Is a short beard professional? [Quotes, polls and science]

I started growing my beard while I was in full-time employment. I always had some form of facial hair – mostly stubble – but this was the first time that I wanted to grow out my beard to a short beard. But, I was always wondering is a short beard professional? In this article, we are going go over all of the things that make a short beard professional and also give you some top tips for keeping it on the right side of your company’s beard rules.

A short beard can be professional as long as it is kept clean, trimmed in a professional manner – with clean lines and even length, and falls within your company’s facial hair guidelines. Companies are becoming more relaxed around facial hair so it could be your time to grow one.

Obviously, there are some places where a beard is a complete no. I am thinking of places like food preparation, some healthcare environments and industrial manufacturing environments where beards may get caught in industrial machinery.

However, there are plenty of workplaces in the information age where beards are completely acceptable. I’m thinking office environments and other creative jobs allow you to express yourself by growing a beard.

Not all beards, no matter what the length, are professional. Let’s take a look at two studies that have looked at beards and people’s perception of whether or not they are professional.

What the science says

In 2012, a study from the Warwick Business School, the University College London, and Dartmouth College found that the physical appearance of a person is very much related to their perceived level of trustworthiness. In the financial services sector, for example, the more trustworthy you look to potential clients, the more likely are to attract the higher dollar investments. Full beards, having a goatee, or mustache are considered to be signs of a trustworthy person. While the neckbeard without a mustache is apparently quite threatening.

One 2003 study found that having a beard didn’t make much of an impact on a man’s employability but having a moustache did. Researchers showed university students a set of CVs each with a computer-generated photo. Some of the candidates had beards, some had a moustache and others were simply clean-shaven. It was found that one of the biggest hiring biases was not against applicants with a full beard but for those with a moustache. The beard, on the whole, didn’t make much of a difference in how an applicant was evaluated. Although, the research showed that applicants with facial hair were chosen less often for higher-level positions like management positions.

People’s perception of an unruly beard is that it may imply a negative worth ethic, personal hygiene issues, or management and organizational problems.

Therefore, having a beard doesn’t necessarily make you more or less trustworthy but having a scruffy bit of hair on your face doesn’t help build great first impressions.

What makes a (short) beard professional?

To make sure that you land on the right side of people’s perceptions of your professional capacity let’s take a look at some of the cornerstone ideas of making sure that a beard looks suitable in a workplace environment.

“Beards are certainly professional. I’ve had one for my entire HR career. There are some organizations that don’t allow facial hair for safety or hygiene reasons, it’s something that should be brought up in the interview process so candidates that may have beards can decide if they’re willing to shave”

Jon Thurmond – Regional HR Manager at Team Fishel

Cleanliness

The first, and the most important aspect of a beard is cleanliness. Cleanliness is something that you should work on as a matter of priority if you want to sport a beard in a professional setting.

Beards can end up smelling without the owner really noticing it.

There are a number of things that beards can pick up throughout the day such as smoke, alcohol, and pollution which can leave them a little bit smelly.

Unfortunately, if you own a smelly beard you may get used to the smell which means that you no longer notice it. It’s the similar phenomenon known of when you leave a room and then you re-enter the room after a while and notice the smell that wasn’t obvious before. Your brain gets used to the background smells and it simply ignores it to conserve energy.

Beards can have bacteria living in them that can cause them to smell. The bacteria can come from sweat as well as bacteria that you pick up with your hands and put on your beard. Food can also get stuck in the moustache area of your beard and as your beard gets longer there’s no real way of being able to stop it. I just have to be conscious of carrying a napkin and making sure that my moustache is fully cleaned after eating.

Lastly, your beard may accumulate sebum which is the natural oil the gas produced on your face. If you do not wash your beard regularly the sebum can build up and bacteria can start eating the oils on your face. Sebum also is heavily influenced by the foods that you eat and if you eat foods like onions and garlic your beard can quickly end up smelling like them.

Wash your beard every couple of days with a dedicated beard shampoo or soap to keep it smelling good and free of any issues which could leave you with a stinky beard.

Clean lines

The second important part of maintaining a professional short beard is by cleaning up your cheap lines and necklines so that they are free of any stray hairs and create a defined line between your skin and your beard hair.

I have found that it is very easy to turn a messy beard into a clean looking beard simply by shaving up the cheek lines and neckline.

The good news is that you can do this quickly – in less than two minutes – every single day with a single blade safety razor.

If you want a full rundown on trimming up your cheap line check out my other article – two months beard trim where I go through the simple steps that you can use to trim up your lines. Click here to be taken to the article.

Symmetrical style

If you have a short beard one of the easiest ways to keep it looking as professional as possible is to buy yourself a good quality set of trimmers.

Asymmetrical beard style relies on you cutting your hair to the same length symmetrically across your face. Because your beard is short it gets easy to notice the differences in lengths simply by looking at the contrast caused by the beard on your face.

Trimming a short beard takes a little bit of practice to make sure that you can get it even but after a little bit of a learning curve you’ll be able to do it just as well as a professional.

If you want to know more about trimming up a 5 mm beard you can check out my YouTube video where I share some of the tricks for working with a trimmer on a short beard.

An intentional beard

Ultimately, each of these tips alludes to the fact that your beard is intentional.

The last thing we want in a professional setting is for someone to describe our beard as shaggy, wiring, unkempt, or like a homeless person’s beard. Therefore, we must strive to make sure that our beard looks like we mean it to be that way.

