Skip to Content

The 5 O’Clock Shadow: 11 Things To Know [Perfect Stubble]

May 15, 2023
The 5 O’Clock Shadow: 11 Things To Know [Perfect Stubble]

Whether you love them or hate them, you need to learn how to deal with them. No matter how hard you may try to get rid of it, it’ll probably be back by sundown. Here’s everything you need to know about the 5 o’clock shadow. 

Some men see them as a nuisance, while others see it as a genuine facial hairstyle. 

It adds a layer of shadowing to the face – a subtle edge of masculinity that’s way easier to maintain than a full beard. 

There’s plenty of information on them out there already, but there’s still plenty of confusion about them as well. So many questions are commonly asked but rarely answered properly. 

That’s what we’re going to go through today. 

Let’s get to it. 

1. Is The 5 O’Clock Shadow Real And A Thing? 

Yes, the 5 o’clock shadow is a real thing. It’s the layer of very short stubble that forms on the face halfway through the day after having shaved clean that same morning. It’s approximately 0.5mm in length. 

It’s an entirely natural and normal phenomenon. 

From Shutterstock

No matter how close of a shave you may get in the morning, on average, you can expect this length of hair to have grown by around 5-6 pm that evening. Yes – that’s exactly where it gets its name from. 

Although it may have an association with the tiredness and untidiness you expect at the end of a working day, some men view it as an actual style. 

Because of this, they actively seek to maintain it by setting their clipper or trimmer to the 5 o’clock shadow length and trimming down to it each morning. 

2. Is The 5 O’Clock Shadow Unprofessional? 

The 5 o’clock shadow can be seen as unprofessional if the neck stubble isn’t shaved. Because of this, it’s important to remove the neck hair before going to work if you intend on choosing the 5 o’clock shadow as your style of choice. 

Times have changed. 

Since pop stars in the late 80s legitimized “designer stubble” as an actual style, there’s definitely been a more liberal attitude toward stubble in general. 

However, this comes with a catch. 

Stubble lengths such as the 5 o’clock shadow are only seen as professional if the borders are well maintained. 

In other words, the stubble neckline is well-defined and the cheek lines are well-maintained. Defining the neckline and shaving any neck stubble beneath it is a great way to make a 5 o’clock shadow look intentional and not accidental. 

In addition, actually trimming down to a 5 o’clock shadow length as opposed to simply letting it grow out to one will ensure the stubble hairs are of an equal length. This also makes it look neater, tidier, and more professional. 

Maintaining permanent stubble is an art in and of itself. 

Stubble needs maintenance just as a full beard would. If it’s treated like this, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t look impressive and professional. 

So, can you have a 5 o’clock shadow for a job interview? 

Ideally, no you shouldn’t have a 5 o’clock shadow in any job interview. It will never be seen as more professional than going clean-shaven. 

Although it may be OK for the actual job itself, it’s just too much of a risk when you’re actually hoping to get the job. 

This is especially true if the job you’re applying to is traditionally more strict and conservative like in corporate workplaces. 

The safest bet here would be to go clean-shaven for the interview, then test the waters with a 5 o’clock shadow when you actually get the job. 

3. Is The 5 O’Clock Shadow Attractive?

The 5 o’clock shadow can look attractive when the neck stubble is shaved and the borders are well-maintained. It adds a layer of shadowing that can contour and define the facial features. 

But once again, maintenance is the key. 

A poorly maintained and scruffy 5 o’clock shadow will never look aesthetically pleasing. That’s why the natural one you see forming on the face at the end of a working day usually looks untidy and unattractive. 

However, an intentional 5 o’clock shadow that you actively trim down to with a trimmer before shaving off the neck stubble and defining the cheek lines will often look attractive. 

So, it’s all about making it look intentional and not accidental

Unfortunately, that’s the main risk with the 5 o’clock shadow. It’s quite easy to come across as lazy or simply having forgotten to shave. So keen maintenance is important if you’re looking to pull it off. 

4. Does The 5 O’Clock Shadow Go Away? 

The 5 o’clock shadow will go away if shaved off in an effective manner.

