white men with money and stubble

Five Notes on Lloyd Blankfein’s New Beard

Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., reacts during a session on day three of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013. World leaders, influential executives, bankers and policy makers attend the 43rd annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the five day event runs from Jan. 23-27.
The beard. Photo: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein showed up to this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos sporting a new look: a thin, gray-ish beard that falls somewhere between five-day stubble and the Full Bernanke on the facial-hair spectrum.

Clearly, this is a huge deal. It gets Blankfein into the Wall Street Facial Hair Club and makes him roughly equal to Jamie Dimon in the “financial executives I wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley” category. But how should you think about it? Here are five thoughts, in no particular order, on this sartorial development:

I. Lloyd says that his beard was a byproduct of not wanting to work. “I always had a beard on vacation, and I’d think to myself, ‘Gosh, wouldn’t it just prolong the vacation if I kept the beard?’” he told CNBC. Let’s get therapist’s-couchy for a moment and float the possibility that Lloyd is considering retirement sometime this year, and letting himself go in anticipation. It could happen!

II. There is more therapist’s-couch fodder in this statement (relayed from Bloomberg’s Christine Harper) that Lloyd feels like his beard is the “wrong color,” in that it is not the virile brown thatch he once sported, before he became co-president of Goldman. The inexorable march of time hits CEOs and busboys alike, and Lloyd is surely coping with his mortality with each millimeter of gray that emerges.

III. Over the next few weeks, dozens if not hundreds of junior bankers and traders at Goldman Sachs’s 200 West Street headquarters will come to believe that they, too, can start sporting facial hair. They will be wrong. This privilege is reserved only for CEOs and is known as the “Corzine Rule.”

IV. Could the beard be a late-in-the-making PR move, engineered in a shadowy boardroom by Goldman PR chief Jake Siewert, to make Blankfein more relatable among the unwashed Occupy crowd? (No.) Could it be a subtle way for Blankfein to distance himself from fellow billiard-ball Greg Smith? (Also no.)

V. There are some real possibilities here, should Lloyd decide to continue with his exploration of facial hair. Here are just a few:

Photo: AFPAFP/Getty Images
Photo: AFPAFP/Getty Images
Photo: AFP/Getty Images