Beards in the Workplace


Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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122 Responses

  1. Avatar Noah Sweeney says:

    Shared in my group great piece.Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Its a stupid policy but American always had a weird relationship with beards. During the early part of American history, beards were basically seen as no good and the odd man with a beard could be bullied or worse for it.

    This changed for a bit during the mid-19th century when Western expansion and the Civil War made beards popular for a few decades. By the 1890s, beards were out of fashion but still tolerated. By the early decades of the 20th century, beards were basically seen as no good, a sign of being untidy and ugly at best or a dangerous subversive radical at worse. The idea that a woman would find a man with a beard attract ridiculous.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      I’m bearded by the way but my preference is to keep it closely trimmed to my face along with a very short haircut. I only grow it when I’m about to get a haircut so my barber has something to trim down. He does a better job than I do.Report

  3. Avatar Maribou says:

    My thoughts are that dress codes are stupid. And that includes facial hair dress codes.

    Appearance rules should be limited to the *barest* reasonable minimum society / the surrounding culture / the larger corporation / whatever allows. So, at my workplace, I expect the people for/to whom I am responsible to wear foot coverings of some sort, to avoid cuss words on their clothing, not to wear anything with holes in it, and not to wear anything that’s visibly, uncomfortably dirty. If it weren’t a customer service job, I would probably be willing to ignore most of those.

    If a person can’t come across as serious, responsible, and thoughtful while wearing their preferred dress and other stylings, either they or the people who are interacting with them aren’t good enough communicators.

    In the case of this particular rule, which isn’t even really a reasonable one, it’s the managers who are being dumb / lazy. In my experience, there is a large subset of “management” whose response to “something went wrong” is “how many rules can we make to make sure this particular thing NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN?” Like building a fence around the Torah, except it is exceptionally rare that the thing being built around is even a microscopic fraction as important.

    Your company, for example, is shooting itself in the foot by making management less appealing to you; probably because some bearded dude who worked for them (or for some other company they wanted to emulate, or for some manager who mentored one of them once) at some random point in the past either was obnoxious, or was too honest with the wrong person. “THAT’S IT NO MORE BEARDS.”Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


      My understanding is that our policy was formalized in the 1970s when we went global and had a bunch of ex-military guys running the company. The military culture is still present to a small degree.Report

      • Avatar Maribou says:

        I am quite comfortable, living in a heavily military-culture town, with claiming that

        “In my experience, there is a large subset of “management” whose response to “something went wrong” is “how many rules can we make to make sure this particular thing NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN?” Like building a fence around the Torah, except it is exceptionally rare that the thing being built around is even a microscopic fraction as important.”

        applies to military management (ESPECIALLY the sacred rules of uniform dress and behavior) at least as much as it does to business management.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @maribou I would also point out that the culture of military dress changes, including policies on beards.

      • Avatar Maribou says:

        @zic Elmo Zumwalt is my new favorite admiral. Loved this bit:

        “I desire to eliminate many of the most abrasive policies, standardize others which are inconsistently enforced, and provide some general guidance which reflects my conviction that if we are to place the importance and responsibility of “the person” in proper perspective in the more efficient Navy we are seeking, the worth and personal dignity of the individual must be forcefully reaffirmed. “Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      The very conservative employer I mentioned elsewhere very much had a management philosophy like you describe. Everything they see wrong they write an explicit policy for. The end result was that (no joke) they monitored the frequency and duration of our restroom breaks and practically gave us ankle bracelets to monitor our activities. Okay, there weren’t ankle bracelets, but we had to punch into every hallway and corridor we went into into saying who we were and where we were going. If we said that we were going to the third floor and then remembered we had to talk to somebody on the second floor, a flag email would be sent to our supervisor.Report

      • Avatar Rod says:

        Ughh. I have to drive 150 miles out of route before I get flagged. I could live witn the situation you described maybe 10, 15 minutes tops, before I went postal.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      Your thoughts and my own are pretty much one in the same, @maribou .

      As a relatively long time beard-wearer (I’ve had one off and on for about 8 years now and the only reason it didn’t start earlier was A) a limited ability to grow one and B) a girlfriend at the time who hated it.

      @mike-dwyer , like you, I clean the thing up if something “important” is happening but actually made a point to keep it during job interviews because it makes me look older, which helps for the positions I’m going for.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Thankfully, IT allows for beardedness. I did trim it down to a #4 when I got the new job… but that’s just an opportunity to grow a real one all over again.

    (For some reason, some small amount of eccentricity is seen as evidence that you must be good. “They’d never put up with a beard like that on a crappy sys admin! He must be awesome!”)Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      Back in the old days at Bell Labs, the most respectful hearing I ever got from a bunch of managers at the AT&T General Departments was the Monday after a ski club weekend, when weather had kept the bus from returning to NJ until ~7:30 AM. I had just gone on into the office with the intent of hiding out and coding for the day. Instead I ended up at HQ with a pile of slides. I always figured it was a matter of, “If they’ll let him do the presentation in jeans, a flannel shirt, and three days’ worth of stubble, he must be really good.”Report

  5. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I generally think beards in the workplace is okay but safety precautions should be taken for machinery.Report

  6. Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

    No, I wouldn’t.

