SURVEY SAYS: Male Professionals’ Facial Hair

September 10, 2012 – Prompted by a reader question, last week I asked NewsDash readers if they think facial hair on men is acceptable in a professional environment.

Seventy-seven percent of responding readers said “yes, if kept neat and trim,” while 13% said “yes, absolutely.” Three percent indicated a mustache is acceptable, but not a beard, and 6% said no facial hair is acceptable.  

When asked if they think men’s facial hair affects their career progression, 60% of responding readers conceded that it probably depends on upper management’s preference, while 31% chose “no, not at all.” Four percent said a beard may affect a man’s career progression, but not a mustache, and 5% chose “yes, it is unprofessional.”  

In the verbatim comments, several readers brought up the growing issue of tattoos and piercings in the workplace. The comments garnered a few perturbed statements that the question, or idea behind the question, is outdated or discriminatory. To that, I say, we all know such discrimination would be illegal, we are asking for personal opinions here. That said, Editor’s Choice goes to “Don’t really ‘get’ the survey question [being asked here], but can’t wait ’til Monday – to grow or go. Next up, is gray the new blonde.” 


I have had facial hair virtually all of my adult life. If it has hindered me, it has been in secret because, not once, did a manager ever suggest that I should consider shaving it for the good of my career. If it did matter, one hopes someone would have had the decency to tell me. 


At best this is an ignorant question. At worst it encourages discrimination. There are cultural and religious reasons that many men are required to keep facial hair. There are also pockets of geography throughout the country where facial hair is the norm, rather than the exception. To imply that standards, norms, religious belief may infringe on ones potential career progression is offensive. An apology should be issued for this survey. 


I was in a meeting where a guy continually tugged on his soul patch, even while talking. Beyond the soul patch in 2012 (seriously... you're not Phil Jackson circa last decade), drawing attention to it earned him the nickname "soul patch". 


However, if the facial hair is actually a tattoo of hair, then all bets are off. That would be too weird. 


Before everyone starts bashing the beards, goatees, and stache's, let's remember it was our forefathers' (many immortalized on our currency) that set the precedent for facial hair so if you hate the stache, you hate the cash! 


If you got it flaunt it because you may lose it tomorrow. One could also argue that lack of hair on one's head is equally "unprofessional". Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. 


Out of the range of men's facial hair options (mustache, beard, sideburns/chops, goatees, etc.) I've found that few men can wear these with professionalism and grace, but it seems a new crop of "attemptees" continue to try year after year. 


The second question should have asked should it affect their career progression. As long as anyone's appearance is neat and trim, it should have no bearing on their progression in the workplace. 


I work for a very diverse and successful company. The (male) owner has the longest ponytail and beard in the company. But even when I worked for corporate America, there was never any issue with facial hair. (Plus, there are some people I would not want to see without facial hair).

Verbatim (cont.)  

I see more without than with but those with are well groomed. I don't see it as a problem. 


The "I'm too cool to shave every day" look is unprofessional, in my opinion. But a neatly maintained beard or mustache is fine. Some religions mandate one. 


I did a research project on this very subject in college. Overall, women trust men without facial hair more than with. Men split about evenly, with a slight advantage to the non-hairy faces. Personally, my spouse, who is bald, has a beard and mustache and we tease him that without, he would look like an egg with eyes. Bottom-line...some men can pull it off...some can't...and it all rests in the eye of the beholder. 


Neat and trim are the key words. If food gets stuck during a lunch time meeting, you can kiss that promotion good-bye! 


I think if facial hair is kept neat and trim it can make a person more attractive depending on their facial structure. It really depends on their overall appearance, not just the facial hair. Our president has a beard and mustache so it obviously didn't hurt him. 


Perhaps I'm looking at the question in the wrong context (I'm thinking "should it have an affect" vs. "does it have an affect") but I think it does not effect progression. In point of fact, some men look better with facial hair, it can look dignified and add an air of authority. 


hmmm...from cursing at work to facial hair? Not getting THAT connection, at all! 


