‘To be(ard), or not to be(ard), that is the question…’
– William Shakespeare, famous beard-wearer and ladies’ man
Let’s face it, being able to grow facial hair is kinda fun.
From the moment puberty takes hold, pretty much every guy delights in whatever wispy little strands of facial hair he can muster.
Who among us can honestly say we never sported a sad little teenage mustache or scraggly chin fuzz? Who among us didn’t think he was the shit until some kind soul managed to convince us what a terrible look that is?
As we get older, that fascination with facial hair stays with us, even if it changes in character. Some men insist on being clean-shaven, some enjoy experimenting with various weird and unlikely facial hair configurations that scream of desperation: ‘Look at me! I really am interesting, I swear!’
And of course some of us are just lazy cunts who hate shaving so much we’re willing to let our beards grow wild and free.
Beard vs. no beard: Chicks dig them, right?
But we’re not the only ones who are fascinated with our facial hair. For a lot of women, guys with beards are very much a thing.
We’ve gone through a cultural period recently where it seemed like every magazine or television talk show has featured a piece on how women think beards are awesome – and not incidentally, that the men underneath them are hot.
The burning question for guys looking to pull is actually this: do girls like beards? Or has the [female] world moved on from its obsession with guys with beards? And why do women like beards in the first place?
Nice beard, tough guy
For starters, many men and women alike have latched onto the notion that a beard is synonymous with being a rugged, manly ‘guy’s guy.’
Even if the closest you’ve ever gotten to being a lumberjack is breaking a pencil as you edit your screenplay, there’s still something about wearing a beard that makes you feel like you’ve got more swag.
From ridiculously unkempt, wild beards that may well have birds and small rodents nesting within them, to those fussy, waxed, hipster face-do’s that wouldn’t look out of place on a penny-farthing bicycle in the 1890s, beards have certainly found a moment in recent times.
So, beard vs. no beard when it comes to the ladies?
As we ask these questions, the first thing to remember is that the association of beards with masculinity and all things manly is nothing new.
For instance, there are dozens of Bible references about the importance of men having beards, and the topic pops up regularly in sects of Judaism and Islam as well.
Beard or no beard: Hilarious historical confusion
More recently there are numerous stories about what happened to clean-shaven 18th-century British founders of New South Wales in Australia who were among the first white people to encounter certain groups of aboriginal people.
According to the diaries of several men on the British First Fleet of 1787, more than once these aboriginal people were super confused when groups of sunburned, foppish British gents huffily tried to explain that despite not having facial hair, yes, they were indeed men, not women.
Finally, fed up with the conversation getting nowhere, the colonizers just said ‘fuck it,’ and dropped their pants in an attempt to prove once and for all that they were dudes.
In at least one man’s diary, the sight of a bevy of British bell-ends caused the aboriginal men to burst out laughing so hard they collapsed helplessly to the ground.
Perhaps best to just grow a beard in that case…
Do women like beards: The psychology behind it
So apart from preventing you from having to whip out your willie in order to prove your masculinity to doubters, beards serve a number of other purposes as well.
Indeed, those long-ago laughing aboriginal people weren’t too far out in left field.
Male facial hair is a secondary sexual characteristic – that is, a characteristic that appears at puberty that helps to distinguish the genders of a species, but which don’t have anything to do with reproduction directly.
Think of the beard along the lines of a lion’s mane or a male peacock’s feathers. (But keep in mind that a human woman’s breasts also fall under this category, so these “secondary” characteristics can actually be EXTREMELY important…)
So, yes, a beard is a signal of sorts on a purely evolutionary, biological level that a man is technically of breeding age. But when we’re asking do women like beards, it’s safe to assume that the majority of them are not consciously thinking about breeding when they take note of your facial hair.
However, it may well be that deeply buried genetic programming does have something to do with the psychology of whether girls like beards or not.
If you’re looking to find out do girls like beards in the modern era, we can look to numerous studies on the subject.
One oft-cited 2008 study might even help you to decide specifically what kind of beard you might like to wear. In it, a group of 60 women were asked to look at photos of men and judge them on their attractiveness, masculinity and dominance.
The men’s faces were digitally tweaked to show them at five levels of beardy glory: clean-shaven, light stubble, heavy stubble, short beard or long beard.
For each of these five stages, the women were asked to rate the men on their masculinity, dominance, aggression, social maturity, and attractiveness.
Drum roll please: turns out when it comes to really getting her juices flowing, you can do no better than light stubble on the attractiveness front. Not only that, the light-stubbled gentleman scores highest when women are asked about a man’s prospects both as a long or short-term partner.
So if you’re reading this on a Tuesday and you’ve got a date on Friday, maybe leave the razor alone the next couple days, yeah?
A couple of other findings to keep in mind when you’re considering beard vs. no beard: for one thing, the women in this study found that men with full beards appeared to be the most masculine, aggressive, and socially mature.
They also found them to appear older, so be sure to factor that in to your calculations.
Another important finding is that the men with light beards appeared to be the most dominant.
Damn you, George Clooney, must you have EVERYTHING??
There are also some details to tease out of a second study that took place in 2016 as well. You might want to consider what type of beard you wear out when you’re looking for a bit of weekend fun versus when you’re looking for a long-term partner, for one thing.
2016 study on whether women like beards
This study used a much larger sample size of 8,000 women, and, following along the same lines as the 2008 study, presented women with photos of men digitally altered to show varying levels of beardedness, ranging from light stubble up to a heavy beard.
They also tricked out the photos to make the men’s features look more feminine or masculine to add another variable into the mix.
But it didn’t matter. Light stubble won out again, just as before, coming in as the most attractive look overall.
Interestingly, while light stubble again scored highest for short-term flings, full beards were now rated highest for long-term relationships. Fuller beards were also found to be seen as an indication of status and dominance, as well as age, again echoing the earlier findings.
A couple of other notes on the 2016 study: the men who wore full beards were also judged to be better parents, and considered healthier than their less beardy competitors. Full-bearded men were also judged to be the most masculine.
Evolution’s real, y’all: Do girls like beards? Yep.
So it’s easy to see a correlation between having a beard and primal, evolutionary signals about finding a mate. But research has found that there are plenty of other masculine traits that are just as important if not more so when it comes to being attractive to the female of the species.
For instance, there are studies that show that grooming and dressing well are among the most important factors for women when judging men’s attractiveness. Other studies say it’s all about that smouldering, hot-ass eye contact, and holding her gaze.
Still other studies lay out just how important it is to be able to, you know, have a conversation with a woman.
So if you’re one of those poor dudes with weird, patchy beard growth, don’t despair if you have to shave clean or risk looking like you’ve had an encounter with a nuclear facility. You can up your game in other ways.
And even for those of us who can grow that perfectly groomed mid-level of facial hair, unless you actually ARE George Clooney, that doesn’t mean you can just stand against the bar and wait for the women to flock to you.
(Still, it’s nice to know we’re wanted, amirite, fellas?)