Why Men Grow Beards


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    Why do men grow beards?

    I was thinking about this recently. Why, exactly, do men grow beards? That is, what is the evolutionary purpose of a beard? I know why men grow beards now. They’re just plain attractive. Women flock to a handsome beard, so beard up gentlemen, and be proud! But why did men start growing beards in the first place, and why don’t women have beards?

    The first thought that came to mind was that men grew beards to stay warm during the winter. Which makes sense, at first, until you realize that women get cold during the winter too. So why don’t they grow beards? Historically, women worked outdoors nearly as much as men, so if beards keep men warmer, women had every reason to evolve them. But they didn’t (well, most of them).

    So I did some research. As it happens…

    Numerous studies have been done over the years about how people respond to beards. Some showed that women are more attracted to men with beards, while others proved the exact opposite. To settle the matter once and for all, a study recently completed that interviewed men and women from New Zealand, a Western land that has been exposed to Western media, and from indigenous Samoa that had no exposure to Western media. The subjects were shown various pictures of men with beards and without beards, making a variety of facial expressions, and of various ages. These were the results:

    Men with Beards Look Older

    Beards make you look older.

    When you grow a beard, you’re broadcasting to the world that you have matured beyond your baby-faced boyhood, and joined the ranks of man. It appears that this works, too. Both men and women from both Western and indigenous lands judged bearded men to look older than they were, and clean-shaven men to look younger than they were. Historically, age has been seen as a very good thing, and societies all across the globe have ascribed wisdom and temperance to age. It is only recently that our cultures have worshiped a “cult of youth”, lauding teen celebrities, teen pregnancies, and teen issues–thus, why most men are clean shaven today.

    Men with Beards have Higher Social Status

    The majority of those interviewed considered the bearded men to have more important social standings in their cultures compared to the baby-faced men. And this makes perfect sense. As you age, you get more things done in life, form more relationships and partnerships, earn more wealth, and acquire more power and authority. With this time grows, also, an epic beard. Clean-shaven boys, who have not yet grown beards, have not had the time to gain wealth and social standing–and so most people think the beardless have a lower social status.

    These findings along with those of the current study suggest that dominant men may grow facial hair in order to effectively signal their social status and dominance. [source]

    These are the interview results--both groups thought men with beards looked older and had higher social status.

    These are the interview results–both groups thought men with beards looked older and had higher social status.



    Men with Beards Have Greater Confidence

    People perceive bearded men as having greater confidence for two main reasons.

    Battle

    The beard is no boon in battle. All your enemy has to do is pull on your beard to hurt you, and perhaps even kill you. This is why Alexander the Great instructed all his troops to shave off their beards. That said, a bearded man who wades into battle anyway, knowing that the beard is a handicap, is telling the world that he’s so confident in his fighting abilities that he can defeat any foe–despite the beard.

    Thus, beards may directly signal competitive ability to rival males. [Beards increased the] perceived status of men and may increase the social distance between rival men. – [source]

    Additionally, men with beards look scarier and more aggressive than men without beards. Soldiers in battle intimidate their foes with beards, with hopes that their enemy’s courage will fail and they’ll flee. (A full beard looks the most dominant, of all other beard styles). Bearded men give off the perception of having larger jaws, and often exhibit “aggressive jaw-thrusting” behaviors in battle. [source]

    Among the Medlpa tribe of Papua New Guinea, when posing an aggressive and threatening facial expression, men have been observed to pull apart the beard with both hands (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 1989). Similarly, beards are sometimes incorporated into gestural “beard jutting” threat displays, which consist of flicking the back of the fingers of one hand under the chin and outward, causing the beard to become erected and thrust out toward the rival.

    Health

    Early hominids had body hair.

    Hairy hominids have always struggled with parasites and bugs for eons (which is why you should use beard shampoo). One of the reasons homo sapiens shed body hair was to rid their bodies of more places for bugs to hide. However, a bearded man is giving prime nesting ground to bugs of all types. Thus, a man with a beard, who is not ill, is boasting of his good health and superior immune system, advertising his genetic fitness to potential mates.

