Are Mutton Chops Professional or a Poor Idea?
June 27, 2007 5:36 PM   Subscribe

Are mutton chops professional?

I'm trying to convince my boyfriend to grow mutton chops because they are awesome. He has the beginnings already and while I can see the glory they will become, he has his doubts. Also, in about three weeks he'll begin his first post-college job at an investment banking firm. He argues mutton chops are not professional. I argue they in fact can be, and what's more, everyone will be envious of his awesome facial hair.

So, can mutton chops be worn to the office? Are they taboo in the professional setting? I'm not talking about two or three feet of face-testes hanging off his cheeks, but well-groomed, moderately short growth.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (68 answers total)
posted by grouse at 5:38 PM on June 27, 2007

Seconding the no.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 5:44 PM on June 27, 2007

Best answer: I believe they are appropriate if one is planning on attending the nineteenth century.
posted by 4ster at 5:44 PM on June 27, 2007 [47 favorites]

If he worked in TV production or a casual setting- then yes... But in investment banking... no. If he were well established in his career then perhaps, but just starting? His new employers may be a bit put off but the look and he could have to face some old fashion discrimination... sad, but true.
posted by MayNicholas at 5:45 PM on June 27, 2007

Absolutely not. He will look like an asshole, he will be ridiculed by his colleagues, he will lose points in the eyes of his superiors.
posted by otio at 5:46 PM on June 27, 2007

posted by jessamyn at 5:47 PM on June 27, 2007

Working at an investment banking firm? No.
posted by rancidchickn at 5:50 PM on June 27, 2007

No one will be envious, it won't be awesome, and he won't get promoted. Instead, he'll look tone-deaf to the firm culture, which may carry a certain hipster-chic cred at home, but will make him look like kind of a dumbass at work.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 5:50 PM on June 27, 2007

Fuck no. What, are you trying to sabotage his career?
posted by notsnot at 5:50 PM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

If he changes his career to imposing flame-throwing relief pitcher in the major leagues, then they'll be more than professional--they'll be mandatory.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:50 PM on June 27, 2007 [4 favorites]

Oh hell no.

At an investment bank? Are you joking? The code is suit, tie, clean shaven, hair doesn't touch your ears or your collar. The 'rock star'-type IBs might be able to get away with it, but that's because the rock stars are bringing in metric fucktons of money. He's fresh out of college.

Jesus God, no.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:52 PM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

No, and I haven't even read the [more inside].
posted by grimmelm at 5:53 PM on June 27, 2007

You have to be really, really good at what you do to get props for any kind of alternative bodily expression - facial hair, earrings, tatoos. If you reach that level of goodness, then those things will add to your mystique. But if you're just starting out in your first job out of college at an investment bank, no so much. Once he becomes a hedge fund manager he can start looking weird and people will just think it's part and parcel of his brilliance.
posted by footnote at 5:53 PM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

And now that I have, I predict that if he shows up the first day with them, he will be asked to show up the second day without them.
posted by grimmelm at 5:55 PM on June 27, 2007

Obviously a no, but why stop there? Mutton chops look pretty damn stupid even if you're not working in the banking world. They practically scream "poseur" and it's essentially the facial hair equivalent of a trucker hat.
posted by dhammond at 5:58 PM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

It's been my experience that investment bankers rarely appreciate anything that's 'awesome', especially if it's 'awesome' 2 times...
posted by pupdog at 5:59 PM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

4ster wins. Even investment bankers had em then.
posted by ZakDaddy at 6:00 PM on June 27, 2007


easiest AskMe answer EVAR
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:00 PM on June 27, 2007

At every job with more than a couple of dozen people, you're lucky to have a single soundbite associated with your name: "the smart guy", "the numbers guy", "the hard worker here at all hours", "the guy who did a great job on the Bennett deal." Unless one works in a small group, it's just impossible to remember more than one or two ideas associated with the new employees, especially with the turnover at a place like an investment bank or a law firm.

I promise you that your boyfriend doesn't want to be "the guy with the muttonchops."
posted by commander_cool at 6:01 PM on June 27, 2007

Response by poster: Aaaand this is why he's the investment banker and I still haven't managed to get out of college yet.

