What is it with this anti-beard sentiment? Here’s an article that wonders why so many scientists have beards, with several amusing stories.
But anti-beard arguments also ran rife in pre-Victorian times: Beards trapped food and the stuff you spewed out when you sneezed. At a stretch, they could even go as far as to catch fire and trap vermin, some argued. This all came to a head in 1907, with a rather remarkable experiment. A French scientist took one bearded and one clean shaven man from the streets of Paris and asked each of them to kiss a woman, whose lips were previously swabbed with antiseptic. After each smooth, her lips were swabbed and the the cultures were smeared on agar. The hairy kiss, it turned out, was by far the more microbial-ly diverse.
That anecdote answers the question right there. Overgrown nerds experience very little risk of ever having to kiss French women on the streets of Paris, so there is very little selection against beard growth. Hey, if I had some likelihood of sweeping strange women into my arms, I might shave, too … and brush my teeth more than once a week, and take a shower more often than once a month, habits atypical of us hairy, dirty, microbe-rich men.
(via Pure Pedantry)
Reginald Selkirk says
The hair grows on my face, all on its own. The question should be: why do so many men shave it off?
Reginald Selkirk says
But I thought ecosystem diversity was a good thing.(?)
The beard adds a special flair when matched with gold lame, as befits the Elvis Presley of atheism.
When I had to shave (for respirator use) I was more prone to infections due to nicks and cuts. I dislike shaving although I still have to do it on my neck and cheeks. It’s better with a beard!
Long-time lurker, first-time poster here. Finally, something to get me incensed enough to post. Creationist nitwits I can handle, but nobody insults the flavor saver. We beard-sporters have been ostracized by society long enough (see Peter the Great’s beard tax). It is time for us to pick the food particles and, in the winter, icicles out of our chin hairs and fire back. Maybe we are just not into the lotions and creams and balms that the average metrosexual enjoys, but we are human, too. Plus, if I go to the trouble of shaving all of the hair off of my face, I feel I may go crazy and keep going over the top of my head (which is already nearly hairless) and right down the back, etc. That is something I feel I cannot commit to at this point in my life.
There you go, Reginald, confusing is and ought.
Kevin L. says
Beards are unfairly discriminated against, especially if you’re a college student. Before entering into an internship, I was told by several different people to shave my beard. I sport a fierce goatee now (though not the beast that it was a couple years ago), but it’s not the same. Even worse, in the past I’ve read ghastly diatribes against beards in politics. Because enemies of the U.S. such as Ayatollah Khomeini, Stalin, and Hitler wore facial hair, it is said, the U.S. electorate will not submit to a prominent politician with a beard or mustache.
I, for one, am appalled.
Rupert Goodwins says
There’s a Spanish saying – a kiss without a moustache is like a tomato without pepper.
As someone who’s in favour of beards but can’t grow a decent one – it sprouts alright but never gets much beyond the short and curly stage – I’ve always wondered about their evolutionary significance.
It may be connected with some religions’ dictats that shaving is verboten; it’s a secondary sexual characteristic and religions tend to be rather fierce in enforcing sexuality, but not one that has an obvious function. Armpit hair and pubes are non-gender specific (although women tend to have a triangular escutcheon and men a diamond), and have roles in scent regulation, but chins and chests are another matter.
I know that some women are quite in favour of body hair, but (in my experience) far fewer find beards per se an attraction. Of course, a partner who is exceptional in all respects can sport the beaver without fear, but it’s not a particularly useful appendage for those on the pull. Likewise, there are beard fans in the gay community – but they seem outnumbered by those who prefer the smooth.
All most mysterious. As is the observation that, at the place I work, the video and audio production department is almost entirely staffed by young men with beards – with everywhere else smooth-chinned.
It’s not true that I strain nutrients out of the air with my beard.
That’s what the armpits are for.
It really isn’t anything more than the fashion of the day, is it? Several of our presidents have had beards, though it’s gone out of style (since Garfield, anyway, and I’m pretty sure that’s not why he got shot).
As one of my English professors once observed, Dickens depicts quite a few of the respectable gentlemen in his novels as sporting beards. Many of the bad guys are specifically described as clean-shaven (but not too clean).