    Female preferences for male [beards] could be due to their signaling the male’s ability to withstand or resist parasitic infection. Hair on the face and body are potential localized breeding sites for disease-carrying ectoparasites. (Nenoff et al. 2009Weiss 2009).



    Do women find beards attractive?

    Do women find beards attractive?

    No. That is, yes, and no. When asked whether they found the bearded man or the clean-shaven man more attractive, women across the board, from Western countries and from indigenous countries, slightly preferred the clean-shaven face to the bearded one. However, despite their attraction, women still married and reproduced with bearded men more than clean-shaven men, as indicated by one surprising fact:

    That’s right, beard’s didn’t evolve to keep us warm, or to shield us from UV light, or some nonsense like that. Instead, beards were bred in men, much the same way we breed certain physical traits in dogs, due to the fact that bearded men married and reproduced with more women.

    Men, more than women, ascribed higher social status to other men with beards. They feared and respected bearded men more. So, bearded men received higher social positions, acquired greater wealth, and were most likely to marry and reproduce, ensuring that their descendants also carried genes for robust beards. Women found bearded men more desirable, because other men gave bearded men more respect, despite the fact that women thought clean-shaven men were more physically attractive.

    The study found that both groups agreed: clean-shaven faces are more attractive, but bearded faces look more aggressive.

    The study found that both groups agreed: clean-shaven faces are more attractive, but bearded faces look more aggressive.

    This also explains why women don’t grow beards. Men were less interested in a woman’s wealth, power, and social standing, and were instead more interested in her beauty. So, non-bearded women were more likely to reproduce, and they produced more women who did not grow beards.

    Additionally:

    Given that a beard makes a man look older than his real age and women typically prefer a partner who is 2–3 years older than themselves (Buss 1989Kenrick and Keefe 1992), it seems reasonable to suspect that beards may enhance male facial attractiveness to women. Some previous studies have found that bearded men are rated as more socially mature, sincere, masculine, self-confident, and courageous than clean-shaven faces… Such traits are visually conspicuous and communicate an individual male’s age and dominance status. [source]

    Conclusion

    It’s interesting to learn why our ancestors first started growing beards. These findings can either influence our reasons for growing our own beards, or not. As for me, I grow a beard because it is comfortable and I like the way I look in one. That’s enough for me.



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    About the Author

    Brandon M. Dennis
    Greetings, fellow beardsmen! I'm a beard health expert and journalist working out of Seattle, Washington. I'm also an author, marketer, and story-teller. Read my swashbuckling fantasy sea adventure novel, The Tale of Cloran Hastings, and click my name to learn more about me. Enjoy the site!
    Brandon M. Dennis

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    Comments

    1. I also presumed that it was revered a sage to have a long well worked upon beard..

    2. Very interesting article, good work!

    3. Loved the article, however, I suspect your logic may be flawed.
      Growing a beard is genetic- shaving a beard is not. A clean-shaven man still carries the genetic ability to grow a beard- so how could being clean-shaven affect the genetics of his offspring?

      • It doesn’t my friend, you’re right there. However, beards are a “bred” trait. So, men who grew massive beards, in ancient times, had a greater chance of reproducing than those who did not. For this reason alone, their descendants happened to also grow better beards, until we reached a point today where most men can grow beards, and most women can’t grow beards.

        So shaving has nothing to do with it. It’s all about the selective breeding of our ancestors.

        • Beards arent a bred trait all humans can grow them, both sexes have potential of growing beards eeing how theres both men and woman with beards today. Someone of use are gentically different due to our ancient ancestor for example africans have literally no hair cause of the heat and have to cool down all evolution man not bred lol

          • Sorry for the horrible spelling this device was dropped in water plus ancient man im talking about cavemen used two sea shells or flint rocks to take off facial hair! Thats millions of years ago lol not even primitive man liked it so your greater chance of mating goes down the toilet thanks to research lol!

          • While all humans have follicles on our faces, humans across the glob differ in their ability to grow beards based on breeding.

