Decades after American parents told their sons to cut their hair—ya damn hippies!—we’ve largely abandoned the outdated notion that long hair or beards or tattoos symbolize dangerous social deviance. These days, only a few of the most buttoned-up professions might require a man to be clean-shaven: high-ranking public officials and Mormon missionaries come to mind. Oh, and until this week, Publix cashiers.
Yes, grocery chain Publix until a few days ago didn’t allow its store employees to have beards. (Thin mustaches were acceptable, which are objectively weirder than beards, frankly. And warehouse employees were permitted to grow beards.) It’s not because store employees didn’t want to grow beards; the anti-beard policy was a subject of contention and the target of an online petition from workers—and their supporters—who wouldn’t have minded a hirsute fellow ringing up their orders. Now, the Orlando Sentinel reports the chain has relented and on Friday announced it would allow its store employees to wear beards, provided the bristles are “neat, clean, and professional.” The chain tested its relaxed facial hair policy earlier this year at locations in Jacksonville, Florida and North Carolina, but will now expand it to all 1,196 stores.
The majority of reactions seem to be that “Yeah, it’s about time.” (This reporter wants to know whether that anti-beard policy wouldn’t have been especially restrictive for men whose religious beliefs mandate they not cut their beards?)
The move isn’t just an indication that Publix corporate has finally seen the light; it’s a reaction to a tight labor market with a low unemployment rate. Retailers over the past year or two have relaxed some demands on employees—Walmart this summer finally allowed its employees to wear jeans to work—and have even raised wages. Lakeland, Florida-based Publix is one of only 10 companies named to Forbes’ 100 Best Places To Work list every year since the list debuted, an honor it would no doubt like to maintain—even if that means its store employees buy fewer Schicks.