    But the college named after this guy used to not allow beards. They do now, so long as the beard is “well groomed.” You’ll have to judge for yourself whether that guy’s beard counts as well-groomed.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      Let’s see…. No tobacco flakes, chicklets or pizza sauce. So yeah, well groomed!Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      The Evangelical hatred of beards is weird considering that Jesus is always portrayed bearded. The only explanation I can think off is that the Russian Revolution so associated beards with atheism that they turned against them.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        I don’t that’s it. I think it’s that evangelicals are deeply embedded in common culture, but always a couple of decades behind. Because evangelicals aren’t separatists (like Amish, Hutterites, the Brethren, etc.) they don’t feel the need to actively resist fitting in, but because they’re socially conservative they have a hard time accepting the latest trends, which always appear outrageous, and generally sinful to them.

        In the 1920s-’50s, beards weren’t too common, and short hair was the norm. They got accustomed to that, then came the ’60s, and beards and long hair didn’t remind them of some radical Jewish guy from 19 centuries ago, but of current drug-toking free-love radicals. Now that we’re 40 years past the ’60s, evangelicals are fine with beards, although they tend to prefer well-groomed ones.

        I assume in 30 years Christian teens will be twerking and grinding at summer church camps and no-one will think anything of it. Well, maybe not that. Places like Moody Bible Institute and the first college I attended still ban dancing. A beard may not lead to sex, but dancing surely will.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Statistically speaking, Christian camps lead to a lot more sex (and pregnancy, because they WILL search belongings for birth control), than other camps.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I would ask for Kim’s source, but…Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I don’t even really need to cite sources for this one. Just look at the counselor to kid ratio, which can get pretty dire.Report

  7. Avatar Cathy says:

    Wait, the policy bans beards but allows mustaches?? That is bizarre. If I were going to look askance at someone for their choice in facial hair, it would be much, MUCH more likely to be over a stand-alone mustache than a beard. Was this policy written in the 1970s?

    On a more serious note, this is one facet of the inherent issues with the whole idea of “looking professional.”

    On the one hand, a company wants to project an image of competence and reliability, and having some standards of grooming and personal appearance seems a not unreasonable way to establish that. On the other, what constitutes “an image of competence and reliability” is determined by a society that has some very fished up views on a number of things, some related to particular protected class groups and some not.

    Anti-beard policies are on the low end of the spectrum in my opinion, being unconnected to a protected class and without the accompanying baggage, but they illustrate the same principle. A company that bans beards on management is at least sending, if not endorsing, the message that beards are unprofessional. It is a short hop from this stance to one that says “people who wear beards are unprofessional,” despite what should be the obvious fact that the configuration of facial hair is not indicative of professional competence. Your post implies that your employer hasn’t made that hop (that they would offer you a promotion on condition that you shave, rather than deciding that a beard-wearer is insufficiently professional to deserve a promotion), which is good, but the possibility remains in general.

    For other aspects of grooming, the hop is quite short and frequently taken, particularly when we’re talking about women’s grooming as opposed to men’s. If a company had an explicit “no afro” policy, I think (hope) that they would get dogpiled on, but if there is no written policy on the subject the situation is more difficult, and more likely to be in the “people who groom themselves thusly are not professional enough” category. If we would have a problem with a company saying “Curly hair is not in line with our professional image, anyone who accepts a promotion to management must straighten it,” which I think most people would, why is a no-beards policy ok?*

    To answer your actual question, the only kind of beard that would put me off in a professional setting would be one that looked unkempt, in the same way that someone meeting me in a rumpled suit would make me raise an eyebrow. I think the level of personal grooming is more legitimately important to “projecting an image of professionalism” than the type.

    *That curly hair is associated with African-Americans is relevant here, but I think even a policy of this type not motivated by racist assumptions (maybe in a hypothetical company that happens to employ only white people, some of whom have curly hair that the CEO thinks looks “messy”) would still be viewed as bizarre and a bit icky.Report

    • Avatar Cathy says:

      Clearly I took to long to write that; @maribou beat me to much of what I wanted to say, and also I learned that the policy is indeed from the 70s.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      There actually is a racial element to no-beards policies. The police department back home instituted such a policy and was sued over it because black men disproportionately suffer from from something called pseudofolliculitis barbae which makes shaving for those afflicted problematic.

      Generally, back home (the south) the “moustache but no beard” isn’t that uncommon. Especially in police departments but elsewhere as well. When I interviewed at a really conservative company, I was told by friends who had worked there that while they didn’t have a ban on facial hair they would probably pass on me if I didn’t shave the beard into a moustache. Another employer allowed moustaches or full beards but not goatees.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        My brother was told when he started his current job that his manager frowned on beads even though it wasn’t an official policy. He said, “Give me six months and I will change his mind.” He busted his ass doing a good job and actually had a facial hair plan. He first grew a goatee and then a few months later brought the beard in. He said that his manager has never said a word about it. Much easier when technically they can’t.

        I’m starting to think my only option is to convert to Islam and sue for a religious exemption.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        At a different conservative employer, a coworker of mine was pulled aside and told that the CEO was really angry and that if he didn’t change his facial hair (which was a goatee, hanging down kind of long in the front) he wouldn’t tolerate such flagrant unprofessionalism.

