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Battle for the Beard

I never grew a beard in my entire life. I grew it out of solidarity for my writers, and to prove that I have some testosterone. The biggest comment I’m getting the last couple of days is that I look like the character of Kris Kringle in “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

-Conan O’Brien

Conan sporting a beard

“I know what you’re thinking to yourself: Dave looks like a missing hiker,”

-David Letterman

Letterman sports a beard

Dave’s beard is already gone. I think Conan will keep his for a while longer. People have some strange issues with beards…

I’ve been doing some subcontracting lately. I’m feeling quite perturbed about the company’s animosity toward my beard. One of the reasons I choose to work from home is that I like sporting a bit of scruff. Now the owner of the company I’ve been contracting for, wants me to shave it off.

We’re meeting with some clients tomorrow and he’s made it clear, “We both need to be dressed professionally with a button up shirt, tie & slacks, well groomed and shaved.”

I knew that my beard was going to be an issue with these guys. When I started they had me sign a contract stating that I understand employees are to be clean-shaven. The next page went to great length to make sure it was clear to me that I’m merely a contractor, not an employee. Therefore I would not be entitled to any of the benefits that employees are entitled. Apparently he must feel that that doesn’t let me out of the “no beard” clause.

You might be wondering, what’s so great about having a beard anyway? Well, for one thing, it’s my face, my body; it’s a matter of autonomy. Men with beards are ascribed attributes of masculinity, wisdom, sexual virility, and high status. Who wouldn’t want that? Furthermore, my girlfriend likes it.

When an employer dictates what you wear to work, you’re free to change into anything you like at the end of the day. When an employer dictates the amount of facial hair you’re allowed to keep, well, get you’d better get used to it or start working from home.

I don’t see why—so long as I maintain it—anyone should care if I choose to sport a little facial hair. Either you’re a fan or not, but regardless, it won’t hurt you. I’m a contract designer. I work from home. The company that contracts me out rarely sees me face to face. On the rare occasion that I meet with clients I make it clear that I’m working for the company as a contractor. So far I haven’t noticed any client caring about my beard.

I can understand if a company wants to follow the trends of the last 30 years in an effort to brand themselves as conventional. That’s their prerogative. But as for me, right now as a self-employed contractor, the price to have my services is that you leave my beard the hell alone.

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