Because if you haven’t got a beard, you’re a false professor. Or so For Whom the Bell Tolls tells me.
Kevin L. says
This needs to be posted. I’m surprised no one has yet:
“What is it with this anti-beard sentiment?”
This is why: http://www.theonion.com/content/node/36124
The fact that I was the one who convinced Mr. DiscGrace to grow a beard prevents me from complaining when I get a smooch and can detect the subtle odors of whatever he ate at his previous meal. :|
Fun story about my beard, or, as I call him, Wampa. Let me mention right away that I’m an uber-smartass, if you do not mind annoying amalgamations of German and English words. It makes me feel really hip. Anyway, I was taken inside at the Canada-U.S. border by the U.S. officials (of course) and they scrutinized my passport. Of course they eyed me suspiciously and were quite interested as to why I had been to Egypt. I hope you appreciate how hard it was to bite my lip and answer truthfully, instead of saying, “training.” I did not feel like I needed a cavity search, and I deprived myself of this ingenious joke in order to save my (also bearded) backside.
Bride of Shrek says
I’ve been kind of anti them since a balkpacking tour of Scotland when I was 20 and I saw a facially hirsute Italian get the gooey caramel centre out of a Mars Bar all caught in his beard. Funny, I’ve been kind of anti Mars Bars since then too.
Personally I like the George Clooney, 3 day rugged look.
My hopes of sciencing and professoring have now been shattered. I’m both bald and clean shaven. I have a strange beard growth pattern and it never ever looked good. Plus, my wife threatened me that if i grew a beard, she’d never snuggle or smooch me again.
That’s a good example of adaptation via sexual selection pressures. Hair be damned :)
So if social convention says that men get to have beards, microbial communities and all, when do women get to not shave their legs?
tom j lawson says
My wife is fond of the anti-goatee, which is a beard without hair where a goatee would be. It’s more like really huge sideburns. It was popular in the nineteenth century due to its ability to warm the face without catching any errant food particles. A variation of this is to keep the moustache. The point for both is to not trap things in your chin hair. I’m currently sporting the anti-goatee, I think it’s making a comeback…
To tom j lawson in #19:
The name for the “anti-goatee” is ‘Mutton chops’. I suppose the style of beard reminded those 19th Century gentlemen of a sheep’s face/mouth region. I too have chin fur and lip ferret (a.k.a, a goatee) and have to second what Mike said in post #5 that “…nobody insults the flavor saver.” (BTW I love his term ‘flavor saver’. I finally did a beverage–>monitor over that.)
I wear one because I’m lazy and paranoid, too lazy and paranoid in fact, to scrape my face with a surgical instrument every morning while I’m trying to wake up.
I have been that way for an uninterrupted twenty-five years. My mother complained about it last week (she does it at least once per visit home) and armed with the added gravitas of being over fifty behind me, I told her frankly that it wasn’t her face, and she could kindly butt out of my business. And that was that.
And if I’m an extra infection hazard for my own family, they can decide for themselves whether to stay or go. I’m not giving up the beard. Period.
The beard – man’s best friend if there ever was one. Warm in the winter and full of nutrients for the bad times.
Too bad Ray Comfort has done to the big honking ‘tache what Hitler did to the Chaplin square though.
Jim Lemire says
I’m just lazy. Shave every day? Are you nuts? And given the rate of growth of my beard follicles it’s just easier to let ’em grow. Hence how my beard was born.
Reginald Selkirk says
My guess is that, because a beard hides some of our facial features, it can make it more difficult for people to use those features to read your mood/body language, which can make them uncomfortable.
I give kudos to the guys who can grow a beard and make it look good. I tried one time, realized after three weeks that it was always going to look completely ridiculous, and gave up. Not that I don’t sometimes do without shaving for three or four days out of sheer laziness.
No, that has nothing to do with my nom de plume.
