The Growth of Beards in the Workplace

Over the last few years, I’ve made a custom of watching the Oscars. I say over the last few years because traditionally I have been uninterested in the Academy Awards show, and have even gone out of my way to avoid it. It’s not that I don’t like movies, just that the show itself has always seemed like an exercise in trumpeting the “virtues” of excess, fame and extreme material wealth.

However, my wife and her brother have a tradition of watching the Oscars that dates all the way back to when they were small children, and so the show has always had familial meaning for them. Needless to say, “familial meaning” now also applies to me. Despite the misgivings I still have about the show, I have discovered a few things that I actually like about it.

One of those things—and a totally unexpected one, I might add—is a new appreciation for the men’s fashion on display at the event. I realize that doesn’t involve much complexity (uh… black tux with a bowtie, right?), but this year I noticed a trend that warmed even the cold depths of my skeptical heart: there were so many beards!

I realize that many readers here probably aren’t familiar with my appearance. Suffice it to say that a short-trimmed beard has been gracing my face for years now, to the point where I kind of feel like a different person on the rare occasion that I shave it off. Since incorporating this facial feature into my identity, I’ve become a supporter of the beard in general. After all, while beards have historically been associated with power, strength and status, they haven’t been very popular in modern times. This infographic does a pretty good job explaining the “disadvantages” that beards seem to confer on men, though this is mostly from a romantic perspective.

If a beard can apparently make a man seem less attractive, less generous, less caring, less cheerful and less wealthy, is it worth the benefits of seeming older, wiser and more respected? Before this year’s Oscars, the consensus might have been “no.” But who knows what happens now? All of those bearded male actors might have tilted the scales in the beard’s favour once again.

The greatest aspect for me was that these weren’t just a bunch of stereotypical bearded dudes. These men were at one of the most—if not the most—formal and fashion-focused events in the world. What’s more, they were there as professionals representing the work that they do.

People sometimes wonder: is facial hair really consistent with a professional image? “Clean shaven” seems like such a business staple—is it really okay to try something else? While I’d certainly be tempted to refer back to some earlier posts I wrote about professionalism and facial hair, I’d also simply like to say, “Yes!” Why can’t a nicely groomed, neatly trimmed beard be just as professional as a clean shave?

Now, you might be thinking, “Some guys just can’t pull it off!” And while that’s unfortunately true in some cases, I’ve also observed that many guys simply aren’t willing to try. Anecdotally, it’s almost as if they’re scared that people won’t perceive them in the same way, and in some cases I’m sure they’re worried of looking unprofessional. In my view, that’s an unrealistic fear, stemming from internal insecurities that confuse professionalism with image and ego. Ultimately, one’s sense of professional worth should ideally be generated internally, and not externally appraised.

So there’s no reason to think that something as awesome as a beard could limit your sense of self as a professional. Beards are making a comeback at work. You read it here first.

After all, if it’s fair game at the Oscars…

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