It’s easy to write off beards as just a fad. Beards have become one of the central identifiers of the hipster movement, and since trends come and go, beards are bound to become an artifact, right?
Not so fast. A team of international researchers led by The University of Western Australia’s Cyril Grueter has concluded in a new paper in Evolution and Human Behaviour that men grow flamboyant whiskers to enhance their sexual attractiveness and to look more aggressive.
The paper theorizes that in big, multi-level societies, males develop more conspicuous badges that are quick signifiers of rank, attractiveness, and dominance. The striking, colorful faces and rear ends of mandrills, the elongated noses of proboscis monkey – they’re all badges that differentiate the male from the pack.
That's one competitive mandrill.
The team looked at 154 species of primates and found more of these markers in males of species where physical and social conflict were common and individual recognition was limited.
In large groups, these ornaments as easily identified calls-to-action for evaluating quality. There’s no need for such ornaments in smaller groups where everyone knows everyone else from repeated interactions.
According to Dr. Grueter, men with beards are perceived as being more masculine and dominant than barefaced men, so beards could be the result of inter-male competition.
The modern man faces competition from hundreds of competitors in the real world and exponentially more online, where the environment is especially cutthroat: popular dating Tinder application allows you to swipe left if you’re disinterested and right if you’re interested, often based off a single picture.
While we’re not saying you have to grow a beard – or keep your current one – to find your somebody, it’s true that a well-maintained beard helps you stand out, often in a good way.
We’re curious – what’s your motivation for growing a beard?