– A social psychological explanation of rising number of bearded men. –
A few years ago a study appeared that tried to explain the growing popularity of beards. In a nutshell the theory goes that men’s attractiveness to possible mating partners depends on their uniqueness of appearance, so in times when most men are well shaved the bearded variety becomes more attractive and vice versa. I don’t believe that. Beards are not just a fashion. They are an important signal of manliness. Therefore its popularity is not triggered by a competition to appear extraordinary but has severe social reasons. In contrast to this study, my article ventures an other hypothetical explanation, a sociological one, which all the way seems more plausible to me.
When the above mentioned study was published it had many repercussions in popular newspapers including The Guardian, The Telegraph, Daily Mail, and The Washington Post for instance. The New Scientists even ventured a popular science article, and BBC aired a news report. All this regurgitation of the original study just focused on the point that by so many bearded men today we have reached a peak and the trend will go in the opposite direction now, which might be an eagerly welcomed news for Wilkinson and Gillette after all, but didn’t happen. On the contrary. And here is the reason:
It is true, the popularity of facial hair varies. It varies with time, culture, and geographical region. For instance the most religious men in Islam and Judaism feel it to be obliged to wear long beards. By contrast, a beard is unpractical in military service in particular if you have to wear a gas mask occasionally. Also it is well known that while in Europe beards were quite common in the 19th century, they were less so in the 20th century. Now frequency is growing again which in fact resembles a predator-prey-function. However, such a resemblance suggest that adaptive mechanism occur in a similar time frame, but it actually says nothing about the cause, and it is too naive to assume a similar predator-prey scenario.
In order to understand the beard-habit of men it is necessary to understand what beards are good for. Actually, I can rather say what they are not good for. Beards are a hindrance in many aspects. With a long beard you have to perpetually be attentive to not dip into the soup. If growing thick around your mouth you have to be aware that some food get entangled in the hair, which is especially common with fast food. The ketchup a mayo squeezed out of a burger loves to drop into a those hair and it doesn’t even help to use a napkin. Even if the beard looks proper after a napkin cleansing, the smell remains and in particular with mayo becomes repugnant by the end of the day. What applies to food also applies to everything else a beard gets in touch with. For proper hygiene a beard requires shampooing at least once a day otherwise it would grow a considerable number of unpleasant germs and even pathogens.
That said the question remains what is a beard actually good for; why an increasing number of men goes through such an ordeal to grow it. The benefits should have been so remarkable to outweigh the drawbacks. What else could that be than attractiveness to potential mates, but the desire to appear attractive is constant and does not change over time, and a beard is by far not the only think that makes a man attractive, so it has to be something else that changes the balance between all the factors that determine a man’s attractiveness.
We know that facial hair is a hallmark of human males. According to aquatic ape theory, it was necessary to evolve such an unmistakable sex sign to determine the sex when the rest of the body is under water. If believing in this theory or not it is indisputable that facial hair is a key indicator of masculinity. It is even a gradual indicator as testosteron levels correlates with the abundance of facial hair.
Now, why men increasingly rely on facial hair to show their masculinity. The answer is pretty simple. It is a social problem. Society denies them to show masculinity by other means. It is exactly feminism spreading throughout Western societies that not just taught but even indoctrinated boys to behave like girls. To behave boldly is a typical male characteristic, but that is tabooed. Eventually the only socially acceptable way in present Western Societies to prove your masculinity is by not shaving.
Yesterday a saw an attractive women stopping her car right in front of me when I was crossing the street. She was smiling alluringly. I glanced a t her friend. A beard! I suddenly realized that though she was in in charge of that vehicle she already had a male companion. A beard seems also to a repellent.
After all these considerations I wonder if the social justice worrier and feminists likewise will fight for the removal of this last resort of masculinity, demanding that all facial hair has to be cut and sex exclusively shown by a tag that can be changed arbitrarily. Well its sounds sarcastic, but remember what sounded sarcastic 50 years ago is now reality.