            Women, in general, do not have beards because humans found beardless people more physically attractive. Thus, in a time when a woman’s beauty was her more important asset, women without beards reproduced more than women with beards, and passed down to their daughters an inability to grow beards. Of course, some women today can grow beards, but they are a small minority of all women. Those women who have large beards often have to take testosterone supplements, or begin a testosterone boosting regime, to grow them.

            • Your armchair theory is terribly flawed. Beards aren’t some unique appendage we evolved, its hair, just hair. Hairier men can have fuller beards, hairless men can’t. The real question is “Why are some lineages hairier than others?” and “Why does the hair on our heads/faces continue growing while body hair stabilizes?” Neither has anything at all to do with attraction.

            • Attraction actually answers your first question: “Why are some lineages hairier than others?” We already know that beards do not exist to provide bodily warmth. The amount of warmth they provide is minimal at best, and women need facial warmth as much as men–yet they did not grow beards. Thus, beards (and body hair) serve no functional bodily purpose.

              We also can rule out the idea that beards and body hair are vestiges left over from our primitive past, like a tailbone. Most women do not have chest hair, while almost all men do (to some degree). And yet, they do have leg hair, as do men. If body and beard hair were artifacts from our previous incarnations, then all humans would have equal amounts of it, just as we all have tail bones.

              Thus, the best way to look at body and beard hair is that it evolved due to sexual selection, like a peacock’s feathers. The peacocks that did not produce the most appealing feathers did not reproduce, and died out. Likewise, men in certain cultures who did not produce the most attractive type of facial hair (which conferred dignity, maturity, and authority upon them) did not reproduce as often–which is why most men today have beards. In short, most of us grow beards because we are the descendants of the superior males who had a chance to reproduce, and this genetic connection means we also grow beards.

              Now, obviously, beard growing is easier in some men than it is in others, and this almost always comes down to genetics. Middle-eastern and Indian men are very hairy, everywhere. Anglo Saxon men are almost always hairy, and come in a variety of colors. East Asians and most Native Americans have a very hard time growing facial hair.

              This can be explained by differing cultural perceptions of beards. In cultures that produce bearded men, men and women found beards more appealing–for whatever reason. In cultures where men do not grow beards naturally, beards had no positive (and possibly negative) social status. In short, East Asians infrequently grow thick beards because men with thick beards in those cultures did not reproduce as often as men with thin or no beards.

    4. Captian America says:

      Beards are incredibly dumb during war to have thats why alexander the great commanded them to cut it. Cause the enemy would grab it and slash there throat etc. plus all bad asses are clean shaven alexander the great , superman , he man , the god damn batman, terminator too many i know some were comic heroes lol. Beards to me are just silly. Beards are grown by the cowardly men to scared to use a sharp shaver lol

      • While beards are indeed a handicap in battle, as I mentioned previously in this article, those who wore them anyway were accorded more bravery and higher social status for taking the risk. This is the same psychology behind why we respect extreme mountain climbers, for example.

        While there are many “bad ass” shaven men, there are equally as many “bad ass” bearded men. Leonidas, Thor (from the legend, not the movie), God, Gandalf, and so on.

      • ChasePoore says:

        Dear Beardly, your comment is stupid. You think beards are dumb? Blame LIFE. That’s right! You were born with a beard not a razor. You can think it’s stupid all you want but it’s a natural part of life. If you dislike bears so much maybe you could change species? Maybe a hairless **** or something?

        • Now now, let’s be calm my classy chap and not berate the poor brute. The fellow will be shamed by his own words of beard hate! We handsomely hirsute individuals can simply shake our heads and sit smug and confident with our glorious man mane.

    5. Captian America says:

      Ohh by the way oxhorn look up beared lady she has a nice beard! Yes woman do grow beards so beards are just something are primitive primate ancestors left us with, with luck we will lose at gene in a couple of hundred years : )

    6. Captain America you’re silly! Especially about the part where you said that “with luck we’ll loose that gene in a couple hundred years! Come on! And naming fictional characters that were created by man in the mostly beardless 20th century! Common sense bro.

      • Bingo!

      • Captian america says:

        Seeing how we are descedent from apes , we have been getting alot less hairier look up what scientist predict what we will look like in the future! I cant belive some guys think looking like santa clause is bad ass lol.