        There was no policy against facial hair, but that wasn’t the funny thing.

        The funny thing is that this guy came to the attention of the CEO because the CEO had seen his picture on the wall on the Employee of the Month display.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        The Amish grow beards but not mustaches because they associate mustaches with soldiers and war. In late 19th century Pennzylvania, the police in areas with lots of Eastern Europeans were encouraged to grow mustaches because they though it would make them more authoritative with the immigrants.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        It’s Sikhism which has a religious requirement for beards. Muslim men in the middle east just wear them because it looks “Muslim”.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Although the Quran doesn’t require beards, many Muslims-particularly Middle Eastern men–do wear them as a distinct sign of faith.

        Similarly, I knew a Christian guy who vowed to God to not cut his beard, as a symbol of devotion. He didn’t think beards were necessay or that others needed to do as he did, but having made the how to God, keeping the beard was a key element of his faith, lest he break an oath to the Lord.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Some Orthodox Jews feel religiously bound to grow beards too, since there’s a rabbinic interpretation of the Torah that proscribes shaving, though not trimming. Others (and I am not making this up) are OK with shaving with electric razors, though not blades, and still others only with electrics which cut more like a pair of scissors than like a blade.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        The religious prohibition against shaving certainly isn’t universal in Islam, but it does seem there are certain schools of thought (sects? branches of the religion? I’m not sure) that see shaving as a sort of self-disfigurement, and hence religiously prohibited.

        Certainly it’s not as common among Muslims as it is among Sikhs.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Just play the “muslims do it” card, you can make Christianity do the same thing.

        Or, if you really want to have fun, you play the “sexual harassment card” — I wear this to be modest and so women stop ogling me! (If you can actually make this earnest enough, they might decide it’s too much hassle to bother with)Report

    • Avatar Mo says:

      I know Disney has a no facial hair except mustaches rules. As much as they would like to get rid of mustaches, someone could always say, “But Walt had one.”Report

  8. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Simply having facial hair doesn’t effect my views of a person, but sometimes the style does. In some cases, the attention to detail and level of maintenance that goes into it strike me as a bit narcissistic or overly self-conscious or something. I’m sure part of the reason why I view things that way is that my own facial remains fixedly on my face is because of a general laziness regarding shaving and a resistance to “grooming” behavior.

    But I have to tell you a little story, Mike, about a guy I met down in New Mexico a few weeks ago at Ojo Caliente hot springs in New Mexico. He lived just up the road from there and had been since shortly after he finished his tour in Vietnam. Dude had a super long beard, which he wanted to talk about. He said that he was in the military until ’73, got discharged, and was told he had to shave one last time before he was officially a civilian again. And that was the last time he shaved. His employment opportunities were restricted because of his hairedness, but that fact kept pushing him into career and lifestyle choices he preferred anyway So his commitment to not shave his beard ended up being a positive thing, in his view, since it led him to where he is right now. It was all of a piece.

    Personally speaking, it would take a whole lotta money (or kidnappings, etc) for me to sign onto a job where I had to shave, not so much because I’m attached to my beard, but because I’m attached to not being part of a culture or a lifestyle where things like having a beard actually matter.Report

  9. Avatar zic says:

    Seems to me that this is an issue of work-place gender discrimination against men.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      I can’t imagine they’d be all that happy about female employees sporting moustaches.Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      why would it count as gender discrimination against men?Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        For much the same reason that singling out women for rules that pertain only to women counts as gender discrimination; a dictate that she must wear makeup every day, for instance.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        At the risk of engaging in mansplaining, I don’t think the second one constitutes gender discrimination either. I can buy that the second is a sexist norm in virtue of imposing a particular account of femininity on persons, but it need not thereby be a case of gender discrimination. A workplace norm of being clean shaven may be many other things, but I doubt it is even sexist in the first place. It has less to do with imposing a particular account of masculinity on others and more to do with neatness and uniformity.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Then the rules of neatness and uniformity should say neatness and uniformity.

        I get that most men would not view a dictate to shave a form of gender discrimination, @murali. Since men are not the victims of gender discrimination, how could something that singles them out be discriminatory?

        But it is. And it is one of the many reasons men should be a little more feminist.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        Not all instances of singling out are necessarily discriminatory. E.g. gendered school uniforms. (though I expect Kazzy to disagree with me on this score)Report

      • @murali If a school says that boys have to wear pants and girls have can wear skirts or pants (or just skirts), how on earth is that not gender discrimination?Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        of course it is gender discrimination to say that women must wear makeup. For one thing, you’re implying that a woman’s natural face is not within the bounds of normal professional attire.

        Also, I have actually known guys whose face is NOT within the realms of normal professional attire. They wear makeup… But you aren’t insisting that they do, despite the fact that their “natural face” elicits expressions of alarm and concern unbefitting to a workplace.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @murali — Of course it is gender discrimination to require young men and women to wear different classes of outfits. In fact, one of the early battles of first-wave feminism was against clothing restrictions: see

        This is an important trans rights issue, as children exploring trans identities are not always ready to switch full time, but will want to express opposite-gender styles for a time. It is the responsibility of adults to support and nurture these children.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        Note, I said it was sexist, but not discriminatory. Not all instances of sexism are instances of gender discrimination.

        gendered clothing requirements could be sexist if they were more impractical for one sex but not for the other. Victorian clothing requirements were like that. I don’t know if pinafores for girls and trousers for boys actually does differently burden them, but I’m willing to consider that they might.