As for the faux-hipster chic accusations--I liked 'em because they reminded me of the facial hair on some of my favorite UFC fighters. I knew this would lean towards "No", but how far! Oh, how far!
posted by Anonymous at 6:02 PM on June 27, 2007

Ten years ago, "irony" wasn't what it is now. I'm sure you looked fine then, World Famous.
posted by dhammond at 6:02 PM on June 27, 2007

Definite no, turning point being the assassination of Franz Ferdinard. I've known people who work at banks being asked to shave off one day of stubble. About the only way you could pull it off is religious observance, but I'm not sure he'd be up for conversion just for the facial hair.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 6:03 PM on June 27, 2007

Honestly, how much hipster cred or "awesomeness" would they really confer, the job issue aside? All the hippest guys moved on to full beards like, two years ago. Outside of the workplace, he'll look like that guy who's partying like it's 2002.
posted by availablelight at 6:08 PM on June 27, 2007

Oops, *n. apparently Franz Josef was the sideburn guy.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 6:10 PM on June 27, 2007

Facial hair is almost always a bad idea.
posted by austinlee at 6:10 PM on June 27, 2007

Hell, I wear overalls to work and even I say no.
posted by Iron Rat at 6:15 PM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

I rocked some monster chops for a few months this past autumn, and I work in a business environment even more conservative than i-banking. But I'm going to have to give you an emphatic--and strong--no.

I was fine, but I've been in my job a good while, and tend to dress extremely well to balance out my eccentricities. (And I don't care that much about hacks/tools who cant step outside their own insecurities and live the teensiest bit.)
posted by J-Train at 6:26 PM on June 27, 2007

You don't want to look like this guy.
posted by rancidchickn at 6:27 PM on June 27, 2007

As a guy who wishes he had the right growth pattern for some proper 19th century chops, but wears a beard longer than the width of my hand instead, I'd love to say yes to this question. But where I work you can wear sandals and a T shirt to the office and no one will question your professionalism. An investment banker has to look the part, that means no chops.
posted by subtle_squid at 6:30 PM on June 27, 2007

I'm going to offer a somewhat dissenting view. I've had sideburns that I've heard referred to as "chops"--they don't, like reach my chin but are atypically long and angled. Oh, and my ears are pierced. Despite this seemingly Herculean set of obstacles I'm fortunate to enjoy a soaring career at the executive level.

I actually find that my appearance probably helps me (oh and my hair is currently bleached and dyed--it's a summer thing) . . . but then I'm on the West coast and my industry is in tech/media-- a bit of personal flamboyance/WTF attitude plays well in that sector and at my rank. Moral of this story: At some point, in certain contexts, you can do what the fuck you want without being "unprofessional."

And while I'm going on, let me say that I've read sooo much bullshit about "professional norms"--on an earlier AskMe thread I believe someone posted about the major faux pas of storing business cards in your wallet. I call bullshit on that crap. Ultimately "professional" is about acting with integrity and honesty and doing what you say you're going to do. Simple.

But back to your boyfriend. . . first job out of college? at an investment bank? Success in that environment screams "conform and pay your dues." So chops? Not so much.
posted by donovan at 6:31 PM on June 27, 2007

Working at an investment bank? Absolutely inappropriate.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:53 PM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

My husband had mutton chops when I met him. He was definitely the "mutton chop" guy at our London IT company. You know what? Didn't hurt. Here's what he replied when I sent him the link to this thread:

Some people put up with a lot of shit for their jobs. Not wanting to be "the mutton chop guy"? It's a hell of a lot better than "the new guy."

Not a single reply saying "who would want to work at a place that discriminates against someone for their facial hair". I find that who thread appallingly sad.
posted by web-goddess at 6:54 PM on June 27, 2007

Investment banking is stuck in the stone age. Not a smart idea until he's the one doing the hiring.
posted by devilsbrigade at 6:55 PM on June 27, 2007

If your boyfriend really wanted mutton chops*, he could always wait and see what happens once he starts his job. Maybe nobody in the office would care (doubtful). But showing up on the first day with mutton chops might not go over very well.

*And he doesn't, which I think speaks well of his taste. Strange facial hair is a mask for people who think they are ugly and want others to believe it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:04 PM on June 27, 2007 [5 favorites]

Several people here seem to be saying no based on the fact that mutton chops are considered unfashionable. I, on the other hand, think they look cool on those who can pull off the look. I would wait until I'd been at my new job for a few weeks before deciding if they were appropriate, based on whether or not other people in the office displayed mutton-chop-equivalent characteristics. If other people had offbeat hairstyles, then I would go ahead and grow some chops of my very own.

