Top 10 beards in business and what it says about them

Man with a beard
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Shakespeare wrote: "He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man." With that in mind, here's our list of the top 10 beardos in business, with expert analysis from professional stylist Natalia Coleman.

This article first appeared on BusinessZone in 2009 and was updated recently.

Before anyone accuses us of discrimination against ladies, remember that they too can grow beards if they choose. However, those that do would probably not appreciate their inclusion in our hairy list of business beardies. Feel free to suggest anyone you think we've missed though.

Richard BransonSir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin
"Branson without a beard…it would be unthinkable! He’s definitely got facial hair down to a fine art. His whole style is relaxed, friendly and quirky so the beard suits him perfectly."

Lord SugarLord Sugar, founder of The Apprentice
"Lord Sugar shows how to wear a beard in business and still look professional. He keeps this neat and perfectly coiffed, what’s also great about his look is you can still see his face shape. Sir Alan’s beard suits his macho and unpretentious nature well."

Larry EllisonLarry Ellison, executive chairman of Oracle Corporation
"It looks as though Larry has got into such a routine with it that he doesn’t even realise he’s got a beard any more. Luckily, he's pulling off the slick look with the hair and the moustache. This is a guy who means business."

Felix Dennis

The late Felix Dennis, publisher and entrepreneur 

"My goodness, it’s hard to see where the beard ends and the man begins! Felix's beard says that he's been there and done it. He's got nothing to prove. He feels like growing a massive beard, so he jolly well will. Great beard!"

Steve Wozniak

Steve Wozniak, founder of Apple

"Steve’s beard gives him a geeky look. It’s more Grizzly Adams than entrepreneur, but in a strange way he can carry it off. He looks like he’s too busy thinking up the next Apple gadget than worrying about giving his beard a trim. But Steve, you’re such a genius I forgive you!"

Steve JobsThe late Steve Jobs, former chief executive of Apple
"I wonder if Steve grew his beard when his hair started to thin? The overall look suits him but I’d prefer to see a little bit more trimming going on around the cheek area to give this beard proper definition."

Richard Richard Parsons, former CEO of Time Warner
"Men often grow beards to give definition to their face but in Richard Parsons’ case it actually makes his face look wider. The beard and sideburns often start greying sooner than the hair and this is the case with Richard. He’d look far younger and more suave if he shaved it off, but would he lose his super powers as well?"

Andrew CarnegieAndrew Carnegie, major 20th century industrialist 

"Andrew Carnegie looks like an elder statesman here, a man of real gravitas. This is a beard amongst beards and whilst I’m sure Andrew was a force to be reckoned with, it evens gives him a kindly, gentle look."

Jim FrenchJim French, former chief executive of Flybe

"Another case of a beard compensating for hair loss. I think Jim would look younger and more sophisticated without it.


James Caan, entrepreneur 

"…And the winner of best beard wearer goes to James Caan. If you’re going to sport a beard then watch James Caan and learn. This neat, goatee style gives him a dashing and sultry look. He keeps it shaped beautifully to flatter his jaw line and the peppering of grey is actually very flattering. A beard amongst beards!


What is the state of facial hair amongst UK entrepreneurs in 2015, though? Do you or one of your colleagues sport an impressively manly beard? Comment below.

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By bigup_sim
22nd Jul 2009 14:50
Although not a business man in the contemporary persuasion, our countries religious founder, King Henry VIII must be a notable inclusion. His flowing, ginger tufts scream power and authority. A charismatic and charming leader who shaped our world long before and with greater influence, than the likes of Sir Alan "of-sky-plus" Sugar. Three cheers to the flamed coloured facial disguise! Hip-Hip....
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30th Sep 2015 12:29

Save the Beard! A Beard Equality Commission Campaign, in association with the World Beardlife Fund.

I know this is commercial suicide but I have to come out. I have owned a beard for forty five years. I have remained faithful to the same beard throughout this time.

About ten years ago I saw in the Sunday Times an image consultant saying "Personal appearance is important. You should not have a beard – beards are definitely out. And people don’t like nasal hair or hairy ears.”

So, I figured that my facial hair is now equated with nasal hair and my ability to succeed in business is clearly threatened by my continued pursuit of a hirsute existence. Is this criticism wise when we appreciate how deeply held beliefs and convictions lead to millions of beards being worn around the world? Is it wise when the leader of the Labour Party mandated by the highest vote in history and gaining in popularity every day has a beard? Is it wise when many successful entrepreneurs from the new school, featured by Business Zone, from all parts of our diverse society and the old school too, like Sugar and Branson, continue to wear beards? Is it wise when many people think most consultants talk rubbish at the best of times?

I think it is not wise, but it does demonstrate an important lesson in motivation. Do not stereotype people. We are all individuals and we’re proud of our individuality. Leadership is about harnessing this individuality for mutual benefit. Stereotyping leads to discrimination, but it also leads to total and utter demotivation, if not a determination for revenge.

Just after I had been appointed Managing Director of the UK subsidiary of an American multinational in the mid 1980s, it was filtered to me through the HR department that it would be better for my long term future if I ‘got rid of the beard’. It certainly motivated me. I resolved there and then to get into running my own business as quickly as possible.

I figured that corporate life would always be more about ‘politics’ and ‘show’ rather than performance and ability and the only way out of it would be ‘going it alone’. I've now been running my own businesses for thirty years.

Against this, every top sports team in the world will have some ‘difficult’, non-conforming ‘characters’ in the team. Indeed the best leaders, managers and coaches are usually the ones that are not afraid to bring such talents into their team and then nurture, inspire and develop consistent, maximum performance.

The worst leaders, managers and coaches are the ones that want uniformity, total control and to tie individuals up in policy, programmes and procedures. Does your organisation give people room to grow as individuals and to create, to challenge, to innovate and achieve outstanding performance?

How are you going to create an environment of trust and individuality rather than constraint and conformity? Can we help you create and communicate an environment for individual and corporate growth? We’ll leave the facial hair growth out of the equation!

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