I shave every morning. A friend of mine recently pestered me about it. He told me that don't I know that everyone is wearing "scruff" nowadays. I, in a far less polite tone, told him that yes, I know, but God help me if it ever comes to that for me. To me, it looks no different than an untidy 5 o'clock shadow. And my real problem with the look is that it seems like it was an oversight, like maybe you slept through your alarm and didn't have time to shave, or that you were too lazy to shave and wanted to sit with a coffee instead. Now let me point out, I am in my forties and I also think it is an "age" thing, and maybe does not look great on older men. Either way, more than the look itself, if you have scruff, I take it as a message that you're not taking your appearance seriously. But let me tell you, I am a WRONG, out of touch, dinosaur! I have come to terms with the fact that my tastes no longer align precisely with what is hip, but boy do I have to remind myself sometimes. Not even I can deny though that the scruff look is the new cool look and even some partners at big architectural firms have adopted it. I get tons of questions from squeamish bosses and hiring managers about employees (even some who get face time with clients) and job applicants who show up with scruff. Ultimately, us older folks need to realize that looks change all the time and get with it. I know it isn't easy, I have to change the way I think about it, as well. If we don't, though, we will appear closed minded and un-cool and old, and that might affect our careers.
Now, there are--as always--some exceptions. If you are older and your hair is brown or black and your stubble comes in white, and you look like a zebra, you may want to rethink the scruff (or question the judgment of anyone who insists on wearing it). Like all hip looks, not everyone can pull it off. Trust me, your wife or partner will tell you if it isn't working, the same way they told you when you tried to wear skinny jeans and could not pull them off. Also, if you are of Middle Eastern heritage and you think a beard is flattering, tell me if it's worth it after you go through that airport security.
The truth is that scruff or stubble or whatever you call it, has become the style for young executives, of all ages and most profusions; and if the rest of their look shows that they care about their appearance, it seems okay to me. My theory is that it started in Silicon Valley and was perfected on Fire Island. With that in mind, if the junior partners in your practice are chic and otherwise well-styled, the scruff likely isn't costing you any business. And by the way, the A&D world brings together the world of the corporate professionals and the world of the artist, right? This is just an extension of that.
As far as wearing the scruff on a job interview, all I can say is that you have to be who you are and the culture will ultimately dictate how you look, dress, and shave. I am told a lot more work goes into shaving around the scruff to make it look natural than we realize. Generally speaking, even though it is not politically correct to say, people do care more about how you look today than ever before. Style and fashion change, and it so important to keep up, but choose a look flattering to you. Ask not just your family but friends and strangers too. Scruff used to mean you were unemployed or in between jobs. Today, chances are, if you have a scruff look, you are making a ton of money. Times have changed and we all have to change with them. Hey, it could be worse, remember when "man buns" were in?
Stephen Viscusi is the CEO of The Viscusi Group, a global executive search practice located in New York City. Viscusi is the author of the HarperCollins Best-seller "Bulletproof Your Job". He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit his website at www.viscusigroup.com or follow him on twitter at @WorkplaceGuru as well as Facebook and LinkedIn under Stephen Viscusi