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December 15, 2008

A New Indicator of US Unemployment

WSJ's Life & Style section has come up with a new indicator for US unemployment: Beards.
Facial hair is showing up on more former corporate types. It's one of those tiny luxuries unleashed by unemployment, a time when people are briefly released from workaday habits and may wish to take stock of their lives before setting out anew. Al Gore grew a beard after losing the tumultuous presidential election of 2000. Neatly trimmed, it looked cozy and anti-establishment as he pursued creative projects on his way to the Nobel Peace Prize.

Scott Berger, a 35-year-old investment analyst, stopped shaving in October after being laid off from hedge fund Laurus Capital Management. "It's something you can't do in the corporate world," he says. He does, however, cut his facial hair closely with a beard trimmer, pledging, "I'm not ever going to look like a lumberjack."

...For most office workers, the look remained too daring -- until they had nothing left to lose. At the Donsuki salon on Manhattan's East Side, owner Suki Duggin says she's been helping an increasing number of male clients groom newly liberated facial hair. One recent customer came in with a month's growth on his chin, saying he'd lost his job and wanted "to totally change" his look, she says.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of information and networking services to the private equity and venture capital ecosystem in India. View free samples of Venture Intelligence newsletters and reports. Email the author at arun@ventureintelligence.in