It isn’t always easy, unfortunately, 

5 o’clock shadows can be quite resistant and stubborn if you’re looking to get rid of it completely. Even after using a razor, you may find that you’ve got a hint of a 5 o’clock shadow left. 

This is often the case if your facial hair distribution is quite thick.  

Electric shavers (foil or rotary) often leave behind a hint of a 5 o’clock shadow. It’s quite difficult to get rid of completely. 

If you’d rather have a closer shave to really make that 5 o’clock shadow go away, consider using a manual razor with lubrication (shaving cream, oil, or gel) instead. 

This could be a regular cartridge razor. However, if you really want a close shave consider learning how to use a safety or straight razor. There’s a bit more of a learning curve, but the results are often more impressive. 

5. Clean-Shaven Vs 5 O’Clock Shadow: How Do You Choose? 

While clean-shaven suits a man looking for an effortlessly sleek and youthful look, the 5 o’clock shadow is a good option for men looking for a subtle edge of masculinity. It’s also a great way to add some shadowing and contouring to the face. 

The 5 o’clock shadow is often seen as a stepping stone for previously clean-shaven men to dip their toes into stubbled life. 

As the 5 o’clock shadow is only 0.5mm in length, it’s so close to clean-shaven that it’s often hardly noticeable. 

The 5 o’clock shadow – notice how subtle it can be

[From Shutterstock]

However, it’s just long enough to be visible and add some definition to the face. It looks like a light shadowing and this defines the cheekbones and the jawline in a very subtle way. 

It’s also a better option for men who are sick of shaving every day. Even with the best shaving technique and a solid set of grooming tools, the soreness can get frustrating after a while. 

Rocking a 5 o’clock shadow instead by trimming down to 0.5mm every morning with a stubble trimmer is a reasonable alternative. It leads to less morning face soreness because you aren’t cutting the hairs so close to the skin. 

Ultimately, as long as it’s well maintained, a 5 o’clock shadow is a good option for men who are looking to make the switch from clean-shaven to facial hair but still want an effortlessly tidy look. 

6. Why Do I Always Have A 5 O’Clock Shadow Even After Shaving? 

Many men always have a 5 o’clock shadow even after shaving. This is either due to a poor shaving technique or simply having an especially thick facial hair distribution. 

The first thing to consider is whether your shaving is on point. 

If you’ve been using an electric shaver (foil or rotary), strongly consider making the switch to a manual razor. Ideally, a safety or straight razor. 

These razors will often give you the closest shave, although they may take some getting used to at first. 

However, if you’re sure there aren’t any improvements that can be made to the shaving technique, it may just be your facial hair. 

Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done here. The best way of dealing with it would be to ensure that 5 o’clock shadow is well-maintained and tidy. The neck stubble should be removed and the cheek lines contoured. 

It’s also important to note that it may be a lot more noticeable to you than it is to other people. 5 o’clock shadow length is very short – we’re talking 0.5mm or less here. 

That may be the first thing you see when you look in the mirror, but there’s a really good chance that stubble this short is barely noticeable at all to those around you.

7. What Is A Goatee 5 O’Clock Shadow? 

A goatee 5 o’clock shadow is a style where there is very short stubble (0.5mm) on the chin but the cheeks are shaved clean. There may or may not also be stubble in the mustache area. 

Stubble goatees are common. Essentially it’s a name that refers to any style where there’s stubble hair on the chin but not on the cheeks. If there’s a mustache, it may or may not be connected to the chin beard. 

But the key here is that it needs to be of stubble length – in other words, less than 5mm long. 

The 5 o’clock shadow is essentially about as short as stubble can get before becoming invisible. The difficulty with this is that it’s very difficult to actually shape a goatee out of it. 

In order to shape a goatee, you need to be able to clearly see the borders and what you’re trimming. This is the key to ensuring it’s symmetrical and nicely formed. 

But 5 o’clock shadow hairs are so short that it can be difficult to trim a goatee that’s not only visible but also symmetrical and well-shaped. 