        For the sake of argument, let’s even grant that in the given gendered uniform regime, students who wish to explore the other gender identity are allowed to wear the other uniform even if said exploration was done on a temporary basis. Then it wouldn’t be discriminatory.Report

      • Avatar Maribou says:

        @murali – To divide up all students into “boys” and “girls” is, actually, discriminatory in the picking-on-those-who-are-different sense, if there are any kids who don’t particularly identify as either, and are forced to pick one or the other uniform. In the same way that making someone fill out a form which requires picking M or F is discriminatory. In fact I think even if you said, “except for these 5 kids who don’t choose either gender and can wear whatever they want,” you end up singling those kids out in a way that would probably foster a more hostile environment than if they just had to fake a gender identity to fit in.

        I realize that these are new enough issues that what I am saying might sound ridiculous…. but it is nonetheless true.

        In a larger sense of the word, by applying one set of standards to men and another to women, or one to boys and another to girls, you are discriminating – drawing lines between the two groups – even if your discriminations are not discriminatory in the legal sense of the word.

        I’m not suggesting we’re going to stop having separate sports teams next week, or anything, but I do think that North American societies are sliding away from that dualistic approach. In a patchy and often-reversed sort of way.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:


        So, if there weren’t any uniforms, people who don’t fall neatly into either gender are going to end up wearing…. togas? Normal street clothes are themselves not going to accurately reflect the fluidity of their gender identity, uniforms are not going to do worse on that score.

        Also, consider that we don’t think that just because school uniforms are often made in western styles that they do not therefore reflect the ethnic identities of people from minority ethnic groups.

        A requirement to wear clothes that somehow misrepresents some part of one’s identity does not count as discrimination against said identity because it is not ordinarily a substantial burden to bear.Report

      • Avatar Maribou says:

        @murali it’s very easy to design uniforms that aren’t constricted by gender, just by giving people a few options (yes, they are less uniform that way, but they are still clearly *uniforms*). it’s also relatively easy to design uniforms that incorporate non-western cuts, yet are still uniform enough to be uniform.

        People will still make gendered decisions about their clothing because most people *do* in fact identify with a gender; but there’s no particular reason the code has to enforce that.Report

  10. Avatar Will Truman says:

    I had a moustache once. For about five minutes, to see what it looked like. It turned out that I looked like a real redneck.

    Otherwise I go with the goatee or bare face. I can’t really grow a full beard.

    I don’t think much about the professionalism of people with or without facial hair as long as whatever facial hair exists is well kept and not deliberately unusual looking (and even then, I wouldn’t care 99% of the time). I think that should be the general policy.Report

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      Having seen your real-life mug, I’d guess that you’d look like a motorcycle cop extra on an episode of Emergency!Report

  11. Avatar Rod says:

    Depends on the beard. One of my college friends had a long, red, ZZ Top beard. If he took off his glassea, flipped the beard up over his face, and put his glasses back on, he looked just like cousin It from the Addams Family. Grear at parties, not so much for the office I suppose.Report

  12. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I’ve sported a short-trimmed goatee, sometimes called a Van Dyke, off and on for years. I shave my cheeks and neck clean, and periodically trim down the length of my mustache and chin whiskers. No one questions my professionalism in so doing.

    A bit less than half of my male colleagues go clean-shaven. Of those that do beards, about half go full like the guy in the photograph, and the others do the short-cut goatee like me. The smallest group of male lawyers do mustaches only, although I notice mustache-with-no-beard is popular with men in law enforcement or who are alumni of law enforcement. This is called the “cop-stache” behind their backs and more than superficially resembles the “porn-stache” of … obvious origin.

    But the point here is that if no one questions lawyers (and judges) who sport hair on their chins, then that means it’s possible to fashion a professional, respect-inspiring look that incorporates facial hair.Report

  13. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    I think there are really two questions being addressed here: Does a beard make one less able to do a job, and does a beard create a different perception in others than does a clean shaven face? The answer is a pretty obvious no and yes, respectively, and I assert the second question is just as important as the first in a business.

    For example, I would never have hired someone who had a beard similar to the one pictured above at my company for any position that dealt with clients (which was most positions). If clients believed it would be unprofessional (and it would) then they would be more likely to consider working with a competitor of mine.

    But there’s a separate and more direct reason, which for beard lovers might be best illustrated by facial tattoos.

    Because I live in Portland, tattoos are not uncommon — but facial tattoos are still pretty edgy here. Years ago when my kids were in daycare, one of the mothers of the other kids let me know she had been fired, and wanted to know if there were any openings at the place I worked. She was young, and seemed energetic, smart and nice. But she had all kinds of tattoos all over her face. The one that cut throughout the clutter was a single word written other forehead, in large letters with that font you associate with German gothic/nazi/metal-bands, in all-caps: HATE. (She had also done that thing that you sometimes see hipsters do that I used to equate with certain exotic tribes pictured in National Geographic, where over the years she had made rather giant holes in her earlobes and stretched them so that they hung down near her shoulders.)