        • Dude, Santa tamed a fleet of flying reindeer. He has an army of elves that do his bidding. And he’s broken in to every home on earth, and never been caught. How much more bad-ass can you get?

          • Captian america says:

            So a overweight guy thats a complete stranger breaks into childrens houses is bad ass? Ox lay off the scotch lol

    7. Two groups of humans that are not supposed to have a beard: children and ladies. ( yes I acknowledge the small percentage of women who do- got too much testosterone I guess! Lol )

    8. Gawd almighty! Okay, it’s 2014 and beards are simply a fashion statement now. Some like beards and some don’t. It’s just that I have yet to know of a guy like Captain America who is male- I assume- and hates beards! It boggles the mind. Grow a beard Captain, I bet once you let it grow you will like it. When I was younger I never thought I would grow a beard but I did unintentionally. Then when the comments started to come left and right I was like ” damn I must look pretty good” so I kept the beard. One of the best personal decisions I’ve made. Good luck to all and to all a good night! Lol!

      • Kudos to you mate, keep bearding!

        • Captain america says:

          Comments like what, you mean , santa clause , old man winter, father time, basement dweller,cannibal, chewbaca ,scruffy mc gee,duck dynasty guys, beards arent a major feat , it takes effort to cut and keep it bay . I like this old saying got nothing better to do with your life grow a beard ! Lol nerve to say cause i dont like beards im not a guy i lulzed around the room!

    9. Must be a horrible life you live “captainess”. You keep going the extra mile to keep saying negative things about something you don’t even care about – beards! Dang! You must be intimidated by them or something! Weird! Who said growing beards was a major feat? You getting your panties in a wad sounds like. Men are awesome by nature, it’s effortless for us to grow a beard, duh! Lol! Come on! Surely you aren’t for real?Okay. Let’s see what you come up with now. You’re quite amusing.( I personally like “chewbaca, cave man, cannibal, etc.. I think it’s cute!)

    10. Thanks Brandon! Cool beard btw.

      • Captain america says:

        Timothy we all know you like to stroke your mans beard and say oh man! how manly! lol! Im not being negative they are just opinions. Im just here one last time to tell brandon im just playing and i still enjoy his old wow youtube vids. And it was fun chatting with you brandon , if you dont mind delete my posts and have a great day : 3

    11. Look at all these haters willing to read the article and bash it only because they lack the talent and will to research and write there own. These people definitely have to be adolescent males. No mature adult would be so ignorant. Keep up the good work. Was a good read .

    12. Sezgesh says:

      “This also explains why women don’t grow beards. Men were less interested in a woman’s wealth, power, and social standing, and were instead more interested in her beauty.”

      beauty is just another way of gauging health.

    13. Here’s some serious proof that women find men with beards attractive. What’s something that most women love? Answer: Pinterest. Seriously, it’s like crack to them. And it can give us guys a little window into the female psyche. And what do you see constantly on pinterest? Answer: Pictures of dudes with really cool looking beards. Case closed.

    14. BTW really interesting research Brandon. Thanks for posting the blog.

    15. This blog post was one of the answers google gave me, when i asked myself same question combing my beard this morning.
      In other posts i noticed other theories, and id like to share one, that i find most intriguing.
      Its all because of evolution.
      We men, like ladies with big breasts, as deep down in primitive part of our brain we know, that a woman with larger breasts would feed our children better, stronger.
      In ancient times, when there were no razors, only men who had beards had the ability to climb trees to get away from the enemies, but how can you do that, if you know you are stronger than a woman and it becomes your responsibility to take care of the offspring, so you take it with you up the tree and allow the weaker female to come up on her own. While you are climbing up the tree, the offspring can hold onto your beard and chest hair, in a similar way chimpanzees still do it. only humans are better and discovered its easier to take care of a child in front of you and not on your back.
      So evolution took care of the offsprings of beardless men, by men leaving the offspring next to the tree trunk while saving their own lives.
      Although i noticed most babies start crying when they see a beard for the first time, little do they know that it could save their life.

      • sorry for the mindspill, some stuff might make no sense, try reading few more times. English is not my native language.

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