By Terry Trucco
Big bushy beards didn’t hamper sluggers Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes or Dustin Pedroia in this year’s World Series. But they and their Red Sox teammates would be wise to go clean shaven if they ever aspire to work the front desk at a hotel.
Hotel employees sporting facial hair make a less favorable impression on guests than their smooth skinned counterparts, according to a new survey in the latest Cornell Hospitality Quarterly. “Based on a study that compared photographs of models, hotel guests ascribe greater assurance ability to clean-shaven men,” write Vincent P. Magnini, Melissa Baker and Kiran Kirande, authors of “The Frontline Provider’s Appearance: A Driver of Guest Perceptions.”
More predictably, the survey found that hotel staff members with genuine smiles were viewed more favorably than those displaying neutral facial expressions or fake smiles. Attractive employees also scored higher with the public than the less attractive.
Noting that few studies have probed the role facial hair plays in signaling social qualities, the authors write that responses to beards are culturally driven. While studies show that bearded men are perceived as more dominant, strong, competitive and mature, the facially hirsute are also seen as more aggressive, reckless, unkind and dirty, attributes that might help win a World Series but won’t score points with the jetlagged couple from Tulsa who can’t understand why they’re being charged for WiFi.
Fear the Beard doesn’t cut it at the front desk, in other words. The survey advises hotels to make a clean-shaven face part of the dress code, provided this does not interfere with an employee’s religious beliefs. Indeed, until 2012, male employees at Walt Disney theme parks in the U.S. were required to shave. “Apparently the old Walt Disney policy banning facial hair was a wise one,” the authors write.