    Now, this woman might have been able to, say, sit down with a client and walk them through the finer points of one of our contracts like nobody’s business. She might have been smarter than my people, and she might have been a fabulous public speaker with a quick wit and a memory for fine details longer than the Amazon. But even if all this were true, it wouldn’t have mattered because clients wouldn’t have taken her seriously.

    Now, there’s obviously a lot of real estate between that woman and a man with a big bushy beard, but each has at least one thing in common: each kind of says to the established mores of my industry, “f**k you.” Even if the mores aren’t entirely sensible on their own, having your lead off message to coworker and clients (and your appearance IS your first message), “f**k you” is a way to ensure you have fewer job prospects, and that those that hire you have fewer clients. It just is, fair or not.

    That being said, it’s obviously changing — at least here in Portland. You still can’t do the beard in professional, white collar settings, but with brewers, distillers, bartenders, organic grocery checkout guy, and any of the other “hipster/not-white-collar” jobs, beards have become pretty commonplace, especially the enormous bushy ones. So I can easily see it becoming accepted in the white-collar arena in the next decade, in the same way that hipsters made goatees acceptable in the 90s.Report

    • Avatar Maribou says:

      This is an ace comment, but …

      “The answer is a pretty obvious no and yes, respectively,”

      I think it’s a pretty obvious no and it depends, respectively.

      In your *specific* professional context, it’s an obvious yes that beards are noticeable and people react to them. In mine (and speaking here of the higher-up liberal arts / library circles I move in, not my kids and their work on the circ desk), it’s not an obvious yes at all. I don’t react differently to profs or deans based on whether or not they have a beard. Not even a little bit. A mohawk, or gages, or a facial tattoo, yes, that’s a statement of some sort that bears deciphering, at least in passing. But a beard? Academia doesn’t even notice a beard, unless it gets to ZZ Top levels.

      I actually think that’s one of the subtler reasons for friction between college faculty, and non-faculty administrators – increasingly more of the administrators come from a business background / culture, while most of the faculty don’t, and the two cultures don’t mesh well in terms of signalling, etc.

      Also – I think that stuff with words on it is *different*. A shirt that says “fuck you” or a face that says “hate” are communicating a much less ambiguous message than a shirt that’s cut strangely or a face with abstract tattoos. It’s not just real estate, it’s a pretty strong wall.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        A very good point and clarification, @maribouReport

      • Avatar dhex says:


        “I actually think that’s one of the subtler reasons for friction between college faculty, and non-faculty administrators – increasingly more of the administrators come from a business background / culture, while most of the faculty don’t, and the two cultures don’t mesh well in terms of signalling, etc.”

        i think this is somewhat true in general, but only partly. the rest of it is “we want a job for life!” and “someone has to pay for all these lightbulbs!” are inherently at odds. which is something i would have rejected before my current life change as far too reductive and stereotypical, and have had to recalculate based upon further experience.

        it is not often that one has to consider that they have not been stereotypical enough.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer says:


      The same is true in San Francisco and as liberal as I am, I still pause at the facial tattoos and huge outstretched earlobes. I would pause before hiring someone with facial tattoos or gapping body alteration holes for a job in a law firm even if it was backroom like IT.

      That being said, what if the person with the bear was deeply religious? Maybe this is a regional difference but in the NYC metro area you see many Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews and sometimes Shikh men in business settings where every other man would probably be clean-shaven. If you are doing business in New York, there will probably be Orthodox Jews with beards involved at some point or another. They might also be wearing traditional garb which looks old-fashioned to modern eyes.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        I would be willing to bet that it is still separated by industry, even in New York. Despite the greater prevalence of orthodox jews, my guess is that you still do’t show up to a high-end law firm or Wall Street interview with that beard.

        I could be wrong, of course, but I suspect not.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I’ve seen Jews working for Big Banks in Pittsburgh — the orthodox come with beards, or they don’t work at all.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:


      “Now, there’s obviously a lot of real estate between that woman and a man with a big bushy beard, but each has at least one thing in common: each kind of says to the established mores of my industry, “f**k you.””

      No. Not necessarily. That might be the messaged received. But that is not necessarily what the wearer of either style is saying.

      You also note that these mores might not be sensible. But there they are. Well, what if an individual client perceived a woman as somehow less appropriate for the role than a man? Those are his mores. Would you bend to them? If not, what principled difference can you offer? If you are simply catering to the whims of your client, why will you do so in certain cases and not others? What makes them different?Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        I didn’t mean to suggest it was the intent. But ultimately, in business the intent doesn’t really matter. Whatever you intend to communicate to others affects your business far less that what it is you are perceived as trying to communicate.

        Business is different from life in that way.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I think the difference is not directly one of principle, it’s “am I willing to metaphorically die on this hill?”

        Am I willing to metaphorically die on the hill (ie, lose income) for someone’s right to wear a beard? No, a person might say, while still being willing to metaphorically die on a lost-income hill for other differences, especially if that person’s perception is that the beard is a flexible form of self-expression while the other differences are an inalienable part of someone’s nature. It’s not hypocrisy, or lack of consistency, it’s just picking your battles.

