With office culture becoming a thing again, what’s an executive (or anyone) to do about facial hair? Keep the pandemic growout? Trim and neaten but don’t ditch it? Go back to the clean-shaven days? Where do personal expression and HR rules converge? As men at all levels, from C-Suite to executive to professional, are figuring out their post-pandemic personal style, Victoria had an interview with the Wall Street Journal about all things beard—whether you sport one or not, you might find these peeks into beard life interesting, not to mention the tips on maintaining a good post-pandemic facial hair look, if that’s where you’re going…
1. Why do you think that HR departments implement rules on personal grooming habits, especially for senior management? Do you think they should change those policies, in a world where we’ve worked from home for so long?
Offices, and other more formal places, follow a more western view of what is considered acceptable, appearance-wise. The clean-shaven look has been the standard for a long time, and it seems to have worked, so most wonder “Why change it? It is how it is.”
What HR needs to do is look at why they have these rules in the first place, and whether they still serve in 2022. I can’t say the rules should stay or go, but I do think they merit a good look—are they really accomplishing something significant when it comes to how the business is run or perceived, and its success? The answer might well be yes.
2. Did you find that your clients grew beards out during the early part of the pandemic/quarantine? Why do you think they took that moment to “let it all hang out” or explore that facet of themselves?
They grew them out solely because they were working from home. The popularity of beards and facial hair, especially in younger men, has been on the rise since the hipster phase of the early- to mid-2010s. In terms of the pandemic, though, being at home convinced a lot of men to at least try out facial hair, as they would not be going to any in-person meetings anytime soon. And what man doesn’t want to dabble in his rugged side?
3. Was there a time that you started to notice guys needing to shave their beards? How did they feel about it?
Yes, after meeting with me! Not necessarily shaving, but cleaning up with basic grooming tips. In general, the beard trend is still popular. A surprising number of men, though, tell me they are post-pandemic now, and they want a fresh look, a fresh brand. They’re choosing to leave the beards behind.
To paint a picture, I work with venture caps in Austin, LA, Boston, Chicago, Ohio, and the Bay Area who are funding things like CBD startups, biotech, sustainability, or professionals like agricultural experts, and they are not dressing in suits or losing their facial hair. Neither are many of my architects, or tech executives, or corporate executives in less restricted industries. In some cases, corporate style still includes beards—as long as they are groomed!
I’ve found that most of the men I work with who shaved off their beards didn’t like how they looked without them, but their wives and girlfriends did!
4. Have any of your clients “fought back” or refused to shave?
Many people want to get rid of the beard themselves because they want to go back to something that feels a little more formal, organized, and structured, as their lives are becoming more structured. But men who grew their beards before COVID because beards were hip three or four years ago are not getting rid of them. They’re focusing instead on the overall structure of their facial hair, their cheeks, how it works with their eyes, and the mustache.
5. Have you found alternative solutions for guys—like doing a trimmed beard or a more of a stubble look?
I always tell them to make sure they get the cheek line right. And to understand what their personal cheek line is! It’s individual. I almost always like a trimmed beard and not the wild, outback, woodsy look.
6. Say you had a client who wanted to grow a beard in a very formal office—what would be your advice to him?
I’d say go for it, just keep it tidy and neat and don’t go crazy with what’s draped over your torso. Stick to solid colors that play off your hair tone and eye color. And especially if you wear cool eyewear, keep the beard tame and structured.
7. Any other thoughts?
Beards are impactful, but my nephews, who are the future influencers and really get the style for post-prestigious-university professionals, tell me that mustaches are all the rage. Call it Top Gun fever, call it circling back to styles of times past, but mustaches may well become the talk of office facial-hair code violations.