Wednesday, March 2, 2011

To beard or not to beard?

DrWife and I have recently been having discussions about appropriate working attire and grooming for new faculty members. For the past few years, I have generally kept my hair from very short to none at all. While this is very easy from a maintenance perspective, DrWife says this could make me less approachable for students because I look more intimidating. So, I have somewhat agreed to at least start my new position with quasi-normal guy hair. While I am pretty much set on that, I am now in the process of asking myself the age old question which every male professor asks at some point.

To beard or not to beard?

Do I want to look like just another engineering prof? You know the look. Non-matching sport jackets and slacks. Terrible ties (if any). Short sleeve button down shirts. Unkempt hair. And, most importantly, a huge bushy beard?

Or should I go with the look of a modern engineering prof. Clean-cut, business casual attire (no pleats!). Rocks a nice tie when needed. Iphone in one hand to stay connected.

Ok, so it’s probably not as generic as that. And it’s not that I’m trying for some hipster or post modern look. I guess I’m basically asking a question that I’ve heard a lot from women in a similar situation. How should I appear where they will take me seriously but I can still be myself? Beard, no beard, hair, no hair, that makes no difference to me. Hell, I used to have a blue mohawk about 6 years ago. But should I appear as a prof to be taken seriously or should I appear modern to not get thrown into the “dinosaur” category.

I’m only a few years older than the new grad students. I don’t want to be mistaken as some kid in over their head (that discussion is for another day) but I also don’t consider myself in the dinosaur prof category either. Or am I just thinking about it too hard because the students don’t give a damn as long as they pass the class?


  1. You're thinking way too hard about it. Yes, students will comment on your appearance, because we can be shallow like that (or just bored), and some professors have particularly excellent hair and remind us of David Hasselhoff. As long as you are dressed more nicely than the students, most students aren't going to pay much attention.

    The uniform in my undergrad department was slacks and flannel, with a couple professors who rocked the khaki fishing vest look. Unkempt hair would have required them to have any left.

  2. I guess I forgot to mention that I don't look older than an undergrad without the beard.

  3. As long as you stay away from pleats, you'll be just fine.

    No but seriously, wear what makes you feel the awesomest. Students are going to respect you the most when you appear confident, and you'll feel confident if you are happy with your garb. If you go for a specific "look" that doesn't feel natural, it will be apparent, and you'll lose them.