beard number one
Beards – who can resist them

Facial hair on men is a subject that provokes strong emotions. Some cultures have frowned upon beards. The ancient Romans approved of the clean shaven look. No Roman before Hadrian had a beard. Not many after him did either. In England the well scraped jaw is favoured by the upright Cromwellian maintainers of order. Beards are the province of the artistic and Bohemian. I am struggling to think of a bearded prime minister. The closest I can think of are the notable sideburns sported by Gladstone. In general, you might find the hairy to be fun but you don’t trust them with high office. The vicar can have a beard, but maybe not the bank manager.

This is not how every culture sees things though. In the Middle East beards are the norm. Russian Emperors and Greek Orthodox patriarchs would not be seen dead without their whiskers.

Beards - Czar Nicholas II and George V
Nicholas II of Russia and George V of Great Britain – you can’t run a vast empire without the whiskers to go with it.

But the cultural significance of the razor blade is not in the remit of this blog. I am interested in the biology. What effect does having or not having a beard have on the attractiveness of males to females? A number of straight forward polls have been carried out and there is no doubt that results strongly suggest that most women do not like beards. So is that the end of the story? I am afraid not. Although that might be what women say, when they are presented with a choice of the same male face with and without beard, they plump for the bearded one.

thoughtful beard
A well trimmed beard on a thoughtful face

It seems at first sight that the women are contradicting themselves here. But this isn’t necessarily the case. Just because they don’t like beards in the abstract doesn’t necessarily mean that a particular face is going to look better without a beard. And it looks like most male faces are in fact more attractive to women if they are bearded.

On top of that there are some opportunities that present themselves with a beard. In general a longer and squarer looking face is more attractive. If your face is small or round the beard gives you the opportunity to lengthen your face in effect by letting the hair specifically on your chin grow longer and trimming it on your cheeks. And remember not to let it become unkempt. Shabbiness is never a good idea.

characterful beard
A beard can be a big part of your character. Or the only part.

Of course cultural influences can’t be ignored, though I would put money on biology trumping culture in most contexts. The preference for beards may be slightly less pronounced in cultures like England where they are associated with a lower level of responsibility. But why not give it a try. You can always shave it off again if it doesn’t work.

Earnest Hemmingway Beard
Grow a beard. Smoke a pipe. Pretend you are Earnest Hemmingway.

Since I wrote this blog we have seen the rise of the hipster beard, with a hitherto unheard level of grooming intensity.  It has to be precisely shaped and meticulously maintained. Beards have reached a level of sophistication not matched since the days of Bluebeard.

hipster beard
You just can’t even be a hipster without a beard

So in conclusion, if you are a man now is the time to try growing a beard.

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