Trust is essential in business. We don’t deal with people we don’t trust. But trust is a fickle thing because we often rely exclusively on external stimuli to determine who is worthy of our trust and who isn’t. And sometimes, simple details such as the presence or absence of facial hair can make businessmen seem more or less trustworthy.
Studies suggest that growing a beard can help businessmen seem more trustworthy. But this wasn’t always true in the past. The public’s opinion on facial hair changes over time and successful businessmen should adapt accordingly.
Here’s how facial hair influences the current business environment.
Public Perception of Facial Hair Throughout History
Facial hair has a fascinating history. Ancient Egyptians associated shaving with cleanness. Ancient Greeks were fond of their beards, Romans associated beards with barbarians, and Germanic tribesmen sported large beards to enhance their fearsome appearance. In later times, armies often discouraged facial hair because it could provide enemies something to grab in battle.
Facial hair thrived in medieval times. Monarchs would often influence the local fashion, so a bearded ruler would be surrounded by bearded advisors and courtiers. However, facial hair went out of fashion in the late 17th century, when most of Europe witnessed the return of the clean shave.
But in the early 19th century, beards returned in force. Many consider the 19th century as a time of “peak beard” because men embraced beards, moustaches, muttonchops, and everything in between.
And the public’s perception of facial hair adapted to the times. Many people believed that serious businessmen sported some kind of facial hair. Research shows that banks showcased portraits of bank managers to add prestige, culture, and professionalism to their organization.
During World War I, men shaved off their beards to make sure that their gas masks would fit properly. Some retained their moustaches, but those grew quickly out of fashion. By the 1950s, most men were clean-shaven again.
The Beatles made facial hair fashionable in the early 1960s. They convinced men to grow out their beards, which later led to the hippy-influenced, beard-sporting 60s and 70s.
However, beards were not popular in the workplace. From the 1960s to the 1990s, most businesses had a “clean-shaven” policy. And naturally, the public’s perception adapted to the times.
The Correlation Between Facial Hair And Trust In Business
The general public didn’t like facial hair in the 1990s. In 1993, a study suggested that the public associated facial hair with lessened mental competence. A 1996 study showed that men with facial hair were perceived as more aggressive, less attractive, and less mature than their clean-shaven counterparts.
Things change in the 2000s when facial hair became accepted by most companies. The public perception of facial hair was perceived more positively as more businesses drop their clean-shaven policy. Men with light stubble are now considered attractive and socially mature.
Facial hair becomes fashionable again in the 2010s. Some might even argue that we’re currently experiencing a second “peak beard” era. And the popularity of facial hair changed the public’s perception yet again.
Nowadays, the general public perceives bearded men as trustworthy, more trustworthy than their clean-shaven counterparts. This, combined with the fact that women perceive men sporting facial hair as being more attractive, can make beards the go-to accessory for modern businessmen.
Whether you prefer a clean-shaven face or the sophistication of an impeccably groomed beard, there’s no denying that facial hair, or the absence thereof, can entirely alter your appearance and impact public perception.
Growing a beard can be difficult, especially for men who didn’t grow one before. But putting in the effort and growing one might be worthwhile if it helps people trust you more.
Steve Hawky is a passionate SEO expert that loves creating innovative SEO strategies and solving complex problems. Currently working for an innovative digital marketing agency, PDMS, he thrives in creating content that is relevant to SEO, CRO, UX, web design, business strategies, and anything in between.
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