We wrote an article on what it means to have a beard in response to the barrage of anti-beard/ anti-hipster beard propaganda. We firmly believe that you should grow or shave your facial hair the way that you want to grow it, based on your choice not the rules set by others. But is there are right or wrong in certain industries - particularly for the white collar worker?
We believe that a beard is a physical representation of one's lifestyle choices. The music you listen to, clothes you wear, company you keep, occupation you hold and the style of facial you wish to grow should be the product and an extension personality and indicate the way in which you wish to be perceived by others.
We heard a story a few years ago about all of the male staff in a certain hospital department in Sydney that decided en masse to grow beards (and it wasn’t even for Movember). It was a lark, but all committed to the task at hand.
After only a few days, when it became apparent that change was in the air, the female department head put a strict and no holds barred stop to all this nonsense – men in her department were professionals, and as such needed to be seen as professionals – hence were required, under no uncertain terms, to be clean shaven. Bye-bye budding beards.
The irony, not lost on any of the staff, was that the medical director of this department (i.e., the big boss, very well respected specialist doctor) was the most professional of all men – and sported a full and distinguished beard. (He was also a very attractive, late-middle aged man – but that is another story...).
For me this is upsetting. While the notion of myself becoming a doctor is highly unlikely (unless i buy the Dr. title from the “University of life Church” like the late great Dr. Hunter S Thompson did) the fact that a whole male faculty would be forced to shave based on their choice in occupation I find confusing. I feel that if a beard is well kept, and you carry yourself in the appropriate manner then choosing one style of facial hair over the other is irrelevant. In the same way a balding man should not be discriminated against why then should someone be forced to shave daily if it causes, irritation, in-grown hairs, razor rash or doesn't agree with his style choices.
This case and many others like it beg the question: are beards suitable for professionals in a white collar workplace?
Over the past few years, beards and even moustaches have made a big comeback – and this extends to the workplace. Yes – beards can work very well for professionals – as long as one gets it right.
You need to take a few things into account:
- Your industry
- Your age
- Your personal ability to grow a beard
- Your dedication to fastidious grooming
- The rules of your own workplace
Some workplaces have a "no-beard" policy – especially in the food service and production industries. Sadly, some bosses perceive men with beards to be too casual or even lazy. It all depends on the corporate culture of the workplace. Those in creative industries, entrepreneurs, and internet start-ups may be more able to grow facial hair and get creative in its styling.
Having said that, unless there is a genuine safety issue because (for example) your beard is likely to get your face ripped off by a machine or end up in someone's Duck a l'Orange, we reckon there's rarely any other valid reason to stop people from growing their beard.
For anyone that doesn't face safety issues but is concerned about negative perceptions the trick is to own your look by maintaining the beard in a way that makes you feel confident. There are lots of ways to do this including beard-scaping it to look thicker & less patchy as discussed here and keeping it healthy with a high quality beard oil or beard balm.
Beards, when done right, can signify strong leadership and mature manliness on both a conscious and subconscious level. Many men, when seeking or having just attained promotion, choose to try a beard on for size. And for many, it’s a perfect fit.
At the end of the day, your ability to grow facial hair is another weapon in your arsenal of authentic style, ready to be deployed whenever you're in the mood.