To shave or not to shave…

Posted on Monday, December 19, 2016 by Venn GroupNo comments


Over the last few years the work place has evolved enormously, with office attire and personal appearance seemingly at the forefront of discussion. Far from dress-down just being acceptable, it is now actively encouraged, that people relax their work attire, with many organisations such as Google, Facebook, Apple and Twitter spearheading this trend.

The logical progression of relaxed attire, brings about the big question of whether shaving should still be seen as a prerequisite of a corporate / professional look? Combined with recent trends for the hirsute, beards are a talking point at many corporates, with some offices allowing employees to sport them and others not.

Is it right, in this day and age, that business can still be preoccupied with how we choose to keep our facial hair? Are we right in still saying clean shaven is more professional or if this school of thought is now out-dated and actually proving detrimental in attracting potential talent?

Let’s look at some of the myths and realities of this:

Being corporate?

A decade ago you would have been considered more professional if you were clean shaven on a daily basis. As recently as 2014 Transforming Lives interviewed a leading HR Consultant who at the time had over 20 years’ experience in HR management and she described first impressions of people with beards to be ‘lazy’ and that they have a ‘laid back attitude’. However current studies have shown that men with full beards are seen to be both more attractive (albeit not necessary for a business environment) and express higher levels of confidence.

I recently met with a senior member of the corporate team at a leading international law firm and he himself was sporting a well-groomed beard. So surely if a member of one the most corporate teams, in one of the most corporate companies, in what’s considered to be one of the most corporate industries can wear a beard then why can’t we all?

Are they clean?

I’m sure we’ve all read that headlines over the last few years from papers such as the Mirror and saying “Some beards contain more faecal matter than a toilet”. However a study, published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, found that clean-shaven men were more than three times as likely to be carrying MRSA on their cheeks as their bearded counterparts. Clean-shaven men were also more than 10% more likely to have a bacterium that causes skin and respiratory infections, and food poisoning.

So in essence as long as you have a good level of personal hygiene and are keeping your facial hair clean, it shouldn’t be an issue.

So what does this mean?

When I first stepped into recruitment my personal view was that to be clean shaven was to be professional, however over the last few years my mind has changed. One school of thought is that today, flexible working is often more important than pay, which was discussed in a recent article by Sarah Onions. So is restricting people on their facial hair or even the colour of their suits and shoes, draconian?

Is there still a place for that school of thought or if we fail to adapt, are we in danger of missing out on the next generation of budding corporate talent. I’ve noticed some consultancies have already made this transition and I would be keen to hear from other consultants and professionals from other industries on their thoughts?

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