Facial hair is quite popular at the moment, everything from full beards to designer stubble can commonly be seen on the streets of our cities. However there’s a couple of things to consider when thinking about having facial hair in your headshot, ‘to beard or not to beard’ or is ‘moustache the question’. Headshots are about creating the right first impression and facial hair can occasionally give the wrong type of impression, it can alter people’s perception of you when looking at your headshot. You may not have considered how facial hair can alter people’s perceptions but here’s a few things to think about. There are some significant psychological influences about a man with a beard against a clean shaven man. More often than not a beard will make a man look older. For instance, adolescent boys don’t need psychologists to tell them that growing some stubble could help them look more mature, but it also turns out the ageing effects of a beard don’t disappear as you get older. A group of men and women were asked do guess the ages of men with beards and men without them -and it was found that both men and women assumed the bearded men were “significantly” older than they actually were. Not good when your playing age is late thirties and your actual age is early twenties.
So there’s a pretty good reason why wearing a beard can effect your chances of being cast, and here’s another.
It’s worth considering is how a man with a beard can give the impression of being more aggressive than a clean shaven man. In a 2008 study in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, British psychologists at Northumbria University manipulated men’s facial hair in photographs, giving them five degrees of beard- from clean-shaven to hairy. They then had 60 women rate them on various attributes-and found that the men with full beards scored highest for perceptions of aggressiveness as well as masculinity. The good thing noted here was the perception of masculinity in a man wearing a beard. In a 2012 study written up in the journal Behavioral Ecology, men were photographed bearded and clean-shaven while making neutral, happy, or angry expressions. The men were of a mean age of 23, so all fairly young and the bearded men were judged to be significantly more aggressive than their clean-shaven counterparts. I can guess that most guys who sport beards aren’t particularly aggressive but it’s also a fair bet that they hadn’t ever considered this.
So there’s an extra reason not to have a beard in a headshot you don’t want to be perceived as being more aggressive than you actually are. The term beard can be somewhat of a mis-description as there are many types of facial hair to be seen on the streets at the moment from thick beard to a bit of designer stubble (I am talking about thick, full beards here),
OK, let’s back up a little bit and see how a hairy face effects you and your headshot, one thing that is definite is that facial hair will limit the amount of roles you would be cast for as not all character roles are suitable for wearing a beard.
Let’s deal with the full beard first, it’s generally a lifestyle choice although sometimes it can be fashionable too, as in the case of the “trucker look” that’s been quite popular recently. However if you are the sort of guy who sports a full “Wild man of the mountain” beard then it is clearly your look, it’s obviously taken quite some time and a fair bit of effort to grow so it’s unlikely that you’re going to shave it off for a photo shoot. You may consider going clean shaven for a good role should you get it, but you’ll be stuck in that ‘Catch 22’ situation of not wanting to shave it off after spending the time to grow your beard whilst not being suitable to audition with your beard. It’s a tricky one.
So in this case having a headshot done wearing a full beard would be the right choice as this is how you would expect time to turn up at an audition, there’s unlikely to be a drastic change in the way he looks between having his headshot done and turning up for an audition.
On the other hand there are lots of people who wear designer stubble on a regular basis. This type of facial hair often varies in length from a light or short growth to a stylish, shapely full beard that are worn as fashion statements as opposed to lifestyle choices such as the ‘Grizzly Adams’ look. In this case I always suggest to my clients that they have some of their headshots taken wearing facial hair, but that they also take the time to shave during the session so that they can have a clean shaven look too.
From a Casting Directors point of view, decisions about suitability and whether you have the right look they have in mind for the character they are casting for are important. If you are a well-known actor with a good body of work behind you it’s less of an issue as Casting Directors know your look and have a certain amount of flexibility. On the other hand if you are less well established or are just starting out in your acting career then it’s important that there are no barriers put in the way of fitting the Casting Directors idea for the role.
So what does it boil down to in the end? Know your castability, know your look, don’t limit your options and be flexible.