Pogonophobia among young professionals.

Oct 03, 2013

Sean ConneryWhat’s that? Pogonophobia? It’s the irrational fear of beards and the prejudice against beard wearing gentleman. You may think in our modern society of free-speech and liberty beard-bashing would be a thing of the past, that a reputable business man or civil servant could stroll into the office on a Monday morning with a weekend face-garden and not be poo-pooed by his boss. That a modern man has the right to express himself through designer stubble or a full Darwinian Santa beard in the workplace. Not so.  Britain is still an innately pognophobic society. Beards are not tolerated in the upper echelons of professional working life. The question is does this tyranny have decent reasoning behind it? Is pogonophobia a pseudoscience or is there a convincing historical and psychological grounding for the rationale?

Margret Thatcher infamously stated she would not tolerate facial hair among her cabinet ministers because she thought they made politicians look thoroughly untrustworthy. In the 18th century Peter the Great was so backward he imposed an extra tax on non-peasant bearded folk. But why are we still living with the vestiges of these pogonophobes?

There are some practical reasons why some professions outlaw the beard. In the States, for example, there is a federal ban on beards for fire fighters. There’s a danger that the bristles on the face will break the seal on their oxygen masks. Fair enough. That’s a good reason.

But for most other jobs though beards are purely a social complex. Bosses don’t like your beard because it reflects too much individuality and defiance. Pairing up an unshaven face with a sleek suit is too much of juxtaposition for many who consider first impressions essential to success. 

Edward VII

Young king Edward VII. A famous dandy, and a glorious beard-wearer

A barrage of bashing struck Jermey Paxman in August this year when he sported a (well-tended) beard on for BBC News Night. It was apparently abhorrent to right minded people that a bastion of British journalism and politics would sport such a filthy, filthy little thing. Paxman tweeted:

"Unless you're lucky enough to be Uncle Albert on Only Fools and Horses, Demis Roussos or Abu Hamza, the BBC is generally as pogonophobic as the late-lamented Albanian dictator, Enver Hoxha [who outlawed beards in the 1970s]".

 It was probably the first time anyone’s felt sliver of empathy towards Paxman. But he’s not alone. Richard Branson, David Blunkett and Ricky Gervais have all expressed their brushes with pogonophobia.

Thankfully help is at hand, even in these dark times. The Beard Liberation Front was founded in 1995 by Keith Flett and is on the front lines of the fight against discrimination. They maintain that the beard is a matter of choice and their membership stands at an impressive two hundred people. At the time of its founding Flett stated: 

“Beards are politically progressive. All great revolutionaries had a beard. Even Stalin had a moustache”.

They really need their own emergency number.

Even the most oldest of old-fart office managers would never dream of insisting that all female staff wear skirts not trousers. Why does a beard ruin the work ethic of a young professional? Why does it juxtapose the stereotypical image of a hard working young man? It doesn’t so throw off the shackles. They’re a statement, they look cool and you don’t have to be on your gap year to have a licence to grow one.

James Fredrick Gray

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