The long, wiry beard of incoming interim Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has the company’s social media network abuzz. And at least one person has called for the buzzer: His mother.
Dorsey, however, bucked all the gawkers’ follicular fascination in an interview with CNBC earlier that day. After asking questions about the future of the company and its key performance indicators, an anchor got right to the heart of the matter: “Most of the questions I’ve gotten during this interview are actually about your beard. Does it help you as a CEO? Is it a sterner sort of approach for you as a CEO? Or do you consider actually eliminating the beard at some point?”
Dorsey replied diplomatically: “That’s not a question I was expecting,” he said. “People shouldn’t be measured by what they look like.”
The soon to be two-time Twitter CEO’s response is telling. It hints at the nature of Twitter’s quandary: How should investors measure its success (or lack thereof)? As Fortune reporter Erin Griffith points out:
Wall Street’s complaints for Twitter are myriad. It isn’t profitable. Its key metrics, including monthly active users, aren’t growing. It isn’t mainstream enough, like Snapchat or Instagram. The product is confusing. The ads aren’t that compelling. Even Chris Sacca, an early Twitter investor who says he “bleeds” Twitter’s signature aquamarine, has a college essay’s worth of strongly worded suggestions for improvement. It’s beginning to feel like Twitter is doomed to live forever as company that can’t fulfill its potential.
Don’t be distracted, Dorsey may as well have said, by what’s on the surface. Ignore the false comparisons—of styles, or business models—upon which unsatisfied shareholders and armchair fashionistas harp. Instead, realize that Twitter—rendered symbolically in this exegesis as the messianic jaw fur of a reinstated captain—is different. And that’s okay.
Still, questions loom about the future of the company, and whether Dorsey—and whomever Twitter’s board selects as his next successor—can return it to the tech darling promised land. Whether intentional or not, Dorsey’s beard has served as the perfect distraction during an otherwise ragged chief exec succession.
Ragged, of course, as a particular beard.