Have you found yourself more attracted to bearded fellows of late? Science says you have, and it can also tell you why.
Dr. Cyril Grueter and colleagues at the University of Western Australia have recently published an article in the journal Evolution and Human Behaviour in which they detail their investigation on males requiring ‘badges’ in order to win the attention of females in big societies. Experiments with monkeys support this observation.
The evidence suggests that the more competition within a society, the more grandiose males must make their features if their objective is to be sexually attractive to a potential mate. Some of these features include cheek flanges in orang-utans, elongated noses on proboscis monkeys, upper-lip warts in golden snub-nosed monkeys, and beards on human men.
The experiment was conducted using 154 species of primate, and a positive correlation was found between the extravagance of badges and the extent of competition. The need to stand out quickly is strong. Beards are not the only option, Dr. Grueter also suggests that “body decoration, jewellery, and prestige items” can work similarly to serve this function.
History also provides support for this argument, as from 1842 – 1971 there were fewer women available for marriage and during that time the popularity of beards and moustaches grew considerably.
Alongside dense populations and easy travel, the online aspect to dating has radically increased the pool from which people can choose a partner. Men growing elaborate beards and moustaches in order to stand out would fully comply with the research and observations on this behaviour. In particular, the aesthetic value on which people are judged, particularly online, has fast become the only means of selection, as apps such as Tinder require you to simply swipe left or right after viewing a picture for often just a few seconds. In such situations, personality may indeed be overrated.
The fashionable nature of beards is taking its toll on male wallets as the undertaking of beard transplants has grown substantially over the last ten years. Dr. Jeffrey Epstein, an American plastic surgeon, told the New York Times that a decade ago he performed around 5 beard transplants per year, this has now grown to approximately one per week. The procedure costs up to £14,500.
Will the taste for facial hair desist? Competition surely won’t. However as the point is to stand out, it is possible that if the day comes when beards and moustaches are so terribly common, perhaps the baby-faced male will enter the spotlight; thus continuing the cyclical nature of fashion, with a little bit of reasoning from science.