For men in the business world, good grooming is expected.

Shoes shined. Shirt collars not frayed. Hair washed and neat, even if it is in a ponytail. And, oh yes, a fresh shave. That's a must.Or is it?

What about the male models in current fashion ads? Men in business suits appear - to put it nicely - somewhat hung over.

Being clean-shaven has been a prerequisite for impressing the boss since corporate life began, but now five o'clock shadows are appearing at 8 a.m. How does this jibe with the "cleaning up" of American style, which has been the message from most corners of the fashion apparel world the past season or two?

Opinions vary within the fashion industry.

Some look upon the scruffy look as a fashion trend, having nothing to do with the mid-'80s Don Johnson look. To this way of thinking, men needn't be uptight about old taboos - like going out unshaven.

Others say the ads are just ads, showing different looks, including clean-shaven. Or the small goatee, the mustache or a full, short beard.

Recent press kits from clothing manufacturers have featured numerous models with two- or three-day stubble - for clothing from manufacturers like Joseph Abboud, Mondo di Marco, Country Road Australia and Girbaud, among others. They're part of an ethnic trend, an international look.

In European collections it is expected. That's where the trend seems to have originated. But at recent spring-summer fashion shows in Los Angeles, sponsored by the Men's Fashion Association of America, many models wore goatees and a slight growth of facial hair.

And Ralph Lauren? That's unexpected. Lauren is polo matches, country club and all-American boy - usually.

In the spring kit he has a handsome gentleman in an $895 worsted wool crepe suit, a $93 English cotton poplin shirt . . . and an unshaven face. The man is not on his way to the mill or a weekend of sailing at Newport. He's dressed for work.

Nancy Aronson, who is with Lauren's publicity department, says Rashid, the handsome man in the photograph, is not a professional model and the look is not a trend. "It kind of says what fashion is about right now. It's relaxed elegance. He just looked kind of great that way. "

Marco Wachter, the designer for the men's line, Mondo, says this is one look, not the only look. A photo in his kit has an Alec Baldwin lookalike modeling a casual multicolored sweater.

"It's an attitude," claims Wachter. "A weekend feeling. Nonchalant."

For Country Road Australia, the look is considered "very '90s" because it indicates how a man looks is not his main interest and to care about being clean-shaven is superficial.

"Less status, more real," says Country Road's president, Stephen Bennett. The spring collection is all about ease and approachability.

The look is by no means limited to the fashion world.

On "The Cosby Show," Malcolm-Jamal Warner is often shown in casual clothing, sporting more than a shadow of a beard. Actor Peter Horton, just written out of "thirtysomething," liked the scruffy look. So does actor Kiefer Sutherland.

One current ad campaign shows a blond male model with a few days' growth of stubble. It's called "Portraits of Pleasure."

It seems to denote what Wachter described - a carefree attitude. The model is wearing a corduroy jacket and a handknit crewneck sweater, indicating he is relaxing on the weekend.

Relax. Forget about shaving for a few days.

But the real corporate world? It's not that nonchalant. Not yet.