Men and Their Beards

Man with long hair and a beard
Photo: Shutterstock
Men love their beards and women love men with beards. Really? A study published in the Oxford Journal of Psychology confirms what we already knew deep inside: Women prefer a clean, baby smooth shaven face. So why do men do it?
According to said study as well as others, beards evolved to send a message to other males to present status and the level of aggressiveness. Over the centuries fashions came and went; with them numerous shapes for the facial growth from full bodied hirsuteness to finely drawn mustaches and goatees. Facial hair became a fashion item and comes in as many varieties as hairstyles for men.
Men usually show much loyalty to their favorite shape of beard and once they find it, they stick with it. Some would perhaps rather shave off the hair on their head than their facial hair. Are men more vain than they admit? Too often it seems that the beaus in our lives do not pay as much attention to their appearance as women may wish, but when it comes to their facial hair all the defenses come out.
When my friend Sarah gently mentioned to her husband that the little pieces of food left in his “pride and joy” full beard were rather disturbing to her and that she would prefer him with a bit less growth in his face, he looked as if she had told him he could never ever see another football game in his life. Panic struck him and after some digging about his strong reaction to her suggestion, he mentioned a narrow upper lip that he wants to cover up with his beard. Eventually he agreed to reduce it to a mustache and another marriage was shaved, or let's better say saved.
Besides hiding some physical attributes that they are not happy with, which other reasons exist for men to adorn themselves with the growth of hair in their handsome faces?
Rite of Passion
Some of the love affair between men and beards begins as soon as the testosterone makes itself visible with little tender fuzz along the cheeks. It is a huge step between childhood and manhood and one of the most visible signs of maturity.
Teenage boys often cannot wait to shave regularly and also compare themselves to classmates who might have more or less growth in their faces. This eager awaiting makes each little follicle so precious and the emotional attachment often never ceases.
Jake Gyllenhaal and his beard
Jake Gyllenhaal - Photo: lev radin/Shutterstock
Full Beards as Expression of Virility and Maturity
Men use beards, especially full beards to send signs of their virility and also superiority over others. A certain type of full beard is often found in academic circles. Usually groomed well, but thick, bushy and covering most of the face. A stereotype is the chess playing, pipe or cigar smoking professor or wannabe intellectual. And as with many clichés there is some truth to it and it seems that men with this attribute are instantly regarded with more respect. They still have to live up to it later, but they get a head start.
In fact the academic beard is still so en vogue that entire websites are dedicated to it, decoding its meaning and celebrating the look that spans centuries and connects Galileo Galilei with modern men who like to dwell in the world of knowledge and show it with this distinguishing look. However, a beard does not make a philosopher and you out there, yes, you know who you are, do not think women still fall for it.
Another version of the full bearded face is that of nature men, the outdoor heroes of today who can fell a tree without hurting themselves and others and know how to keep you save and fed in the wilderness. The Paul Bunyan look is one to stay as long as there are checkered shirts and lumber in the world.
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