Beards are for men.
That’s well-established. And as I sit here typing this at you from the wilds of eastern Kentucky I am in proud possession of a glorious, bushy, hillbilly beard.
But now science comes along to harsh on my mellow, as it always eventually does to us hillfolk.
Scientists in Australia say that it isn’t beards that are inherently sexy, it’s that they’re more sexy when they stand out in a crowd of clean-shaven guys. In a society where everyone is bearded, the clean-shaven guy stands out and is more sexy.
The scientists introduce the concept of “peak beard,” the point where too many beardos are running around and the sexiness swings back to clean-shaven guys. I knew ironically-bearded hipsters would ruin things.
In the study 1,453 women and 213 men were asked to rate the level of attractiveness of different samples of men’s faces. According to an article about the study on the BBC’s website:
Some were shown mostly “full” beards. Others were shown mostly clean-shaven faces. A third group were shown an even mixture of all four varieties – clean-shaven, light stubble, heavy stubble and full beard.
Both women and men judged heavy stubble and full beards more attractive when they were rare than when they were common. And likewise for clean-shaven faces.
“Big thick beards are back with an absolute vengeance and so we thought underlying this fashion, one of the dynamics that might be important is this idea of negative frequency dependence,” said Prof Rob Brooks, one of the study’s authors.
Negative frequency dependency is simply an advantage to rare traits. What it means to bearded guys is that if every dork is wearing a beard, you stand out less.
“The idea is that perhaps people start copying the George Clooneys and the Joaquin Phoenixs and start wearing those beards, but then when more and more people get onto the bandwagon the value of being on the bandwagon diminishes, so that might be why we’ve hit ‘peak beard’.”
So how do we avert this crisis? Some of you guys are going to have to shave, and we need a set of fair and balanced rules to decide whom. I propose that:
• If you only started drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon when it became an “ironic” hipster beer, you have to shave.
• If your beard or any other aspect or your appearance is in any way “ironic,” you have to shave.
• If you’ve never been hunting or fishing, you have to shave.
• If you’re under 30 and own a fedora and black trench coat, you have to shave.
• If your fedora is actually a trilby, pork pie, or something like that, and you don’t know that, you have to wax.
I think that will be just enough to avert peak beard, and leave the sexual advantages of beardedness to the guys who deserve it.