The Corporate Beard: How Facial Hair Can Boost Your Professional Image

The Corporate Beard: How Facial Hair Can Boost Your Professional Image

The corporate beard was, not so long ago, a bit of a hot button. But these days, facial hair is often a moot point.

The working world has evolved to accept that, ultimately, it’s an individual's skills, performance, and professionalism that are indicators of a strong hire. A neatly trimmed, attentively maintained, and well-groomed mustache and beard reflects a polished and professional image that is, thankfully, suitable in most of today’s corporate settings.

In this article, we’ll explore corporate beard styles through history, address modern-day preferences, and consider how facial hair pairs with suits and fine accessories – including the beards and bow ties conundrum. (If you know, you know!)

Professional man with beard


A Bit of Beard History

In the early 20th century, clean-shaven faces were the norm in corporate America; beards were rare and often associated with older, established figures or eccentric individuals. This trend continued into the 1950s and 1960s, influenced by cultural icons and the post-war emphasis on conformity. The corporate uniform typically included a suit and tie, and no facial hair (think Mad Men).

The 1970s saw a shift, as facial hair – particularly mustaches – became more common due to the broader social acceptance of individuality and the counterculture movement. Some professionals started sporting ’staches as a sign of personal style and rebellion against clean-cut culture. 

However, in the 1980s, the clean-shaven look returned to prominence, driven by the rise of corporate power dressing and the influence of business icons like Gordon Gekko from the film Wall Street. During this time, beards and mustaches became less common in corporate settings.

In the 1990s, the working world started to embrace a more relaxed approach to grooming, with the emergence of tech startups and the casualization of office attire. This is the era of the Steve Jobs executive beard style, when goatees and neatly trimmed beards became more accepted – a trend that continued into the 2000s and lives on today through the "hipster" movement.

Hipster with professional beard

​​Can Professionals Have Beards Today?

Is facial hair unprofessional in the modern workplace? No! There are lots of respected professionals with beards, mustaches, goatees, and strategic stubble – just consider these current executives and CEOs with beards: Richard Branson of Virgin, Google’s Sergey Brin, Shantanu Narayen of Adobe Systems, Tope Awotona at Calendly, and former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein.

Now, whether or not having facial hair is considered appropriate in your specific line of work may be a different story. Similar to the question, “Is it OK to Wear a Bow Tie in a Professional Setting?”, it’s all about the intersection of perception and industry, company culture, and geographical location. 

[ Related: How to Avoid a Style Faux Pas with Modern Hat Etiquette ]

Some studies suggest that professionals with facial hair might be perceived as more mature, confident, creative, and experienced. In scenarios where this is true, the bearded professional might even have the potential for higher earnings in certain fields. Industries that fall into this category typically include technology, entertainment and media, fashion and design, academic and research, and art and literature.  

Corporate beard styles are common in the technology & fashion industries


Conversely, in more traditional or conservative industries – like finance and banking, law, corporate business, military and law enforcement, and healthcare – a clean-shaven appearance is still sometimes preferred. In these sectors, making the choice to grow facial hair can be associated with a lack of discipline or determination, or a general air of non-conformity.

Is It Harder to Get a Job with a Beard or Mustache? 

Despite the corporate beard being generally accepted today, the pre-interview “to shave or not to shave” debate continues to persist. 

Interestingly enough, mustaches are not as divisive. In fact, researchers who have studied "Are mustaches professional?” have learned that men with mustaches are more likely to get hired than men who are clean-shaven! What’s more, men with mustaches are reported to make 8% more than men who have beards, and 4% more than those who have no facial hair at all! 

If you’re unsure about going under the razor before a job interview, our best advice is to carefully consider the industry and to do a bit of online sleuthing to get a better sense of the particular company’s culture. 

Look at the website or LinkedIn profile photos associated with the company – better yet, study those in your prospective division or department. What assumptions can you make? Not seeing facial hair should cause you pause: Are beards unprofessional by company standards?

If you observe shorter facial hair across the board, perhaps give your mustache and beard a handsome trim or treat yourself with a trip to the barber. See a variety of facial hair styles? You’re likely fine to opt for the best presentation of your facial hair as is. 

If the internet yields nothing, let context be your guide. In more conservative industries, like those referenced above, minimizing your facial hair footprint or opting for a clean-shaven appearance may help you to make a more positive impression.

Man getting his facial hair trimmed before interview

What Jobs Don't Allow Facial Hair?

Jobs where hygiene, safety, or uniformity are critical typically have strict grooming policies. 

In professions requiring the use of respirators or other tight-fitting safety equipment, such as healthcare, firefighting, hazardous material handling, and some manufacturing roles, facial hair can interfere with the effectiveness of protective gear. Similarly, in food service and food processing industries, cleanliness standards often prohibit facial hair to prevent contamination. Additionally, certain military and law enforcement roles enforce clean-shaven standards to maintain discipline, uniformity, and effective use of protective gear.

So, can an employer tell you to shave your beard? Yes. If you don’t comply with the facial hair policy at work, you can be instructed to shave. However, employees may have the right to maintain facial hair for religious and medical exemptions. In such cases, reasonable accommodations should be made to balance company policies with individual rights.

Man wearing suit and bow tie with beard


Facial Hair & Fine Accessories

What suit is best for a bearded man? Trick question! Groomed beards with suits are a universally dashing combination. But, as well-dressed bearded men know, there is a particular peril that can come with wearing a bow tie or necktie: snagging. The feeling and sound of stubble catching on your neckwear is unpleasant at best, and ruinous to your accessory at worst. 

Synthetic fabrics, like polyester blends, and those with a loose weave are liable to snag against beard stubble, especially if they have a fine or textured surface.

Finer woolen fabrics can catch on the rough edges of stubble, leading to pilling or damage. Knit fabrics, such as cashmere, are also prone to snagging due to their softer and more open weave.

So, how can a bearded man best wear a bow tie? Here are a few tips and tricks to consider:

  • Freshly shave before dressing to minimize stubble. 
  • Use beard oil or balm to soften stubble.
  • Choose durable fabrics; printed fabrics are best, then tightly woven cotton or silk.
  • Choose patterned pieces over solids to minimize the appearance of snags.
  • Choose the right bow tie shape, favoring those with a lower profile.
  • Be gentle when tying and adjusting your bow or necktie.
  • Tie strategically, ensuring the same edge isn’t exposed to your stubble on every wear.
  • Rotate wear of your collection, avoiding frequent use of the same piece, if possible. 

At R. Hanauer, our mission is to help gentlemen feel comfortable, confident and empowered. Need help finding the right fine accessory to compliment your facial hair? Get in touch! Looking for some inspiration? Check out our social media feeds – we’re on Facebook and Instagram. And next time you’re dressed and dapper, show us your whiskers and neckwear by tagging us #RHanauer.