        Me, I don’t want to work somewhere where maximal profits are more important than personal dignity, so I avoid the battle as much as I can and do what I can to subvert it when I can’t.Report

      • Avatar Maribou says:

        WHOOPS. That was me, not Jaybird. He was asleep on the couch and disclaims all knowledge of the above comment.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer says:


      Semi OT but out of curiosity: Does Portland have a big neo-nazi scene? Would the average Portlander or even Portland hipster recognize the neo-nazi tattoo and stay away? Would they comment? As a Jewish person seeing that would make me kind of nervous.

      There was a recentish scandal in the Seattle art scene with a provocative artist who turned out to be associate with white supremacist groups and other far-right groups but was also a darling of the liberal and art-collecting set. I remember one commentator saying that it was the shame of Seattle’s art community that they accepted the guy for so long even though lots of people sort of “knew” he was a far-right wing guy and Boston or New York would have kicked the guy out of the scene quickly for his horrible politics.

      I know Portland has a very old Jewish population and the big reform shul there looks very nice but I am curious about the size of the neo-nazi community in liberal Portland.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        Nah, we really don’t.

        In fact the only one I’m aware of is the group Volksfront, which is actually just a few guys here in PDX that connect with larger groups of people elsewhere. And even it is kind of a Portlandia version of neo-nazis, in that Volksfront is the the only neo-nazi group I’ve ever heard of that is anti-violence and pro-gun control. They actually reached out to Jewish groups about ten years ago to offer their assistance in passing hate crime initiatives.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        Are you sure they are neo-nazis and not just skinheads?

        There is a hardcore skinhead scene that is very actively anti-fascist and anti-nazi.

        Otherwise this feels like a sketch comedy for Portlandia, the very confused neo-nazis!Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Because it’s never a bad time for this:


      • Back in the mid 1990s or so, I had actually heard the claim that the “original skinheads” were actually anti-Nazis. I have no idea if that’s true or just a bit of no-true-scotsmanship. I do recall seeing at least once on a bus in Denver a skinhead-ish person, with a tatoo that had a swastika inside a circle with a line through it.

        At least in the 1980s and early 1990s, Denver did have a KKK-/Neo-Nazi scene, and it sometimes got disgustingly violent, with the murder of the radio announcer Alan Berg and with KKK marches on MLK day, which sometimes provoked riots. In other words, the anti-Nazi gesture this skinhead-ish person sported in some environments might have been a braver act than, for example, me stating “I don’t like Nazis.”Report

      • Also, @tod-kelly , there was an anti-Nazi organization in the US called the “German-American League for Culture,” and their newspaper was called the “Volksfront,” maybe the Portland variety are building on that tradition? (Maybe not, too….I don’t know how well-known the League for Culture was.)Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @pierre-corneille – “original skinheads” were actually anti-Nazis.”

        Actually more-or-less true (perhaps not explicitly anti-Nazi, but pro-Jamaican and West Indies culture, as the working-class Brit neighborhoods where it began had many immigrants from there and the skinhead culture was heavily oriented towards ska/rocksteady/reggae etc.). There were originally a fair number of black skinheads. The neo-nazi association came later, and there remain explicitly anti-racist skins.

        I only skimmed it but the Wikipedia entry for ‘skinhead’ seems reasonably accurate and fairly interesting, if you’re into that sort of thing.



      • Avatar greginak says:

        There is also the Straight Edge peeps who are often skinheads; no drugs, clean living, hardcore music and no f’ing nazis. Plenty of skinheads who came by way of the hardcore/punk scene have not sympathy or ties to nazis.

        Appropriate music:


      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Apologies, I forgot, there’s some language in that Unrest track. ^^^^

        Also, some awesome, awesome rockin’.Report

      • Thanks, Glyph. I’m wary of googl’ing “skinheads” because, well, at least some of the sites that might come up would probably be disturbing.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      This comment from @tod-kelly reminds me of a story from my substitute teacher days (one of my favorite, which probably means I’ve told it before.

      For career day, the Redstone schools didn’t bring in scientists or artists to regale the students with stories of how to make it in those fields. They brought in the owner of Quiznos to talk about how one goes about getting a job at Quiznos. Aiming high is not something Redstone does.

      The guy who gave the speech actually owned a bunch of franchise locations for various chains. One of the things he talked about was tattoos and personal appearance. He started telling the story of a nice young woman that he just couldn’t hire because she had a tattoo around her neck. Somewhere in the story, while giving an explanation as to why this was the case, he realized that it sent a message of superficiality that he didn’t want to send. So he just sort of started talking in circles about how it is of course wrong to judge people on appearance but of course you don’t want to go and get any tattoos because he was going to be judging you on appearance.

