We live in a facial hair renaissance. I mean, just take a short jaunt along any city street and you’re likely to see a bunch of different kinds of beards, whether it be the rough and tumble Bandholz, the sophisticated Verdi, or the somewhat urbane, country and western-tinged mutton chops. Thanks to hipsters and refinements in male grooming technology, beards are all the rage these days. Also, according to a study by Neave and Shields, dudes with facial hair actually fare better with the ladies than their clean shaven counterparts.
Just to be clear, the study had sixty women examine pictures of three different male faces with facial hair in five different states of growth: clean-shaven, light stubble, heavy stubble, light beard and full beard. Here were their findings:
Male faces displaying a full beard were considered the most masculine, aggressive, socially mature, and older.
Males with a light beard were considered the most dominant.
Males with light stubble were considered to be the most attractive, light stubble was also preferred for both short- and long-term relationships.
– Neave & Shields
These conclusions were affirmed in another study conducted five years later by Dixson and Brooks. They claimed “that an intermediate level of beardedness [was] most attractive” to women. This study also included male perceptions of facial hair and determined that dudes prefer a man with a thick beard most of all. Conclusions? Well, clearly if you want to do better with the ladies (or guys, if that’s what you’re into), set your stubble free.
All this said—and taken with a grain of salt, of course—it seems like there’s a real sweet spot when it comes to facial accoutrement. Too much beard, while indubitably masculine in appearance and a clear indicator of good overall health, and you run the risk of appearing like you’d make a better dad than lover. If you’ve got nothing going on in the facial hair department, the ladies are liable to look at you as boyish (hey, some chicks dig a smooth cheek, so don’t fret). The sweet spot, apparently, is a nice even dusting, just to remind her that it’s there. For reference, think Jon Ham with an afternoon shadow.
But for the sake of argument (because I love to play Devil’s advocate) I decided to do some field research to get to the bottom of all this, and was surprised to get two opinions that run contrary to the reports. My friend Jess, a devoted connoisseur of men, had this to say:
Meh. I mean, a beard won’t make or break anything for me. I just think they get in the way, to be honest. Also, they’re kind of gross. Like, sure, a man with a nice, full beard looks impressive, but something could be living in there. Plus, they take an insane amount of effort to maintain. It just doesn’t seem worth it. But again, if you’re hot and you have a beard, it’s definitely not a deal breaker.
Natalie, another friend, had this to add:
Guys with beards look kind of scary. Like a hobo or something, someone who isn’t at all concerned about their grooming. Not all beards are created equally, and some do look good, but most of the time they just gross me out. I also always feel like beards are hiding something… weak chins, maybe?
Whether you have a truly formidable patrician beard you can tug on as you consider the troubled state of our planet or a damn loveable baby face, one thing’s for sure: it isn’t the facial hair that makes the man.