Shaving Off Your Standard

Prior to World War II, beards were simply in fashion. There really wasn’t a label to it. But after the war, men in the armed services came home with short hair and disciplined to shave. It was simply the thing to do. Those who didn’t comply were viewed as “rough” and “undisciplined”. And when a “new generation” started to grow beards and long hair in the Sixties, it was viewed as counter culture.

You not only didn’t work at Disney with that look, you were often turned away. One of my closest colleagues came down from Stanford in the Sixties when she was in college. With her in flip flops, and her friends in beards, they were seen as a menace, and were not permitted to enter. She is now a retired lawyer and member of a school board in a prominent midwestern town.

So when Disney now says that it’s okay to have beards; why are they doing that? The cynics say that it’s really about making it easier to find people to work at the parks, and in keeping those who currently work at the parks who are really “over” the Disney standard.

What do I think? I don’t have a beard, and never have. I really don’t like them. But I don’t have a conflict with it. I have a larger view of society, and not one that simply is held in the Fifties and the Sixties. I’m sure they’ll be kept fairly neat and trim. And I doubt anyone is going to be allowed to do something like “mutton chops”. Do you notice Cast Members in the parades and shows? They still don’t have mustaches.

But I do have a problem with Betsy Sanchez’s PR statement: “Disney Look guidelines are periodically reviewed in relation to industry standards, as well as the unique environment of our theme parks and resorts.”

Since when did Disney compare themselves with “industry standards?” They are the industry standard! I mean it’s great to benchmark, but thousands of companies discuss their appearance guidelines in light of Disney. What is Disney doing comparing themselves to everyone else?

Organizations have strengths. They should play to those strengths. One of Disney’s has been to have an energetic, upbeat, polished looking employment force. When they tell me they compared themselves to “industry standards,” what they really have said, is that they lowered their standard.

And that is disappointing news.

J. Jeff Kober