“Is stubble professional enough for the workplace or not?” It’s a question many a beardsman has asked in vain, with frustrating and varying responses each time.
The main factor that determines whether stubble is professional enough for the workplace is the nature of the work itself. The field of work, as well as the people you work with, are both important factors to consider. There are also certain features of the stubble itself, including length, evenness, neatness, and style that also determine whether stubble is OK for work.
You’re most likely reading this article for the following reason. You want to know whether the stubble beard you currently have or intend to have will be accepted in your specific workplace.
As you’d expect, I have no idea what your workplace is. However, what you’re about to read is a no-nonsense guide to determining for yourself whether your stubble is acceptable for your workplace.
After that, we’ll talk you through how exactly you can use general principles to make stubble look way more professional, and some tips for those of you with an interview coming up.
But, enough small-talk. Let’s get down to business.
Stubble and Professionalism Is Workplace-Specific
There are two main factors to take into consideration when determining the acceptability of stubble in your workplace – the field of work, and the age demographic.
It’s important that you think carefully about these two factors before making your decision.
The Field of work
It’s no secret that certain workplaces are generally less tolerant of facial hair than others. At the risk of propagating widely accepted stereotypes, corporate culture just isn’t a fan of the bristles.
Is stubble professional enough for an investment bank or a corporate law firm? Well, popular opinion would tell us that it’s likely they’re going to be less tolerant of it than in some other fields.
But why is this? Well, corporate businesses place great importance on the image that their workers portray.
This image should align perfectly with that of the business as a whole. Usually, this image is one of perfection, efficiency, and success.
Unfortunately, the image of “the stubbled man” has (somewhat unfairly) for generations carried with it an image of laziness and lack of concern.
There are also fields of work where facial hair might (again, unfortunately) be considered unhygienic. For example, in the food and drink, or healthcare industry. This is more relevant to longer beards as opposed to stubble, however.
This is in contrast with more creative professions where stubble is either ignored or in some cases, actively encouraged.
Musicians, artists, and writers are almost expected to carry a degree of facial hair. It can be said to either be an expression of their creativity or a simple lack of concern for societal norms.
More “academic” (i.e nerdy) professions also seem to turn a blind eye to stubble and facial hair.
For example, in the tech and IT industry you’d be hard-pressed to find a man not wearing at the very least a permanent 5 o’clock shadow. A significant proportion carries a lot more than that.
This may be because these academic professions value “getting your head down” and just doing the work.
Getting those papers published or that coding finished is more important than spending time trimming facial hair.
Also, they won’t be going to business meetings with high-flyers where aesthetic appearance is given more importance.
So as you can see, the question of “is stubble professional” isn’t as simple as a yes or no answer.
But like we said, there’s another factor we need to consider.
The terms “clean-shaven” and “professional” were almost synonymous thirty or forty years ago. A lot of older men just love a shaved face. It implied a straight-laced, hard-working, upstanding contributor to the economy.
Also, beards just weren’t trendy back then and “designer stubble” just wasn’t a thing.
Styling facial hair just wasn’t seen as a good use of time. On or off, no in-betweens.
So it only makes sense that older employers would feel the same way. In general, corporate employers are older.
They’ve spent many years climbing up the ladder to get to where they are, and they expect all subordinates to toe the line.
Compare this with the quirky tech startup riddled with space hoppers and ping pong tables. Most of the employers are likely to be pretty fresh out of college and very much aware of the beard revolution.
So to cut swiftly to the point, take a look at the people you work with. But more importantly, at the people you work for.
Although it isn’t a hard and fast rule, it’s a factor worth considering when determining whether stubble is professional enough for the workplace.
I’ll finish by saying this. Yes, traditionally the corporate world has frowned upon the stubbled warrior. But times are changing.
A neatly groomed, meticulously shaped stubble beard can look professional even in a corporate culture if done correctly.
Stubble is incredibly versatile, and the maturity it can add to the face can only be seen as a benefit in most workplaces.
So if you want to take the leap and dive beard first into work tomorrow, follow the tips I’m about to give you to make sure that stubble is unquestionable.
How to make stubble look more professional
Is stubble professional? Not always. There are certain features of stubble which could never be considered professional enough for even vaguely formal workplaces.
Examples would be an unruly “neckbeard”, an undisciplined cheek line and a non-uniform length.
Let’s sharpen it up and get work-ready.
Trim it to a uniform length
We’ve said it time and time again. Beards do what they want. Stubble hairs grow at different rates and as a result, untrimmed stubble transforms into a forest of scruff before you know it.
