Facial hair has become an ‘in’ trend for men; the designer stubble has now grown into the designer beard. There are endless male celebrities who are sporting this look, but we want to know whether there has been a change in attitudes towards facial hair within the employment sector. Does facial hair put you at a disadvantage when going for a job interview?

We spoke with three experts to uncover their attitudes about facial hair within the workplace. The responses were mixed, leading us to believe there is still much controversy surrounding the topic and what is thought to be right and wrong.

Jamie DanielFirstly, we spoke with Jamie Daniel a fashion blogger working and living in London as a Ladies wear manager for a store on Oxford Street. Having a full beard himself, Jamie is representing the male population that have facial hair, sharing his personal experience about whether he feels facial hair has prevented him securing a job.

When and why did you decide to grow your facial hair?

I started growing my facial hair about 4 years ago after I started to bald badly through stress, I like being able to maintain facial hair as I feel it gives me back the control over my appearance that my balding took away from me. 

What are your tips for keeping your facial hair well groomed?

My grooming tips are pretty simple; I tend to 'manscape' my facial hair every other day to keep it looking neat and well maintained. As for products I try and go for ones that are as natural as possible, sticking to one brand to maintain consistency. 

Have you ever felt that having facial hair in the workplace is a disadvantage?

I've never felt at a disadvantage having facial hair in the workplace, if anything given that I work in fashion it's been a big part of my identity and appearance throughout my current job. Given the big trend in facial hair at the moment it's definitely the ‘in’ thing to have facial hair, especially working in fashion.

Would you ever consider shaving off your facial hair for a job?

I don't think I would ever consider shaving it off for a job, if it was a requirement of the job it would tell me a lot about the prospective company and that I probably wouldn't feel comfortable working within that environment. 

Where do you think the trend for having facial hair has come from?

From the recent 'heritage' trend that has been a huge part of menswear the past few years, there have been a lot of factors such as the resurgence of brands like Ben Sherman, Fred Perry and Farah that have pushed this very British identity in fashion. This well groomed identity has been huge in London in the 'trendy' areas such as Shoreditch, Dalston and Clapham and it's started to spread across the country. The fact that it's starting to hit catwalks, campaigns and commercials has made it a much more mainstream trend, especially with big brands such as ASOS and Topman using a lot of bearded models. 

What reasons can you think of that would make employers not want employees to have facial hair?

I think employers that are still quite traditional in their approach to appearance and identity would have a problem with facial hair if they still believe in the negative stereotype of men with facial hair being untidy, lazy and work shy. Beards have always been associated with some negative elements of society such as the homeless, protesters and beggars and I think some employers are still very wary of that.

Sam BelleWe got the opinion of a leading image consultant, Sam Belle, the founder of Pixie Belle, a unique service offering clients the tools to make them feel comfortable, look good and be confident with their image. Sam’s knowledge in image consulting will add a professional perspective regarding what she believes will help males when considering growing their facial hair.

What first impression does somebody with facial hair give to you?

Much of the facial hair today is very neat, well-maintained and styled.  This type of facial hair suggests a man who cares about his appearance and has great attention to detail.  By some it could be perceived as vanity, so the overall presentation must be taken into consideration.

A full, bushy beard is indicative of age or musical preferences.  A more mature man with a bushy beard just looks like an older guy whereas a younger man with a full beard is more likely to be a fan of Goth/EMO/Metal music.

Do you get a different first impression with someone who has facial hair as opposed to someone who doesn’t?

It depends greatly on the style of the facial hair.  A clean shaven man vs a scruffy beard – the clean shaven man gives a better first impression.  There would be little comparison between a clean shaven man and a man with neat, stylised facial hair.

What advice would you give to someone who is going for an interview and has facial hair?

Groom it!  Trim it, wash it, and make sure there is no flaky skin (or food residue).  Consider the environment for the interview; are you likely to be offered a drink?  In which case, make sure you won't end up with foam from your cappuccino all over your moustache that you have to wipe away.  It's distracting and unprofessional.

What would you suggest wearing to an interview to make a great first impression?