I like to go back and forth between clean-shaven and bearded, but have had to put a stop to these swings recently. Last year I shaved my beard and my girlfriend, who I had been dating for a few months at that point but who had never seen me clean-shaven, completely freaked out. She claimed that she couldn’t even recognize me. I figure the shock of me shaving again just might kill her! ;)
I’m firmly of the opinion that beards should be taxed by the federal government. Not only are they unsightly, disgusting, and a significant health problem, but there’s a huge impact on the economy, in terms of lost sales of razors, shavers, cream, and other products. Next time you vote, say YES to the “beard tax”!
(p.s. alot of old-time religious dudes had prodigious beards – do you really want to be associated with those cretins?)
I for one require my beard at all times. My rounded facial structure lends to my looking like a high-school student without my follicle additions. Though maybe there is something to be said for sexual selection. My current and past partner are both huge geeks/nerds and they both find my unbearded face to be less attractive than my befuzzed look.
Perhaps it is like a peacock’s tail, signaling the fit male scientists to the women that seek out such men (also lending to the reason why men like Ken Ham sport beards… mimicry is a powerful survival mechanism).
An old Arabic saying is “A man without a mustache is like a cat without a tail.” So he has a spinal mutation? (See Manx)
I suspect having more bacteria on your face is good, it strengthens your immune system. Besides, bacteria schmacteria, the important question is whether there is an increase in harmful bacteria.
I grow a fantastic beard, if I say so myself. It’s thick, it’s lush, it grows fast, and if I let it, it grows long.
Extra Santa Claus Goodness, if you will.
However, that’s not why I have a beard. I have one because about 20 years ago, I had a horrible crash on my bicycle. I landed on my chin while riding over 20 mph, leaving a huge gash. Blood everywhere. Wrecked bike. In the then-rural area just north of town, but still in city limits. The police showed up because someone told them I’d been in a hit-and-run.
Nope. Single bike crash. Perfect weather, no wind, 90 degrees, smooth pavement, no traffic, no excuses. I just lost my grip on the bars and landed on my chin and two shoulders.
I wear a beard now to hide the scar. Easily the lesser of two evils.
My one problem with beards is there are two types of beard owners. Maintenance owner and non-maintenance owners. This aspect is what determines how good one looks in a beard. I have seen some men and a few women :) carry off decent facial hair. I have tried it myself many times and failed miserably. I tried the handlebars with soul patch, turned into a harry cheerio. Tried full facial hair, kept getting caught by campus police as a vagrant.
Actually maintaining a beard takes much more effort than I have to devote.
At WhyBeYou (I mean, BYU) you have to have a “beard card” in order to grow a beard. Basically you have to get a note from your doc and then you can have a neatly trimmed beard. No goatees.
Thony C. says
There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, “It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!”
Abby Normal says
I would just like to say that it is my conviction
That longer hair and other flamboyant affectations
Of appearance are nothing more
Than the male’s emergence from his drab camouflage
Into the gaudy plumage
Which is the birthright of his sex
There is a peculiar notion that elegant plumage
And fine feathers are not proper for the male
That is the way things are
In most species
-My Conviction, Hair
Androgenic M 38 WLTM attractive F microbiologist 4 swabs & poss more
Just as you should never trust a skinny chef, never trust a beardless prof.
I agree! The Bearded have for too long been discriminated against and treated as lesser men. It is time to stand up, my Bearded Brothers, and take back what is owed! I am calling out to our, so called, representatives in government to pass legislation guaranteeing equal rights for the Bearded. Stand up with me brothers! Whether you have a full beard or just chin whiskers, a mustache or a soul patch, handlebars or mutton chops, side burns or a goatee, chin-curtains or lip-curtains, or even if you just have a 5 o’clock shadow. Come join us in our most noble cause!
C Barr says
Hey, I shower every Saturday, whether I need to or not.
As a field scientist, I think of my beard as a necessary piece of equipment. In the winter it keeps me warm (not that I would be caught dead doing fieldwork in the winter). In the summer, it catches sweat and cools through evaporation like a radiator.
Oh yeah, and also when I was in college I had hair halfway down my back and was mistaken for a woman too many times for my 18 year old kansas boy comfort. Once it grew in, I knew I could never part with it. Now my non-scientist friends call me Dr Beardo.
