clock shadow, it’s time to prep for a shave by hopping in the shower for a few

minutes to open your pores. Once you’re out of the shower, apply a pre-shave oil or serum like Anthony Pre-Shave + Conditioning Beard Oil or AESOP Moroccan Neroli Shaving Serum to prevent ingrown hairs, soothe skin and lay the foundation for a picture-perfect shave.

3. BREAK OUT THE RAZOR

A quality razor with guard attachments like Panasonic’s All-in-One Men’s Trimmer makes the difference between

ending up with an off-looking shadow or a precise, put-together shadow. Set the trimmer to between 1/8 and 1/5 inch and trim every part of your facial hair. Pay close attention to the neckline—this is where you make sure you create a clean, subtle fade that makes a stellar 5 o’clock shadow stand out from the pack. Make sure to tamp down the guards on the electric razor as you move from the underside of your jaw to your neck so you get the appearance that the hair fades into your skin at the top of your Adam’s apple. Anything below that should be shaved completely.

4. CLEAN UP ANY STRAY HAIRS

Once you get an even length around your face, the next step is shaping. Be sure to pay extra attention to the cheekbones, which require a few minutes to get rid of any stray hairs that pop up there. Once any stray hairs are taken care of, apply an aftershave product like D R HARRIS Windsor Aftershave Milk, Lab Series Razor Burn Relief Ultra or even Kiehl’s Ultimate Man Razor Bump Relief if necessary, to add moisture back to the skin.

5. KEEP IT FRESH

Keeping a respectable 5 o’clock shadow going requires a bit of maintenance. It’s normal to repeat this grooming process every day or two depending on how fast your facial hair grows. A pair of mustache scissors is quite useful, which can be purchased on its own or in a complete manicure set.