It's vital that you familiarise yourself with the dress code of the company interviewing you.  If they are a suit & tie company, then this is what you must wear.  However, you will look overdressed if they are a very casual business.  Wear something that is smart but that you feel comfortable in.  And never wear a black suit!

Have you noticed a rise in people that have facial hair?

There is a definite rise in men who have facial hair – look at the male movie stars!  It is definitely more popular because of Movember and in general it is more acceptable for men to groom and take pride in their appearance.  Facial hair offers men the opportunity to change the way they look in much the same way as women use makeup and alter their hairstyle.

Do you think facial hair is a trend set to continue?

For the time being, yes I think it will increase in its popularity before the next 'fad' comes in.

Sandra BealeWe consulted with Sandra Beale who has over 20 years’ experience in HR management and runs her own HR consultancy, meaning Sandra has to keep abreast of the latest employment laws and HR issues for her clients. Working within HR, Sandra is speaking on behalf of many employers with her opinions about facial hair in the workplace.

In an interview situation, what first impression does somebody with facial hair give to you?

I would encourage males to not have facial hair for interviews especially if they are in a professional sector as they can look untidy and give off the impression that they are rather unkempt. To me it comes across as though they can’t be bothered to shave and are lazy.

Do you get a different first impression with someone who has facial hair to someone who doesn’t?

Yes most certainly, someone who has facial hair may give the impression they have a rather laid back attitude which would lead you to think within a work environment they don’t have the motivation and drive that others do. With a clean shaven candidate they give off the impression they are a go getter and good performer and have the determination and enthusiasm to work hard.

What advice would you give to someone who is going for an interview and has facial hair?

I would advise them to shave off any facial hair as it shows you are trying to impress by making an effort with your appearance.

What would you suggest wearing to an interview to make a great first impression?

A matching suit with a tie and polished shoes is the ideal outfit, however if you don’t own a suit then a shirt, tie, smart trousers and clean shoes. Never wear jeans to an interview as they make the outfit look tired and untidy. Ensure that your shirt is neatly ironed and that there are no stains or marks on it.

Do you think facial hair is a trend set to continue?

Quite possibly, however in certain circumstances (interviews being one) I think they should be minimalistic or not showing at all.

What reasons can you think of as to why an employer would not want facial hair within the work environment?

There are different reasons depending on the type of work place environment. For example a professional environment will possibly want their male employees’ clean shaven in order to portray that kind of image, whereas the food industry will have hygiene regulations to conform to.

Are there any regulations around employing people with facial hair?

Only within the food industry where there are safety standards that employees must obey, for example wearing beard snoods when working with food.

If an employer chooses not to employ someone because of their facial hair, does this count as discrimination?

Potentially yes if an individual needs to have a beard for religious reasons then this would count as discrimination. However no employer would openly admit that they had not employed someone because of their facial hair so it would be hard to prove this.

What key things should employers look for when recruiting people?

They should have the appropriate skills, qualifications, experience and knowledge to match the job description and personal specification.  The recruitment process should be designed to tease this information out of the candidates.  

We showed each of the contributors the image below and asked them to rate the following facial hair styles in order of acceptance when going for a job interview. 

The opinions were conflicting with Sam (Image Consultant) stating that it depends on the job role but as a general guide she believes that being clean-shaven, the Van Dyke and the Big Beard styles are all acceptable. Sandra (HR Consultant) on the other hand believed that only the clean-shaven look was acceptable when going for a job interview. This shows that within the employment sector attitudes to facial hair are still rather conservative and traditional, whereas industries that encourage individuality see facial hair as acceptable.

There are many ways to keep your facial hair minimalistic through methods such as;

-          Cut Throat shaving

-          Using an electric shaver

-          Wet shaving using shaving foam or soap

-          Laser hair removal

So is facial hair in the workplace deemed acceptable? Opinions are still mixed and there are some interesting points both for and against their allowance in a working environment. Restrictions that are imposed because of health and safety concerns are valid and understandable but other than these exceptions, who decides where the line should be drawn when it comes to deciding how an individual should maintain their body?