For stubble to look neat, the hairs need to be trimmed down to an even length. But not all parts of the beard need to be completely equal in length as this may look unnatural.
For instance, denser parts of the beard such as the chin and mustache you might want a little shorter. Or you may want certain areas to be thicker and a little longer because it’s the style you prefer.
But you want these respective areas to contain hairs of a similar length to keep it looking sleek and neat.
The only way to do this is by using a solid stubble trimmer that comes with a wide range of size settings between 0.4 and 5mm. This allows for intricate control over hair length.
Check out our step-by-step routine on how to shape a stubble beard for the play-by-play.
Ensure the borders are well-defined
The “neckbeard” is for many men a natural extension of their untrimmed beard. Simply put, it’s any hair you’ve got on your neck.
This au naturale approach to stubble just won’t cut it if you want to ensure it looks professional.
The neckline needs to be trimmed correctly – not too high and not too low. A finely-crafted cheek line following the angle of your jaw can add breathtaking definition to the jawline.
The aim is to not see any neck hairs when looking at your face front on. In addition to this, you don’t want the neckline to be so high as to creep up onto your face when you open your mouth wide.
Let’s talk cheek line. A general guide is to visualize a line running from the tip of your sideburn to the corner of your mouth.
You can choose to just use this as your stubble cheek line border, or you can choose to dip into beard for more of a curved cheek line.
The style you choose here partially depends on your face shape, as well as your taste. Curved cheek lines suit a more defined bone structure, whereas a straight cheek line can nicely add some angles to a round face.
So as you can probably envision now, stubble is OK for work when crafted correctly.
Dyeing stubble is an option
This won’t be necessary for everyone.
But hear me out. You may think that dyeing is only for head hair. Or even if you are aware of how common beard dyeing is, you may think it was only for the grey-bristled.
But for a lot of men, their beard hairs aren’t all the same color. As I said, beards have a mind of their own. You may find that you fall within this category and that your stubble hairs are of varying darkness and color, sometimes very different to head hair.
Be sure to use a beard dye and not a generic hair dye. Beard hair is thicker and coarser than head hair, and facial skin is more sensitive than scalp skin. It requires a dye that specifically takes this into account.
Ensure your stubble style isn’t over the top
This goes without saying. But ah let’s say it anyway. Certain styles just don’t look professional.
For instance, think carefully whether the faded style that’s trending so hard right now is subtle enough to be considered OK for work.
Choosing a subtle stubble style is a good way of ensuring you stay under the radar in the workplace if you’re worried about drawing attention.
The classic stubble beard adopting any length up to 5mm is always a safe bet. Goatee variants such as the circle beard are also unassuming enough to let you get on with your work without fear of beard prejudice.
But like we said, it really depends on your workplace and what you can get away with. Hopefully, you have a better idea of what that is by now.
Is stubble OK for an interview?
There’s a chance you may be nervously sifting through this article with an impending job interview lurking around the corner.
You’re desperate to know, is stubble professional enough for your interview or not?
So let’s assume that you’ve taken our advice so far and assessed the workplace you’d like to sign up for.
If you think that stubble may be frowned upon and you’ve decided to reach for the shaver that’s perfectly fine.
On the other hand, if you think that stubble won’t be a big deal and you’d like to take it with you for good luck, that’s fine too.
But you may be in a position where you still don’t know whether or not a stubble beard, no matter how well groomed you can make it using our tips, would be suitable for your particular interview.
In these circumstances, I would always advise that you tread carefully and just shave it off. If you aren’t sure, is it worth the risk? Would you let it jeopardize a chance at the job?
Stubble is great because it grows back to where you want it so quickly. You wouldn’t have to wait long at all before your much-loved stubble is back in play.
It would make a lot more sense to play it safe for the interview. Then, presuming you get the job, test the waters with a well-groomed, well-shaped stubble beard once you start.
We’ve delved pretty deep into the complex relationship stubble has always had with professionalism in the workplace.
Ultimately, no two workplaces are the same. Each decision needs to be taken on its merit after looking at your surroundings.
Hopefully, you’ve gained a better insight into how to do this for yourself.
Also, we’ve given you some solid tips on making your stubble look more professional if you think this is what you need.
Thanks for reading everyone.
What do you think by the way? Is stubble professional or unprofessional? Or maybe somewhere in the middle? Leave your thoughts down below!
Ready Sleek founder. Obsessed with casual style and the minimalist approach to building a highly functional wardrobe. Also a fan of classic, vintage hairstyles.