I quit

For as long as I can remember, I have been deeply fascinated by science. One of my earliest memories involves a cross-country trip (nothing can prepare you for how immense Canada is – you have to drive across it) with a big stack of science books – of course the highlight of the whole trip was the Royal Tyrell Museum of Paleontology  in Drumheller, Alberta. As a matter of fact, the second-most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make was in high school, when I had to choose whether to pursue a career in science or music. The most difficult, incidentally, was deciding whether my best friend would live or die*.

Science has always been a huge part of my life, which is why I am devastated to say that I am going to have to quit:

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.


Both men and women said that with beards, the men looked older and more aggressive than they did with their beards shaved. The viewers also ascribed higher social status to the men when they were bearded than when they were baby-faced. Women said that the clean-shaven faces were more attractive than the whiskery ones.

There comes a time in everyone’s life where they are forced to choose between their deeply-held personal beliefs, and the scientific consensus. Many people find it difficult to accept scientific evidence for the age of the earth. Others find the vastness of the cosmos too daunting and shut out the evidence for the Big Bang. Still others cannot bring themselves to accept the fact that all life is descended from a common ancestor, in defiance of the Genesis account. It seems that I am forced to make the same decision.

Look at this face:

Pic of me and a friend

Me with another friend

Me with yet another friend

The evidence is irrefutable – women, men, it doesn’t matter: my beard is the source of my incredible sex appeal. But one time I shaved back in 2006. Look, if you dare, upon my twisted, shorn visage and quake in terror at its awful hideousness!

Me with no beard

Oh sure, she’s gorgeous, and she’s smiling, but she obviously doesn’t mean it. Look at the panic in her eyes! She feels the whiskerless brush of my cheek against hers and can barely contain her revulsion.

It is clear: either science is wrong, or my beard is wrong. And if my beard is wrong, I don’t want to be right. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go tell the biology department at UBC that they’re wasting their time, because there are clearly still monkeys.

*My best friend is a talking pie.

*H/t to Niki, Patty, Joel, and Schmulie for being really cool and interesting people who are also stupidly attractive. Seriously – goddamn.


  1. Captain Mike says

    I think you look better with the beard.

    RE: Your Best Friend:

    Howard, you’ve done it again!

  2. says

    Never shave that beard. It is the source of your awesome

    Actually, you’ve got it backwards: my awesome is the source of my beard.

  3. julian says

    Dayum! That’s one sweet beard.

    I’m sure the guy attached to it is pretty cool, too.

  4. michaeld says

    Damn straight I need a little beard or I just look strange O.O

    In their defense the beard does seem to age. But I’ve gotten a lot of strange comments about the beards I’ve grown to various lengths. Some people couldn’t believe I was in my early 20s and not my late 20s. One friend even said he was glad I shaved my beard cause he thought it made me look like a pedophile. Which I never understood I guess pedophiles don’t shave? I dunno, I ended up just chocking it up to what ever weird stereotypes and biases were in his head. It also seems to make my chin longer and my nose not so much out of proportion.

    Course I’m also happy for the beard cause it got people to stop thinking I was a woman. There was an awkward couple of years in middle school where I started growing my hair out and people keep mistaking me for a girl.

    Any who nuff beard rambles and back to vacummin up cat hair.

  5. left0ver1under says

    My experience is that women do prefer clean shaven men unless the man has the sort of face that can wear a beard well. Crommunist wears a full beard well, but a lot of men don’t (despite what PZ Myers says…).

    Men *with* beards are far less likely to face superficial judging (I wouldn’t quite call it “discrimination”) than men *without* full hairlines. It’s a non-issue by comparison.

  6. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    The viewers also ascribed higher social status to the men when they were bearded than when they were baby-faced.

    This is quite true. I would not have been elected Grand Poohbah* of the Mystic Yacht Club** if I didn’t have a beard.

    *Actually the title is Commodore, but Grand Poohbah sounds more majestic.

    **Yes, there is such a place as Mystic, Connecticut. The name is the result of a colonial era mangling of the name of the local Indian tribe, the Mashentuckets.

  7. Happiestsadist says

    I am normally neutral-to-unfond of beards, but you look utterly excellent with one.

  8. Cheryl says

    I have to vote for the beard. I much prefer the way my husband looks with a beard than without.

  9. Gregory says

    I will admit that I’m biased: I’v had a beard almost constantly (with a few short exceptions for work) since high school. I’m in my mid 40s now. And as a gay man who is part of the bear subculture… did I mention that I am somewhat biased towards beards?

