Beards are no longer just for the forest dwelling, axe wielding hermits or the shifty looking fellow in the convenience store. Full-on facial hair has found its way into the world of big business, and it doesn’t seem like anyone is going to boot it out anytime soon. What big names in business opt to sport beards, and are these daring fellows starting a new trend?
The Business of Beards
Pogonology is the study of beards. While the ins and outs of that profession is a topic for another time, its mere existence brings out a powerful point: beards fascinate people.
One savvy, hairy-faced man, Adam Goldston, took advantage of the human penchant for facial hair and started the company Beardgang. As it says on their website, the company offers “high-end clothing to fit your lifestyle.. as long as there’s no bare skin on your chin.. Having a beard is a privilege. Having the style to match is a necessity.”
While a clothing company all about beards might sound like it should be a little novelty shop in an obscure strip mall, Beardgang is fast becoming a must-know name for bearded fellows. In fact, Adam Goldston recently shared on Instagram that Beardgang just signed a licensing deal with the NHL.
Beards in Business
Not all beards in business are all about, well, beards. Some big names in notable companies have some impressive facial hair, showing the world that beard is the word.
Shane Smith is one of the founders of Vice magazine. One look at the publication, and it isn’t hard to guess that at its heart is a man with street smarts, business savvy, and a bit of a rough edge. His little media empire doesn’t stop with the magazine, however. Wild man Shane Smith and his partner also oversee an ad agency, a record label, an online television network, and a book imprint.
How fully do Shane Smith and his magazine embrace the power of the beard? Smith himself has a pleasantly rugged beard, and on the Vice website there is an article about the evolution of beards. One of the men interviewed for the piece answered the question, “What do you think the future holds for beards?” His response: “I think people are going to realize that if they have a beard, they should grow it.” Simple enough, right?
Music producer Rick Rubin co-founded the Def Jam record label, the label responsible for giving the world some of the most unforgettable names in hip-hop. Rick Rubin’s long list of production gold stars includes The Red Hot Chili Pepper’s breakout album Blood Sugar Sex Magik and Wandering Spirit from Mick Jagger.
Rick Rubin doesn’t have any qualms about throwing conventional ideas of professionalism out the window. He boasts a long full beard that is large enough to stand out in any crowd. One could even argue that his beard is the most impressive among big names in business.
With leadership positions at huge companies like Time Warner and Citigroup under his belt, Richard Parsons’ resume is a powerful piece of paper. Some criticize the decisions he made while at the helm of those companies. They even doubt his qualifications as a business leader. No one, however, will say his name is not one of the biggest in business. He is one of the richest black Americans, and one of the coolest beards in the white-collar world adorns his visage.
Mr. Catmull has a cool name, a cool job, and a cool (albeit relatively short) set of whiskers. He works as the president of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios. He is also one of the co-founders of Pixar, so you can thank him for the endless gasps of wonder that come from your kids when you watch a film like Toy Story. His work earned him five Academy Awards, and his whiskers earn him a unique kind of cool.
Beards Back in the Day
Has there ever been a society that shrugged at facial hair, assigning it no significance? Maybe. But some of the most powerful and successful people in history held definite opinions about beards as demonstrated by the following facts.
Ancient Egyptians wore fake beards to signify leadership. The fake beards weren’t just for men, either. Women, children, and cows (yes, cows) also received the honor of wearing faux facial hair.
In ancient Mesopotamia, people saw beards as symbols of wisdom, virility, and leadership. They put great effort into grooming their facial hair. Who knows? Maybe the ringlets that the Mesopotamians so adored will come back into style.
If you consider war a business, Alexander the Great was one of the most successful businessmen ever. He forbid beards on his soldiers because they gave the enemy something convenient to grab. Alexander’s opinion set the trend for men in all parts of society.
In the 17th century, Peter the Great of Russia instituted a tax on beards. He wanted to discourage men from growing them so Russia would be more in line with the trends in other European nations.
To Beard or not to Beard?
It’s obvious that the general population’s love of beards has waxed and waned over the centuries, but what about now? If your beard is begging for freedom, but you hesitate to let it grow, a look at how people perceive beards today might help you decide to go for it (or not).
An article at BostonMagazine.com entitled “Beards Make Men Hotter” reports the results of a study that shows women tend to favor men with heavy stubble over clean-shaven men.
Of course, it does bear mentioning that most CEOs and politicians opt for smooth faces. One business expert wrote on CBSnews.com that it’s “definitely cool to have facial hair. Just not if you’re an executive or business leader.” Men like Rick Rubin and Shane Smith would probably beg to differ, but current societal are a few steps behind them.
Will the next few years see beards become the norm in the business world? It’s impossible to say. What is certain is that Beardgang’s business is booming, and businessmen like Adam Goldston and Edwin Catmull sure know how to rock a razor-free lifestyle.
Joe Fortunato is a professional writer based out of Tampa, FL. As an avid tech fanatic, Joe is constantly on the lookout for new things that will help him enjoy his hobbies: playing golf, brass instruments, cooking ethnic foods, and bass fishing. To find more of Joe’s published work, check out his Twitter profile, @joey_fort.