Instead of going for a Full Goatee with a 5 o’clock shadow, where there’s hair encircling the mouth, it may be better to simply have hair on the chin and nowhere else. 

This is what’s known as a “true goatee”, as there’s hair on the chin but none on the cheeks or mustache. 

This is easier to see and shape than trying to sculpt a Full Goatee with such short facial hair. 

8. How Do You Soften A 5 O’Clock Shadow? 

To soften a 5 o’clock shadow, focus on moisturizing the underlying skin. This is the simplest way to make a 5 o’clock shadow feel softer, despite the work actually being done on the skin and not the actual hair. 

Although there are things that can be done to soften stubble, the difficulty with 5 o’clock shadows is that the hair is too short to really benefit from them. 

But unfortunately, 5 o’clock shadows can be pretty rough to the touch. In fact, the shorter the stubble, the sharper it often feels. This is because as hairs get longer, the edges round off. 

With hair as short as this, those edges aren’t really rounded off at all. 

But a 5 o’clock shadow isn’t exactly long enough to benefit from beard oils or balms like some longer stubble lengths might be.  

9. How Do You Trim A 5 O’Clock Shadow Neckline? 

To trim a 5 o’clock shadow neckline, define a U-shaped curve that roughly follows the angle of the jawline on either side, with the lowest point of the curve two finger-widths above the Adam’s Apple. Shave all neck stubble beneath this curve. 

The difficulty with trimming a 5 o’clock shadow neckline is just how short the hair is, funnily enough. 

In order to trim a border such as a stubble neckline, you really need to be able to see what you’re trimming and shaving. 

With hair as short as a 5 o’clock shadow (0.5mm), this can be difficult. 

But in some ways, it’s a blessing. Because the hair is so short, you don’t need to be as intricate with it. In other words, you don’t need to worry about getting the perfect shape for that neckline because it’ll barely be visible in the first place. 

Sure, you want to make sure it isn’t too high. But ultimately, the main thing you need to worry about is making sure you shave most of the neck stubble off properly. 

As long as this is done, you can be pretty sure that the 5 o’clock shadow looks intentional and not accidental. 

10. What Clipper Guard Do You Use For A 5 O’Clock Shadow? 

To trim a 5 o’clock shadow it’s best not to use any clipper guard whatsoever. Simply trim your beard using the lone blade of your trimmer or clipper and you should be left with a length of 0.4mm to 0.8mm. 

The length you’re left with when trimming with no clipper guard attached will vary depending on the blade size of your device. However, it’s a pretty safe bet to expect this facial hair length. 

It just so happens that this is approximately the same length of hair you can expect with a 5 o’clock shadow towards the end of the working day. 

So, if you’re looking to maintain a permanent 5 o’clock shadow by actively trimming down to this length, this would be a pretty good way to do it. 

Although you could potentially use the shortest clipper guard that comes with your clipper, it will probably trim down to a length that’s simply too long to be called a “5 o’clock shadow”. 

A 5 o’clock shadow is very short stubble – people often don’t realize just how short it really is. 

It’s facial hair that’s only just about visible. If this is too short for you, that’s absolutely fine. You can try using the shortest clipper guard your device comes with instead of trimming with the lone blade. 

Just know that the length you’re left with shouldn’t really be called a 5 o’clock shadow – it’s simply too long. 

11. What Is A 5 O’Clock Shadow With A Mustache? 

A 5 o’clock shadow with a mustache is common, especially if your distribution of hair is especially thick in this area relative to the chin and the cheeks. 

If you’re looking to get rid of it, focus on getting as close of a shave as possible when removing it. 

Unfortunately, it can be a tricky thing to do, especially if you’ve got thick hair in this area. The mustache area is often the first part of the 5 o’clock shadow to show itself. 

But often, it really isn’t as noticeable as you yourself think it is, so don’t overthink it. 


It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking any length of stubble can be referred to as a “5 o’clock shadow”. But as you’ve now seen, this term should only be used to refer to a very specific length range and style. 

When done properly, it can look very impressive indeed. 

Hope you found that useful.