Fashion might call for it, but are corporate workspaces okay with the full beard?

May 17, 2018, 07:31 IST | Dhara Vora Sabhnani

The impact and acceptance of facial hair that they have gradually crossed the barriers of hipsterdom to find their way to boardrooms. But are corporate firms with a strict formal dress code open to men with beards?


Beards are to men what make-up is to women, and a quick Internet search of actors in a pre- and post-beard phase will confirm this. Such has been the impact and acceptance of facial hair that they have gradually crossed the barriers of hipsterdom to find their way to boardrooms. But are corporate firms with a strict formal dress code open to men with beards?

"We have a strict dress code, where a shabby demeanour is unacceptable. We even keep daily checks; employees cannot walk into the office in jeans or sports shoes, especially when they have client interactions. But full beards are not a concern. We have employees with full beards and twirled moustaches," says Sudhir Dhar, CHRO – director HR, Motilal Oswal Financial Services Ltd.

Dr Sujaya Banerjee
Dr Sujaya Banerjee

Rohan Vaswani, CHRO, Nexus Malls, a fully owned subsidiary of investment firm Blackstone Group, shares a similar thought. The company follows a formal dress code from Monday to Thursday and smart casuals on Friday. "You can't walk into the office with your shirt not tucked in or in bright blue trousers. But beards, if they are well-kept, are fine," shares Vaswani.

Dress to impress
"The first impression is created by the physical appearance of a person; it's later that you have an interaction and people get influenced by your personality. So, if you seem shabby, you create a perception even before you talk," says Dhar.

He adds that as long as one is confident of carrying it off and not look out of place, a beard is acceptable.

Rohan Vaswani
Rohan Vaswani

"We conduct training on executive presence — how to look, behave and dress like a leader. These aspects are now becoming increasingly important as often, you find that people are competent but they don't make it beyond a point because they don't look like the part or someone who can represent the organisation before multiple stakeholders. It's not about good looks but about appearance. A haircut and a well-groomed beard are a part of this understanding. You can't have a two-day stubble where you look like you have just woken up and come to work. We actually check if there's a valid reason behind an unkempt stubble: Is the employee unwell? Or is he battling a low?" says Dr Sujaya Banerjee, CEO and founder of Capstone People Consulting.

Do you shave before an interview?
Most HR personnel we spoke to felt there's no middle ground; you either opt for the clean-shaven look or wear a groomed full beard. "It's better to shave off a two-day stubble and not go in between. It can be interpreted as a sign of laziness," warns Dhar.

"I am more interested in knowing if a person has the right competence and capability for the job. The older generation, however, associates beards with carelessness and mistrust. Traditionally, even in films, the bearded guy will always be the villain or from the underworld. If a full beard is groomed, it's fine. Long hair is not allowed. You are not an artist or performer, you are corporate. Hence, certain norms remain. We allow personal freedom as long as you stay well-groomed," adds Banerjee.

Make a bearded impact
"Some people look smarter with a beard," says Dhar. Vaswani feels that real estate companies are often promoter-driven, and the vision of the promoter and the top management often reflects on the staff where people would go the extra mile to keep with the image. "Those with gaunt features can look fuller with a beard. It also saves you the trouble of having to shave every day. A good beard can actually help you appear stronger. Also, today, people look for organisations where individuality is encouraged, where you can bring your authentic self to work. It's motivating to be in an organisation where you can express who you are, as long as it doesn't hamper business. So, if the beard is within acceptable parameters, all's well," says Banerjee.

Grooming tips
Keep it clean
Wash your beard three times a week to prevent the build-up of dead skin cells.
Keep it moisturised Oil your beard daily to keep it soft and moisturised.
Shape it up
Trim your beard when you see stray hair or as desired to maintain the shape. Repeat this once every two weeks when you want to maintain a consistent length.
Kaushal Pratab, founder, Shepherd For Men 

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