  10. Mclean says

    The internet fails me: I clearly remember a respected teacher of mine from high school going on about how since Roman times politicians in the west have been more successful when they shave (“barbarian” refered to those guys that don’t), and it is still very much in the political culture today. However, I can’t find any decent study of this online, and indeed opposite research that shows for marketing of some products, having a beard helps. I know for myself (data point = 1, prone to support bias) the effect is pronounced: I’ve had store clerks accuse me of stealing when sporting the graduate student stubble, and been waived through official requirements because of trust when clean shaven, and never vice versa.

    Anyway, you’re safe from this science since it bins everyone together. The question you have to ask yourself is this: do you want to be sexy to more women, or do you want to be sexy to the type of women that finds beards sexy?

    Also: Neoteny.

  11. says

    Could your general awesomeness at all be a confounding variable here? I’m not sure one data point is quite enough to quit all of science.

    But I sympathize. I recently shaved off my beard (I do it exactly once every 4-5 years, just in case I need to know what my chin looks like) and my boyfriend told me I looked like my mom. Just what every 35 year old male needs to hear.

  12. says

    This is important. As a member of the gay bear subculture myself, if I ever lost my beard for any reason I would have to reorganise my entire social life.

  13. says

    do you want to be sexy to more women, or do you want to be sexy to the type of women that finds beards sexy?

    False dichotomy. All women find my beard irresistible. Most men, too. And some otters.

  14. Predator Handshake says

    I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to grow a beard. My facial hair is fine and white, and my skin is pretty pale too; coupled with a very slow growth rate, even if I try growing a beard I look like I’ve just entered puberty with a passion.

    My beard-growing friends tell me “just quit shaving” as if I have jobs like they do where nobody cares if you seem to have any sort of personal hygiene. Then they start in with the bullshit- talking about “manly beards” and patting themselves on the back for having facial hair. I’m not attacking anyone here, by they way; just venting about beards in a thread about beards, I guess.

  15. says

    “Just quit shaving” is not good beard advice. You have to stop shaving in certain places, start trimming instead. A well-kempt beard is a thing to see.

    I didn’t start getting serious facial hair until well into my early 20s. I once stopped shaving for an entire summer (it was grad school and I wasn’t getting laid anyway) and could barely grow a moustache. It’s still a problem – you should have seen me during Movember. I looked like a high-school kid trying to impress the captain of the football team. Not a pretty sight.

  16. says

    I haven’t been completely sans facial hair since 1999. I just look ridiculous without my beard. Fortunately my girlfriend rather likes my beard (as long as I keep it fairly neat and keep my moustache short enough that it doesn’t tickle her nose). She’s never seen me without facial hair though – maybe it’s better that way.

  17. EmbraceYourInnerCrone says

    I prefer Illustrious Potentate, but I think the Shriners have dibs on that one.

    Mystic is pretty, but we like going all the way out to Misquamicut (and try spelling that correctly without having to resort to Google!)

    Beards are cool, although in my hubbys case its just a ‘stache. I once ponder as a newlywed what he look like with out it and the next thing I knew he came out of the bath clean shaven, EEEeeek! Actually he looked good just looked SO baby faced. My daughter said if he ever shaved she would recognize him. She is 17 and has never seen him without the facial hair.

  18. Beth says

    I can only speak for myself, but I have always found men with beards more attractive that men without them.

  19. says

    I once went to a 3-week chamber music camp (yes, I have seen American Pie. No, that joke never starts being funny). My father, who had worn a goatee since his late 20s, had shaved since he’d been away. I was 17 at the time. When he showed up at the end, I actually didn’t recognize him. It was eerie.

  20. Dianne says

    I’m kind of “eh, whatever” on the beard, but I definitely think you look cuter with the glasses on.

  21. Dave, the Kwisatz Haderach says

    I feel your pain Predator. I’m 30 yrs old and my “beard” (really not deserving of such a title) is patchy and wispy. It is a sad sight indeed. If I don’t stay clean shaven, I look ridiculous.

  22. says

    I’ve heard opinions on both sides of the ‘glasses’ issue. Most of the time when I wear my contacts it’s for purely utilitarian purposes (i.e., I don’t want my glasses to get broken or fall off) than fashion ones.

  23. mynameischeese says

    I vote for beard and glasses. But this is a special exception, as in most cases, I tend to vote against beard.

