I’m not sure why, but I’ve never been a fan of facial hair (on men or women). Dmitriy Ioselevich of Walek Peppercomm disagrees, though, and believes the right beard will take the right man a long way in the business world. Here’s his take on bearded guys who’ve done very well (as well as a few clean-shaven ones who’ve well, given an unsuspecting public quite a haircut…
I take great pride in my beard and, judging by the appearance of some of my fellow New York City commuters, I am not alone. Beards have become so popular in the United States that the shaving industry is desperately trying to get men to shave more.
But beards weren’t always fashionable and, in some parts, still aren’t.
The New York Yankees are famous for their no beard policy, instituted in 1973 by former owner George Steinbrenner. The boss wanted a team full of classy, professional-looking ball players (creepy mustaches are OK though), and actively punished any players who were beginning to show the slightest signs of scruff. Former Yankee legend Don Mattingly was once benched in 1991 for refusing to cut his long hair, and in the late 1990’s lefty David Wells nearly suffered the same fate for refusing to shave his goatee, although he eventually relented.
Even though Steinbrenner is now gone, the policy still continues today. Earlier this baseball offseason the Yankees announced that they wouldn’t sign relief pitcher Brian Wilson because he refused to shave his majestic beard.
It was a strange excuse for a team that had just finished an ignominious third place in the AL East, but still one consistent with the Yankees corporate culture. (They must have missed the bearded wonders over in Boston winning their third World Series this decade).
The financial industry is also well known for its aversion to facial hair. With the exception of a few high-profile figures (Ben Bernanke, Carl C. Icahn, Lloyd C. Blankfein), beards are more rare on Wall Street than a non-tailored suit.
Dr. Allan D. Peterkin, co-author of “The Bearded Gentleman: The Style Guide to Shaving Face,” offers one interesting explanation: “Older people tend to view facial hair with more suspicion than young people do…you don’t want to have an ironic hipster handling your funds.”
There have been countless other organizations with arcane rules about appearance. Even management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. has a decades-old policy prohibiting employees from wearing argyle socks. But does suppressing individual expression really help build a tighter culture? Do clients really care what their bankers, lawyers, doctors, etc. look like?
It’s a delicate question and certain policies do have merit. For instance, showering and wearing pants are generally good ideas. Showing up to work in a blood-stained shirt reeking of alcohol is probably a bad idea.
One obvious solution for bearded or otherwise out casted individuals is to find a culture that matches their own set of ideals. David Price, a cherubic, bearded starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays, elegantly summed up his feelings on playing for the Yankees: “I wouldn’t stay there very long. Those rules, that’s old-school baseball. I was born in ’85. That’s not for me. That’s not something I want to be a part of.”
What is a culture if not something that people want to “be a part of”? Too many companies today choose to enforce a particular culture upon their employees—often at the behest of the founder or CEO—rather than shaping the culture to accommodate the various eccentricities of each and every employee.
With 2014 upon us, it’s time to change that.