Well, it looks like that month you spent growing a beard to impress the ladies (and your Williamsburg bicycle club) was for naught: turns out ladies are completely skeeved by beards. That’s right, hippie, your beard is off-putting. Yet many men still decided to deck their chin with a tuft of hair; explanations abound:
Science gives us various theories as to why men are able to grow beards, from protecting the delicate facial skin from sunlight to buffering blows to the jaw in a fight.
It is even suggested that a beard is a sign of a strong immune system. The theory goes that disease-carrying parasites thrive in body hair and so if a man can sport a beard without getting ill, he must be extra healthy.
Women are supposed to be drawn to strong, healthy men but previous research into whether beards are attractive has produced mixed results, so scientists from New Zealand and Canada decided to conduct their own research.
The study photographed 19 men with full beards (six weeks of solid growth), and photographed them while they made angry faces. The men then shaved and were photographed again; afterwards, scientists showed the before and after photos to a bevy of beauties who then rated the shaved men as more attractive.
Interestingly, the study, when conducted on men, seems to show that men prefer other men with beards; having a beard seems to confer a level of status upon a man. Women, too, rated the bearded men as having more presence, presumably because they were simultaneously afraid and excited by the angry, hairy visages.
While the study has a long way to go in establishing any sort of correlation, it would seem that the early results are in: dudes love other dudes with beards, and ladies prefer a clean shaven man. Or near to clean shaven; as one scientist who commented on the trend that women love a 5 o’clock shadow said, “It was almost as if women preferred a man who could grow a beard but hadn’t.”
The layers of meaning in that single bit of analysis beautifully sum up modern relationships.