  24. says

    Is that ‘damn’ like “Damnation! You are unacceptably attractive”, or is it “Dayum, boy! You stupid fly!”?

    Because honestly, the first one pleases me much more than the second 😛

  25. says

    I grew a beard when I was 17 (somewhat over my father’s objections, who could be a right stick in the mud on some things for an otherwise generally liberal guy), which is to say in 1974. I shaved it once about 15 years ago for Halloween. My wife hadn’t seen me without it since before we started going together (we knew each other in HS). My kids had never seen me without it. After I’d grown it back I showed a picture of me to my Dad, who didn’t recognize the clean-shaven guy.

    The beard has been making me look older all along. At 54, I’m no longer sure that’s a good thing, especially since it’s gone grey, while my hair is still light brown. I’m not sure if the ponytail offsets the impression or not.

  26. says

    I spent a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of excruciating pain getting rid of mine, so I side on the “don’t really like beards” side of the fence. Yours, however, is magnificent.

  27. says

    After I’d grown it back I showed a picture of me to my Dad, who didn’t recognize the clean-shaven guy.

    “Who is this young ruffian, and why am I subconsciously afraid that he will kill me and marry my wife?”

  28. Celeste says

    I want to see the methodology used on that research. They must have done something wrong. If my husband were to shave his beard, I’d divorce his ass.

    Keep that beard, Crommunist. Wear it proudly!

  29. EmbraceYourInnerCrone says

    I meant to say my daughter would NOT recognize her Dad if he shaved off his mustache, sigh I have to learn to proof read. But yeah, he just wouldn’t look like himself without the whiskers eerie is a good word for it.

    I have been married for 27 years and I am very attached to the ‘stache. (Ok that didn’t come out right…)

  30. Matthew Gill says

    This is just more evidence of the gynofacist consp

    I’m sorry, I can’t type that with a straight face.

    Beards are like hats. You have to find one that fits. And yours, sir, definitely fits.

  31. says

    So if you shave, it’s a tacit admission that you’ve stopped being awesome. I get it.

    As a fellow beard-rocker (well, a goatee, but anyway) I support this point of view.

  32. David Hart says

    People, you’re not doing science here. What Ian needs to do is to shave one half of his face to the midline, and on alternative days always face left when talking to people, or always face right, and see if any interesting patterns emerge.

  33. says

    You look fan-fucking-tastic with a beard!

    But it does make you look older. And slightly more evil lol. Not as evil as that dude from Superman, but you aren’t wearing a pleather bodysuit so it’s hard to say. There’s definite supervillain possibility.

    My beau has a beard that isn’t terribly neatly trimmed but it kind of freaks me out when he shaves it. He loses enough years to make him look like a high school kid and it makes me feel creepy. So go beards! Sometimes!

    PZ’s is a wild beast compared to this though.

  34. Happiestsadist says

    I am always 100% pro glasses unless it’s a situation where they can get broken. Glasses are awesome.

  35. Lauren says

    Statistics don’t mean much when comes to specific data point. Things happen outside of statistical means ALL THE TIME. Such as YOUR beard is an outlier sir! Your beard AND Science both win.

  36. Stacy says

    Um, I don’t know what the right-of-way laws are where you are, but whatever they are, always let the other guy go first. Trust me on this.

    If you ever encounter a winged lion-woman, run like hell.

  37. StevoR says

    No, you need a glass or atleats bottle, well okay can for that! Beer that’s already been through a crommunist bearded or beardless just tastes like piss! (No. I didn’t just say that.)

  38. tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach says

    I too have had a beard since youth – early 20’s I think – and no one would recognise me without it. Spouse likes it, nephews and nieces think it is funny, father hates it so it’s all win. Besides, it hides the chin-horns all us *serious* atheists grow in place of the all-too-obvious head-horns.

    The downside is the number of amazingly stupid law-enforcement types that seem to think dark hair + beard == middle eastern terrorist. Wha?

  39. Tisha Irwin says

    I must be one of the oddball women who thinks that almost every man looks better with a beard. And the pictures above just prove me right.

    …as long as it’s not a mountain man beard. Although some men can pull that off quite well. But not many.

  40. says

    Your beard absolutely suits you.

    I am fairly neutral on the side of beards in general but on Jarreg (my husband) I prefer a goatee.

    I suppose that is still kind of in neutral territory though with the half bearded half not aspect.

    I guess I just like my thighs cheeks to sometimes feel a the smoothness of freshly shaven skin.

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