      It was really quite fascinating to watch, and I think speaks to our very conflicting views on the subject of personal appearance and what it means.Report

  14. Avatar zic says:

    My governor, on the (lack of) dangers of BPA is a must for this thread:


  15. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    They don’t hire a lot of Sikh or Muslim men, eh?Report

  16. Avatar dhex says:

    “Would a beard ever make you reconsider someone in a professional setting?”

    only in the context one considers everything else about how one presents oneself. i’ve had a beard-like existence for about twenty years now, as my head decided it was over the whole “hair thing” around age 17. that said i can’t really do the full beard thing as i’d look like a deranged hobo. it just don’t work with a commitment to baldness in my personal context, where i need a bit of softening anyway. it’s pretty bushy at this point.

    i’ve hired people with various rings n’ things, and i’ve certainly hired vendors with visible tattoos. i would probably not hire a guy with prison tattoos, white power or otherwise, unless it was a security gig, though.

    i did not hire the guy who showed up to a graphic design position interview wearing flip flops and jeans.

    i did not hire the guy who knew who pig destroyer was (and also buttoned the bottom button on his 3 button suit jacket) but i would have considered him for another position.

    i did recommend hiring a woman whom it later turned out had a (concealed arm) tattoo of a cute cartoon bunny rabbit with “down to fck” over the top of it in rainbow lettering. she was (and continues to be) great at what she does.

    i have hired a guy with (reasonably sized) earplugs. i would not hire him to be a communications director, though.

    i am on the fence about neck tattoos.

    i would definitely not hire someone with one of those “coexist” bumper stickers.

    or any bumper sticker, really, if i had my druthers. if your beliefs fit on a bumper sticker you’re probably a moron. (and yes this would make a great bumper sticker but with great power comes great responsibility)Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      That last part is why you fit in so well here. The unofficial (and as yet unproduced) bumper sticker of Ordinary Times is “If your wouldview fits on a bumper sticker, think harder.”Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        If the bumper sticker isn’t written by Schilling, it’s probably not funny enough to put on my car.Report

      • Avatar aaron david says:

        Will these be available at League Fest*?

        *What is it going to be called this year, and will it still be ordinary-gentlemen in my search bar? Next week on Soap…Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      i have hired a guy with (reasonably sized) earplugs

      “Tell me a little about your previous experience.”


    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      i did recommend hiring a woman whom it later turned out had a (concealed arm) tattoo of a cute cartoon bunny rabbit with “down to fck” over the top of it in rainbow lettering. she was (and continues to be) great at what she does.

      You do see the ambiguity there.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        the rabbit was dtf, she was happily married. but many of us had a lot of fun in our 20s.Report

      • Avatar Miss Mary says:

        Just the acronym DTF makes me cringe. There are just so many issues with that attitude! If you’re stable, it would be rate for you to to be satisfied with meaningless sex.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        If you’re stable, it would be rate for you to to be satisfied with meaningless sex.

        I think the opposite is true: the only way you’re going to be satisfied with “meaningless” sex is if you’re stable.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:


        Maybe it’s just that I haven’t had enough coffee yet, but that seems to call for further explanation.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I just mean that there are all sorts of reasons for casual sex, some of which are emotionally messy, and the surest way to avoid the messiness is to be pretty emotionally unmessy yourself.

        The view that only emotionally stable people have casual sex is usually applied selectively by gender, and I would guess by people who have either not had any, or who only had it while emotionally messy.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:


      • Avatar Chris says:

        That should be “the view that only emotionally unstable people have casual sex…”Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        how can sex be meaningless?Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        *adopts catholic position*
        When it doesn’t lead to babies. Duh.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        how can sex be meaningless?

        That was my thought exactly, which is why I changed it to “casual.”Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        I was actually thinking about that – the meaningless/casual switch – and I decided I thought it made the claim potentially salvageable (though I took and agreed with @chris ‘ meaning on casual sex and stability). To be satisfied with meaningless sex – or anything meaningless – maybe that would be rare among the stable. Or maybe it’s a contradiction, depending on your view a potentially necessary relationship between satisfaction and meaning.

        It does seem to me that sex could be meaningless and not casual, if we say that marital sex is definitionally not casual sex.Report

  17. I’m afraid that I do carry prejudgments about people with beards, but kind of like @stillwater above, those prejudgments depend partially on how the beards are maintained, but probably unlike him, I think I tend to jump to conclusions more quickly.

    I have a tendency in general to judge people harshly by my first encounters with them, and the beard may or may not fit into that hasty judgment. I think I use the presence of a beard more as a confirmation for whatever bad judgment I may have made about the person. If I’ve already decided I like him, then I’ll ignore (or not even notice) it.

    I’m not saying this is right, just that it’s part of my default reaction. And to be honest, it’s one of those prejudices I don’t usually notice I’m doing until someone like Mike brings it up.

    I’m coming from a place of privilege. The type of hair/beard style I like for myself just happens to be what is in most cases the safest and most approved style to sport. I’m a clean shaven. I don’t think I’d want a beard because I don’t like having facial hair and I hate the itchiness and pretty much anything on my face. I also don’t like it when my hair gets even close to being longish. I *hate* having long hair, so I keep it short. I use an electric hair shearer and use the “number 1” setting, and I probably do it about once every 5 or 6 weeks.Report

  18. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    This has got me thinking that growing in a beard a few months prior to any job interview might not be a bad practice, at least as long as I’m not desperate.

    Any place that would not hire someone because of something so innocuous, and so superficial, as the choice to wear a beard, clearly has a toxic management culture. It would be nice if they told me that was why I failed the interview – then I could leave happily knowing they’d failed my interview as well.

    I think the same would probably go for any employer that wanted to subject me to a Myers-Briggs voodoo ritual.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      It’s an interesting dilemma for me because I already work there and have known about this rule for 14 years. And it seems so silly to be considering staying put over something like this. But it’s a dumb rule and I really don’t want to work there forever so…it would have to be a really good position to consider the jump.

