The Wall Street Journal

What to Do About That WFH Beard?

Many men—including Jim Carrey—grew wild whiskers during lockdown. While some want to hang onto them, others argue the look is too unkempt for the office. Here, some guidelines.

By: Max Berlinger

August 12, 2022

PRE-PANDEMIC, Adam Dornbusch, CEO of San Francisco media company EnTribe, was always clean-shaven. But when the Bay Area went into lockdown, so did his razor. “Everyone started growing a beard so I thought: Why not?” he said.

His longest period of unchecked growth was five months, putting him in company with prominent pandemic anti-groomers like Jim Carrey, who vowed to stop shaving during lockdown. But since Mr. Dornbusch returned to in-person meetings in early 2022, he has kept his bristles an inch long.

Some men have always worn beards for religious, cultural or other reasons. But those who let their whiskers grow while WFH, as a matter of idleness rather than observance, may be facing a conundrum, said Cassandra Sethi, a Los Angeles personal stylist. Ms. Sethi said many of her clients in industries like finance—where being clean-shaven was long the norm—are “confused” about how much fuzz is now acceptable deskside.

Similarly stumped? Start by cracking open that work handbook to check your company’s policy, said Corinne Jones, who runs a New York human-resources consulting firm. If it does contain facial-hair requirements, there is, by law, “always an understanding that exceptions are made based on religious observance,” or issues such as disability, noted Ms. Jones.

Increasingly, whisker-related edicts have disappeared. Ms. Jones, who advises finance, fashion and tech firms, estimates that 30% of her clients have loosened their policies post-lockdown. While they once often specified that facial hair had to be “neat” or “groomed,” now they’re simply asking for an overall “professional appearance,” which she said gives workers more leeway.

Eliran Malakov, of Manhattan’s Fellow Barber, is noticing the shift in office standards. “Based on what clients tell me, being clean-shaven is no longer a requirement,” said Mr. Malakov, who shears corporate and creative types. He “can count on one hand” the number of close shaves he’s done post-lockdown.

Of course, unwritten rules still require those with pandemic beards to be well-kept, said Ms. Jones. Mark Miguez, co-founder of Friend of a Barber in Manhattan, advises routinely tidying the edges. “A beard is more maintenance than one would think,” he said. The cheek and neck areas, not to mention the mustache, “can get out of control after about two weeks.”

A hot tip? Taper your beard, said Mr. Malakov. Meaning: Keep it trim by your cheekbones and let it grow out below the sideburns. “When the [cheekbone] area is overgrown,” he said, it can look “messy and bulky.” He suggests taming stray strands with styling cream; a dab of fragrant oil adds shine.

Mr. Dornbusch, the CEO, is welcoming the bushier work era—though he advised his employees who have newly fuzzy faces to trim regularly, like he does. The idea? To become skilled landscapers—of facial topiary, not the garden variety.