My husband likes to let his beard grow in. In this way, he’s like a lot of young(ish) men you might find these days on sports fields and in hipster bars. The hairy look has even had its day in Hollywood — in the run-up to the 2010 Oscars, my Los Angeles Times colleagues Chris Lee and John Horn pondered who should win the Oscar for best beard.
“A new style muse for the entertainment industry's alpha males has emerged,” they wrote: “Grizzly Adams.”
Now the psychologists are chiming in — and the news isn’t great for the hirsute ones. In a recent experiment, Paul Vasey of Canada’s University of Lethbridge and Barnaby Dixson of New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington found that while beards may be stylish, and are probably a mark of alpha males, they aren’t necessarily a key tool for attracting the ladies.
“Women … do not rate bearded faces as more attractive than clean-shaven faces,” the researchers wrote in the journal Behavioral Ecology.
To assess how beards affected perceptions of men’s age, attractiveness, social status and aggressiveness, Vasey and Dixson showed people of European descent in New Zealand as well as Polynesians in Samoa pictures of the same men, with and without full beards, as they displayed neutral, smiling and angry facial expressions.