If I were a guy, that is.
posted by bluishorange at 7:24 PM on June 27, 2007

Mod note: a few comments removed. stop with the LOLCHOPS crap
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:25 PM on June 27, 2007

Are Mutton Chops Professional

No, no they are not. You won't mark this best answer because you want something different, but it is true, mutton chops are bad form, even if you do find them hot. sorry.
posted by caddis at 7:29 PM on June 27, 2007

Not a single reply saying "who would want to work at a place that discriminates against someone for their facial hair".

It's investment banking, so: People who don't care so much about that because they're rolling in money like Scrooge McDuck. Maybe that's not your thing, but you can see how that might be someone's thing, yes?
posted by mendel at 7:30 PM on June 27, 2007

Wow, so much muttonchop hatred! I think they're awesome (uh.. yeah. This may say a lot about me).

There's a guy in my office who has muttonchops, and has since the day he started. We're a pretty professional office, and he's never had any problems as far as I know— he does keep his hair neat and he is very well groomed, which I think makes all the difference.
posted by indienial at 7:35 PM on June 27, 2007

I have consulted at Credit Swisse and Goldman Sachs. Many of the people there are much cooler than you'd expect; but they get away with it precisely because they look completely straight.

I wore a grey suit with expensive black loafers to CSFB on my first day and was told that my suit was fine but please not to wear my slippers to work.
posted by nicwolff at 7:37 PM on June 27, 2007

It's not muttonchop hatred, it's muttonchops-in-banking discouragement. Being well-groomed is one thing, but has anybody ever seen big old sideburns in a suit? Me neither.
posted by rhizome at 7:45 PM on June 27, 2007

Muttonchops are not professional.

They're also hideous, but that was not the question.
posted by winna at 7:52 PM on June 27, 2007

"If you win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back and the press'll think you're colorful. Until you win 20 in the show, however, it means you're a slob."

- Crash Davis

So yeah, if your bf makes partner in two years and earns the biggest bonus in the company....naaah, even then mutton chops are stupid, in a banking context.
posted by pdb at 7:54 PM on June 27, 2007

he should start a hedge fund as the only thing that matters there is whether you make money or not. Most of the good hedge fund managers are a bit oddball, although you still need to be able to convince a bunch of wealthy people that it is safe to invest with you. After your first couple of billion, then let the chops come back.
posted by caddis at 8:14 PM on June 27, 2007

I used to work for financial services software companies -- our clients, who I never had to see, worked in big banks, investment firms and the like. And I got in trouble for one day wearing a solid sweater with a pressed blouse and green cords -- even though we were a West Coast software company with a business casual dress code. (I am still unsure why I got called out, when other people were wearing sleeveless tops with plunging necklines.) I was told that our clients (who lived thousands of miles away) would not appreciate my attire. So tread carefully in this sector.
posted by acoutu at 9:03 PM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think he can do it; he just needs to accompany it with a bow tie every single day.

Plus suspenders.
posted by RobotAdam at 9:04 PM on June 27, 2007

I would say keep them trimmed as close as possible and condition at LEAST three times a week--I'm old enough to vaguely remember hippies and I think the dried-out hipster facial hair is disgusting (boys, your SO's wll thank you for this).
posted by brujita at 9:04 PM on June 27, 2007

I have found the perfect solution!!!

Detachable Mutton Chops... He takes them off for work, but then puts them back on for the "fun" at home ;)

And coming from a guy that has side burns and fights to keep them whenever my girlfriend or whoever says to get rid of them, I must say mutton chops would not be professional, however sexy they may be.
posted by MaHaGoN at 9:06 PM on June 27, 2007

Mutton-chops are to facial hair as mullets are to head hair.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:15 PM on June 27, 2007

So, it looks like you've got yourself three weeks of mutton chops to enjoy! Try to make the most of them.
posted by nanojath at 9:21 PM on June 27, 2007

Here's a test: the day he can walk into work in a bathrobe, put his slippered feet up on his giant desk, and relax while hordes of pink-faced fresh-out-of-college underlings scramble to gain his favor, the day he can tell the firm's richest client to drop dead ... that day, he can have whatever kind of facial hair he wants.