Having an intentional beard means taking some pride in how it looks. I do not mean that you have to spend hours and hours manicuring your beard but setting up a regular daily and fortnightly schedule will mean that your beard will always look in tip top shape.

A daily routine which works for short beards is:

  • trim up cheek lines and necklines – the cheek line should flow nicely from the top of your moustache to the front edge of your sideburns. Exactly how deep the line dips on your cheek is completely up to you and dependent on if you can grow a dense beard on your cheeks.
  • Add a beard oil or skin moisturiser – even if you are not actively shampooing your beard the water from the shower can dry out your hairs. So, I recommend that you get used to putting one or two drops beard oil on your beard every day or, if your beard is short, you use a skin moisturiser to replenish the nutrients and moisture that is lost from your hair.

This daily routine will keep your beard looking very intentional and by doing it every day you will be laying the foundations for a fantastic looking beard. No matter what you decide to do daily basis needs to be manageable and able to be done in a short period of time.

Building up the habit of small amounts regularly is one of the secrets for keeping your beard looking professional.

What facial hair is professional?

There are a couple of short beard styles that can be kept to look very professional. This includes the short stubble beard as well as a short length beard between 5 mm and 2 inches.

These beards are able to be grown without too much of the awkward beard growing stage. They can be trimmed up using a good quality set of trimmers so that HR is kept happy.

Short stubble beard

A short stubble beard can be grown over the course of a weekend. As long as you enter your workplace with trimmed up cheek lines and necklines as well as an even length on your chin and sides you can make it very professional.

A stubble beard is a fantastic place to get people used to having a beard in the workplace. Once people have got used to a stubble beard it will only take a month or so to grow it out to a short beard which opens up a variety of different style options for you.

Short beard

A short beard paired with a snappy and trendy hairstyle is an absolute winner. Keep the hair over the lip trimmed close to the lip line and make sure that any hairs under the lips and towards the chin sit flush with the face. The cheek line should be trimmed so that it looks defined and not messy.

The biggest trick to keeping a short beard looking professional for an interview is to trim it the same length all over. You can fade to the sideburns or into other areas but having it a continuous and even length will help improve its looks.

What my poll revealed!

I asked 3000 bearded men if they thought a beard was professional:

They said:

Beards have been becoming more popular over the last decade and they’ve made their way into all sectors of professionalism.

People are professionals, beards are just part of their faces.

Is it OK to have a beard for a job interview?

This one can be quite a tricky subject. In a job interview, you are balancing a load of social conventions. In an ideal interaction, you should build trust and openness with the people interviewing you whilst also showing them that you are professionally capable to do the role that you have applied for.

There are loads of ways you can do this such as, initiating a firm handshake, looking at people in the eye while talking to them, and just looking “the part”. A hiring decision is generally based on first impressions of how trustworthy a candidate is. Being considered a trustworthy person goes hand-in-hand with what we think of their integrity and ethics. First impressions are important because if someone is initially perceived to be trustworthy based on their looks we will then assign them with integrity and unconsciously look for evidence in their behaviour to support our first impression. We will also ignore evidence that challenges our first impression.

Caring for a beard before an interview

If you are going for an interview I would recommend that you get a professional trim and shape for your beard. Unless you are a seasoned professional trimming your own beard you will almost certainly get a better result from a professional barber.

A professional barber is able to see your beard from every direction and give you an independent analysis and trim up beard hairs from angles that you cannot see yourself.

Here are some other tips for making your beard look awesome before an interview:

  • Shampoo and condition the day before – this will mean that it is not freshly shampooed and to dry from having all of the natural oils are stripped out.
  • Use a good quality beard oil at least one hour before your interview – this will give it plenty of time to soak in and show off your beard in its best light.
  • Use a beard balm or wax – use a beard balm or wax to style your beard and as a leave in conditioner. If you find your beard is not styled to perfection use a product with a stronger hold and more beeswax.
  • Take a brush with you – even though your beard is brushed in the morning things like wind and travel on public transport can make it scruffy. Head to the bathroom before your interview and give your beard a final touch up with a brush and some beard balm.

The thing about a beard is you are not sure how the panel feel about facial hair. Entering a room and being subjected to initial impressions means that a beard can very quickly put someone off. You then must work very hard to win them over their first impressions have been negative.

What is an acceptable beard length at work?

The acceptable length of your beard at your workplace really comes down to the type of workplace that you are in as well as human resources requirements for your position.

If you are not sure what your current workplace is policies are about having a beard I would simply ask the head of your team or human resources for a quick answer.

If you want to live on the wild side, you could always start growing a beard and see if anyone says anything. Sometimes it is easier to ask for forgiveness is to ask for permission.

Some workplaces allow you to have a massive beard as long as it is well looked after and isn’t offputting for customers (if you are in a customer facing role) and that it is appropriate for your current position.

Summary

In this article, we have covered whether or not a short beard is professional.

A short beard can be professional as long as it is clean, it has clean lines and it is the same length all over – or at least the style is symmetrical from one side of your face to another.

Maintaining a short beard is much easier than maintaining a long beard and many workplaces are open to the idea of a short professional looking beard.

If in doubt, ask your workplace on their facial hair policy before growing your beard to make sure that you don’t get attached to something which you will have to remove in a couple months time.

The Author


Andy Stapleton

Andy is a writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. He has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. He is an avid beard grower and after many years of growing and trialing different beard styles, he started this blog to share the tips, tricks, and science that he has learned along the way!