I have been a Corporate Controller for 9 years. I have had a goatee for 16 years. Not a problem for me. 


Facial hair connotes manliness, power, and influence, it further promotes and emphasizes the male's leadership positions at many companyies around the world. Well-groomed facial hair in a sales position is very effective in making one more successful, all other factors remaining equal. 


as long as they keep it neat and groomed and act professional why should that hinder their chance of advancement. 


I believe that whether or not facial hair is acceptable in a professional environment depends on a lot of factors. Look at the late Steve Jobs. He had that scruffy look. It seemed okay for him because he was in the high tech world which is more laid back. That look may not go over well in the finance world or other professions. 


Depends on the industry and corporate culture. 


Have you seen Duck Dynasty? I think that business requires facial hair. 


It's ok in the office but it may not go if you deal with the public in sales or service jobs. 


Facial hair is better than long hair. I HATE pony tails on "professional" men. 


Despite my answer that it is perfectly acceptable, as I think about my own Corporate work environment, I can't recall any male that actually has a beard or mustache. Maybe I'm living in my own fantasy word as I do love a man with facial hair(full disclosure, my husband has a mustache for all of the 25 years I've known him so I may be biased). 


From my experience, those with the sort of facial hair that might be a strike against them also had other issues that would have affected their career progression. Don't blame it on the hair -- blame it on the total package.

Verbatim (cont.)  

I personally don't care for facial hair on most men and even less on women 🙂 


If the job is done and done well, I think it would not matter. But I would want it kept neat and trim and clean! 


I've worn a full beard for the past twenty five years. Over that period, I've had precisely zero concern as to whether it has had any effect on my credibility with clients, when walking into board meetings, or in any regard relative to my career progression. 


A full beard should be as insignificant as skin color. 


One of our Senior VPs is growing a beard. It makes him look like a bumble bee. Yuck! 


I would take full beard any day, mustaches are creepy! 


I wanted to "Yes" to question 2, but you added the opinion to the answer. I don't necessarily think it's unprofessional, but I believe other people's opinions would have an impact on career progression. 


It "should" not make a difference, but neither should a person's gender or race (etc.) That said, I've noticed most salesmen are clean shaven. As design professionals, we have more latitude for self-expression. One's profession may be a deciding factor on whether facial hair is appropriate or not. 


Wow, interesting question - did not know we were going back 30 years for these types of social questions. An updated/more pertinent item might ask about tattoos, piercings (body part and male/femal related), and/or ear spacers. 


You don't see many men in top management positions with beards, so that tells you something...maybe about the sheep-like attitude of those who aspire and get to those positions. 


I think it depends on what profession and how neat your overall appearance is. There is a lot more that goes into the impression you make that just the facial hair. 


I'm bald so any talk about hair peeks my interest. Facial hair is appropriate in the workplace so long as it it neat and trimmed. if unkempt it can be detrimental to a career. 


Professional facial hair is fine. It's the amateur stuff that drives you crazy. 


Don't really "get" the survey question [being asked here], but can't wait 'til Monday - to grow or go. Next up, is gray the new blonde. 


Although I believe it is acceptable in a professional environment if properly groomed, I just don't like facial hair. 


Let me guess, this was a female Newsdash reader that prompted the survey question, right? 


What really should affect someone's career progression is the fact that they would care about what's on someone else's face rather than what's inside their head. 


No Gerry Garcia beards in the office, please! 


No worse than women wearing flip-flops, and calling them Designer Footwear. 


Like any aspect of personal grooming, facial hair can be "distracting". But the question, in an era of run amok tattos, body piercings, and unnatural hair tints strikes me as rather "quaint.". you might as well ask about women wearing pants to work. 


NOTE: Verbatim responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not the stance of Asset International or its affiliates.