From an evolutionary perspective, why do men grow beards? Is it vanity? Dominance? Laziness? Or some other reason altogether? New research shows that beards likely evolved to help men boost their standing amongst other men.
A study by Nigel Barber, using data on British facial hair trends from 1842-1971, found that men with beards and mustaches increased as the number of marriage-age women decreased. Basically, if there is a larger number of single men than women, more men grow beards. So does this mean men grow beards because women find them more attractive than clean-shaven baby faces?
A number of studies suggest that both men and women find that men with beards appear older, stronger and more aggressive than non-bearded men. But does this equate to attractiveness?
Some studies find that women prefer stubble, while others show that women like fully-bearded men, and some even suggest women find clean-shaven men the most attractive. Bottom line, there is no conclusive data suggesting that women across the board find men with facial hair more attractive than clean-shaven men.
The lack of consistent evidence means that we cannot assume men grow beards because women find them more attractive. But if not for women, then why grow a beard? Hell, why do us guys do anything if it is not for women?
Dominance. We all know the shy, quiet guy in the corner is highly unlikely to take the beautiful girl home. Across the animal kingdom, the dominant male can get more mating opportunities by intimidating other suitors to step aside. Since men with beards are perceived by both sexes as older, stronger, and more aggressive, the bearded man has an upper hand in perceived dominance, and therefore an increased likelihood of passing his genes on to the next generation. So from an evolutionary perspective, it appears beards serve as a dominance mechanism and therefore indirectly a means of procreation.
That’s from an evolutionary perspective. As for why each of us grows our beard, well, that is personal. Personally, I grew my beard out in honor of my fallen comrade. I kept it because, frankly, it makes me look damn handsome...and I look like I’m 18 when I’m clean-shaven.
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