      With that said I have interviewed for management positions in the past when I wasn’t really ready to move up and was actually asked in the interview if I was aware I would have to give up the beard. They seemed a little annoyed when I said, “I’ll shave it off if you give me the position.” I guess this is part of the philosophy of dressing for the job you want, not the job you have. Interestingly though at my current level none of my management give a hoot about the beard. As a rule they all think the policy is dumb too but it came down from the ivory tower at corporate so they have no say in it.Report

    • Avatar dhex says:


      “I think the same would probably go for any employer that wanted to subject me to a Myers-Briggs voodoo ritual.”

      do companies actually do this? i would, at best, look pretty dang askance at that.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      Awesome, @dragonfrog .Report

    • This is why I don’t take out my eyebrow ring for interviews. It’s a screening tool for me.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Yeah, i’d actually be a lot more askance at something that could be taken out, not being.

        Beards are beards, but to an interview?Report

      • Well, keep in mind that I don’t do client-facing work, so the eyebrow ring isn’t really an issue for my job. Also, I haven’t been desperate for a new job in a while (though I’ve been close), so I’ve been able to be a little choosy.

        Also, people making hiring decisions are becoming more amenable to… how shall we say it… modern life. Facial appears and visible tattoos aren’t as out-there as they used to be. Actually, they’re pretty darned normal, and fewer people these days are as a stuck up about these things. It’s wonderful, actually.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        ah, that makes more sense.Report

  19. Avatar Miss Mary says:

    “The only problem is that my company has a strict policy on beards for management. They are not allowed. A mustache is okay but beards are verboten.” Seriously? They’re lucky you don’t have a tattoo on your face. Pick your battles people!

    “Would a beard ever make you reconsider someone in a professional setting?” Not unless I plan on making out with them in the copy room.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

      So beards actually enhance professionalism?Report

      • Avatar Miss Mary says:

        Yes! I was only slightly joking, but yes, I can take a man more seriously if he has a beard just as easily as I can dismiss him. This could be generational, of corse… I am 27, which seems to be more of a disadvantage in the workplace 🙁Report

  20. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    I used to work at an oil company where refinery workers were not allowed facial hair for safety reasons: in case of an emergency, they might have to wear an air-pack, and a beard or mustache could interfere with it sealing to their mouth. A Sikh worker filed a grievance, but lost when the safety argument prevailed.

    I didn’t work in the refinery, but in a lab/office setting next to it. When I was first hired, we were exempt from the no-beard policy, on the sensible grounds that in case of emergency our job was, not to try to fight the fire or seal the leak, but to get the hell out of the way of the people who knew what they were doing. A few years later, the policy changed, and we got some training in putting out various sorts of fires [1] and told to shave. Some of my co-workers had very impressive full beards, and the appearance changed drastically. (There was one I literally did not recognize.) Another refused to shave and insisted on having his duties changed so he’d never have to enter the refinery. But several of these people were quite senior and well-respected, so having a beard wasn’t a career problem in a very conservative company back in the 80s.

    1. The trainer started with how fire requires heat, fuel, and oxygen, Apparently no one had told him that most of his audience had graduate degrees in chemical engineering. But shooting off high-tech extinguishers into bowls of flaming grease was space awesome.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      I actually know a guy who failed to recognize himself in a mirror after shaving —
      cue “strange guy in my bedroom, wtf?” reaction.[yes, this might have had something to do with sleep deprivation,]
      (in all fairness, he shaves about once a month).Report

  21. Avatar rexknobus says:

    Skimmed the comments and didn’t see any mention of this little quirk. People sometimes look at me (fellow with a beard) a bit cross-eyed when I try to explain, in all honesty:

    “I’m not a guy with a beard; I’m a guy who doesn’t shave.”

    I don’t want a beard. I don’t really like my beard. My self image does not include “beard.” But I really hate shaving, and the stuff just keeps growing. So, in a bit of self-contradictory circularity, I trim my beard about once every two months to keep it neat.

    But I still prefer the occasional trim (down to about ½ inch) over shaving. And no whisker burns for Femrex (sorry if that is too much information).

    P.S. for me, the beard has never been a problem professionally — but I work as a writer in science fields for universities, gov’t science agencies, and Bell Labs sort of places, so I am one among many.Report

  22. It’s a crap policy. Should you obey? Maybe, that’s a crappy decision to be forced into. It’s the sort of policy that would sour me about my employer (whether I had a beard or not, whether I was interested in a management position or not).

    Personal grooming will make people appear more or less professional, sure, and that applies to beards… just as it applies to your hair, your (hopefully lack of) BO, your wardrobe or your general cleanliness.Report

  23. Avatar Kim says:

    At least in America this is relatively not a racist thing…
    The same could not be said of Japan, where certain
    individuals tend to see a guy with a beard as a Barbarian.Report

  24. Avatar Shazbot3 says:

    How the hell did a beard ever become something conservatives (in the loose sense of “traditionalist”) didn’t like?

    I can see an employer asking (not demanding) an employee keep their beard neat and dress professionally.

    Heck, a beard can make you look softer and kinder, but more authoritative at the same time.

    I don’t get it.

    There are some men who look stupid without their beard, let’s face it.Report