Until then, no.

(And this isn't one of those deals where you should 'dress for the job you want' ahead of time, either.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:28 PM on June 27, 2007

Not in the least. I sported them for years, and was told on a regular basis when I applied for "real world" jobs that I'd have to shave if I was to even be considered.
posted by Loto at 10:20 PM on June 27, 2007

Of course, as long as you're Javert.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 10:20 PM on June 27, 2007

He's going to work in investment banking. Clean-cut and professional is the way to go, and the answer is (as you can tell from everyone else's comments) absolutely no.

Going forward, you might consider this a lesson for yourself as well, when you enter the job market (if you're not already) or land your one true gig. We now have firm proof that in at least one case your judgement of what is work-appropriate was WAY off -- this might be a good time to get some outside opinions about whether or not *your* dress and grooming are getting in the way of your credibility and opportunities at your job.

Hopefully not, but better to ask now than after you've been stagnant in your employment for several years.

By the way, there are jobs where muttonchops are *acceptable* -- internet startups and whatnot -- but they're still not a good idea, because they mark you as someone who is the wacky tech/designer person that has no interest in moving into management. Believe me, even if you're not interested in moving into management, you never want your employers to know that.
posted by davejay at 10:27 PM on June 27, 2007

I know someone who was sent home on their first day at a London investment bank and told to change, because they were wearing a yellow shirt. This was not appropriate, muttonchops will not be either.
posted by greycap at 11:26 PM on June 27, 2007

No. But, quite awesome.
posted by weaponsgradecarp at 11:39 PM on June 27, 2007

No, no, and hell no.
posted by philulrich at 11:40 PM on June 27, 2007

It gives me great pleasure to say "your boyfriend is right." If he is reading this with you, tell him to stop high-fiving himself and saying "see, I told you so."

This is almost certainly the last time he will ever be correct in an argument with a female.

Way to go, moron. You're not even 25 yet and you've already used up on of your lives.

(all a joke, of course. But, no. Chops are a downright bad idea.)
posted by stuboo at 3:14 AM on June 28, 2007

No, no, no ... a thousand times NO.
posted by essexjan at 4:14 AM on June 28, 2007

posted by BrotherCaine at 5:25 AM on June 28, 2007

True professionalism is really about delivering results and it doesn't matter what you look like .... but then again being the new guy at an investment banking firm means your boyfriend should probably just play along.
posted by melt away at 5:31 AM on June 28, 2007

True professionalism is really about delivering results

No, it's not. You can get fantastic results yet still act in a totally unprofessional way.

M-W says it is "characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession," or "exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace." That's how I understand it too. Nothing to do with results.

and it doesn't matter what you look like

Even if professionalism = results (which it isn't), the way you look can get in the way of obtaining results.
posted by grouse at 6:03 AM on June 28, 2007

Way up there someone wrote
I think he can do it; he just needs to accompany it with a bow tie every single day.

Plus suspenders.
which I'm pretty sure was at least half a joke, but makes a particularly good example of exactly how wrong muttonchops are: at some firms you'll find that even wearing suspenders as a new hire is considered inappropriate because it's dressing above your station. (Similarly for french cuffs or white collars on a colored shirt.)
posted by mendel at 6:34 AM on June 28, 2007

(Incidentally, by "colored shirt" I mean "blue".)
posted by mendel at 6:41 AM on June 28, 2007


But he can have them and wear shorts to work if he comes work with me. Preferably ratty cutoffs.
posted by cellphone at 7:17 AM on June 28, 2007

Here's the main problem. The guy who hired him would be on the hot seat if anything went wrong. Say he's the IT guy and the network goes down and it's his fault. The first question would be "Who hired the muttonchop guy". That's the prick thing about corporate life. Any eccentricity is tolerated as long as the work is excellent, but the moment it falters that eccentricity becomes the scapegoat.

P.S. I hate corporate life.
posted by any major dude at 9:19 AM on June 28, 2007

Eh, wait until he's there awhile and feel the place out.
posted by electroboy at 9:36 AM on June 28, 2007

He doesn't want them, and they might have a negative impact on his new job. How would you feel if he insisted that you change your hairstyle? Even if they were professional, that doesn't give you the right to insist on them.
posted by yohko at 9:57 AM on June 28, 2007

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