Gone are the days when facial hair was only an off-duty luxury. Mustaches and beards are now a common sight in the American workplace. But are they professional?
A stand-alone mustache can be professional in a work environment so long as it appears intentional and well-groomed. Some companies are more accepting of evolving facial hair trends than others, but 2022 finds mustachioed and bearded men among all levels of employees in virtually every industry.
If you’re curious about facial hair’s role in employment, read on for some practical advice.
Are mustaches OK for work?
Updated resume: check.Freshly-ironed clothes: check. Hair trimmed and shaped: – check. You’re ready for that interview, or are you? You just got hired for a new customer-facing role. To shave or not to shave? Is there an easy answer to the shave debate at work?
Mustaches are ok for most work environments today. Some industries are more traditional in their grooming codes than others, but even bankers and lawyers can be seen wearing facial hair during work hours. Even the health-code-conscious foodservice industry tends to accommodate mustaches even if beards aren’t allowed.
Facial hair in the workplace has been on an upward trajectory for the past decade. The changing work scene since 2020 has furthered the cause of facial hair freedom even more. Once relegated to weekends or vacations, mustaches and beards have become a common accessory at the office.
Even in the strictest of workplaces, mustaches have been embraced. When beards are taboo, a trimmed mustache sticking within the lip boundaries is usually allowed. Take for example the infamous Yankees’ appearance policy. The traditional, old-school restrictions put in place nearly 50 years ago make mustache allowances stating that “All players, coaches, and male executives are forbidden to display any facial hair other than mustaches…”
Is facial hair business professional?
Facial hair has had a colorful history. The 60s and 70s equated facial hair with rebels and renegades. The 80s mustache crew was thought to be made up of porn stars and Magnum P.I. wannabees. Heck, even Presidents had beards back in the day!
By the early 2000s, facial hair began quite literally growing on the general population.
Today, we see company execs as well as the artistic set growing beards, mustaches, and everything in between. A hims survey of 500 men found that a whopping 90% can have facial hair at their current workplace.
The key to facial hair being accepted in business is keeping it well-groomed. Scraggly, patchy, uneven facial hair is associated with laziness and poor attention to detail. A neat, well-trimmed mustache or beard communicates professionalism.
As a general rule, if you have the skills to do the job well, then facial hair shouldn’t be a factor. However, there are instances where grooming rules due to employee or customer health and safety trump the desire for individuality.
There’s also an “unseen” policy in some organizations. Maybe a manager hates facial hair. Maybe a new hire is expected to “pay his dues” before being afforded the luxury of a beard. While these situations aren’t the norm, they can exist, so it pays to do a little culture recon before you show up for an interview.
However, even in traditionally conservative careers like finance and banking, facial hair has been creeping in slowly. Peruse the “About Us” sections on websites and you will see a few company officers among the whisker elite.
What does a mustache say about a man?
As acceptable as facial hair is today, just because you can grow facial hair in your job doesn’t necessarily mean you should. This is where perceptions come into play. Let’s look at some science behind the mustache.
Facial hair symbolizes masculinity and studies show it can elicit thoughts of maturity and dependability, and expertise. It can also trigger thoughts of assertiveness, aggression, and anger. The position and duties of a job should be considered when deciding to grow a mustache or other facial hair.
While there have been some high-profile attorneys with mustaches and beards, the vast majority remain clean-shaven in the courtroom. This is understandable when considering juror perceptions. When justice and money are on the line, sometimes facial hair has to take a back seat.
On the other hand, salesmen could benefit from perceptions of expertise, dependability, and assertiveness. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t apply to the great hairy face debate.
When polling hiring managers, all agreed on one fact: whatever facial hair you choose, keep it groomed. Also, if you choose to grow it, go all-in because “Light stubble makes me think you’re lazy and forgot to shave.”
How to make your mustache look professional
While your decision to grow or not to grow a mustache may be difficult to make, once you decide to do it, it’s relatively easy to keep it groomed to professional standards.
Follow the following four principles for a meeting-ready mustache:
- Keep it clean
- Keep it trimmed
- Keep it edged
- Keep it styled
Keep it clean
Keeping your mustache clean for the office should be a no-brainer.
Simply give your mustache a quick wash in the shower, and check in the mirror periodically to make sure it’s free of foreign objects.
Spaghetti-coated hairs from today’s lunch aren’t going to win you any brownie points.
Keep it trimmed
The one rule of thumb when wearing a mustache to the office is to keep it trimmed.
Many grooming codes will dictate how far out a mustache can grow. Trim any stray, uneven hairs and make your ‘mo as uniform as possible.
Don’t let wild hairs get in the way of your goals.
Keep it edged
Once the trimming is done, make sure your mustache, beard, or sideburns have super clean edges.
This shows impeccable attention to detail and conveys the idea of ‘if you can keep your facial hair in such great shape, imagine what you can do for our company.’
Keep it styled
A comb and a dab of styling product will keep your ‘mo in place throughout the workday.
Dry, brittle hairs can draw unwelcome attention to your upper lip. Keep your mustache hydrated and in place with some beard oil and a touch of mustache wax.