My wife likes my beard so I keep it. I have a full beard and I keep it fairly short and groomed. I still have to shave my neck and part of my cheeks. I have very few gray hairs on my head but my beard was the first place they’ve shown up in abundance. And guys who have a weak chin like I do, beards cover it up well.
The only downside to having a beard is that sometimes people can see what you had for lunch ;-). Broccoli cheese soup is the enemy of bearded men everywhere.
I got rid of the molestache last week, actually, and it took me a few days to recognize myself in the mirror again. But the fiery red (well-groomed) goatee is going on 7 years this July, and it ain’t goin nowhere.
John Marley says
That’s my reason, too. I’m rather less than attractive either way, so I go with the option that means I don’t get carded at rated R movies.
I grew a beard and lost the hair on the top of my head. Either I have a quota of follicles that are allowed to be producing strands, or the hair simply migrated. I now shave my head and let the face grow.
Best I can manage is a moustache and a tight goatee…both the triangle of hair beneath the lower lip and the microbeard under the chin that links up with the ends of the moustache. I used to let it grow more, but now keep it tightly trimmed fairly regularly. Rest of my facial hair I keep shaved with an electric shaver (I dry-shave with a regular razor the small patches I miss with my Braun shaver–sounds painful, but it really isn’t…just getting rid of remaining “peach fuzz” by that point.)
It looks pretty good, but took me forever to grow. With my thining hair and preference for close haircuts–not quite GI crewcut but definitely contemporary Police-style, I think it’s better to keep it than to lose it.
Plus I’m a tad overweight and the moustache/goatee helps to obscure the evidence of this in my face…or maybe it just makes me look more jolly, I dunno.
I would look pretty scuzzy with moustache only, though…at least I think so. The goatee/microbeard completes the ensemble.
What’s a little odd is that while my regular hair color is generally dark brown, and my eyebrows are very dark and slightly thicker than average (I have to trim them frequently to keep them from going all mad-scientist-y, have always shaved to ward off the uni-brow effect), my facial hair is brown, red, even blonde in parts.
I’m sure my style of Goatee is still an abomination to at least 2 of the “big three” Abrahamic religions (Islam & [orthodox] Judaism), though.
Mutton chops are also charmingly known as “bugger’s grips”. Now you know.
Richard Eis says
If a beard is well looked after then it is a pleasant addition and adds character to a face.
If i find bits of food in it…it is not.
Though I am outnumbered, i still prefer hairy men. It is an aquired taste. However it must be for beards sake, not just because you couldn’t be arsed shaving for a week.
Chalk up another nerd with a beard. Mine came about gradually – longer and longer lapses between shaving until eventually it got close enough to being a real beard that I just decided to let it grow. Anyway, as I see it:
Ranger Jay says
I once grew a beard, until I noticed that I had that “Rasputin glow” about me.
i for one am appalled by the lack of rigor in the experiment. They needed several replicate experiments with a random choice of who went first. I volunteer my services as the bearded test subject to go to Paris and do it correctly. I estimate that at least 100 trials and probably more like 1000 trials will be necessary. the things i am willing to do for science
Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden have ruined beards and moustaches for the rest of us.
John B. Sandlin says
I can’t shave my beard. It is against my, um…… er, atheism?
Anyway, I look much better with than without (not that that is saying much… I use a cartoon of me rather than my own face on my blog page because I don’t want to scare away readers… ;).
About the only change I may make is to use a stronger soap when washing my face – LOL.
Bride of Shrek says
These quaint cups may provide an elegant solution to some of you Bearded Esquires’ beverage/moustache dilemmas. My mother has a collection of daintily painted porcelain ones.(for the Victorian metrosexual)
B. Dewhirst says
I’m thinking Dr. Myers has a beard for the same reason I do… because, at some point in grad school, he was too busy with lab work to bother shaving… and then it got away from him… kinda grew on him with time… and there he was, bearded man of science.
Bride of Shrek says
“Bearded Men of Science” would be an excellent name for a hard rock band.
Trust a Frenchman to devise an experiment involving kissing.
Dr. Mike says
As a 40 year beardie (stopped shaving once and liked not shaving), it has definitely helped me in my career playing a scientist on TV. Also, apropos of kissing, the beard isn’t relevant. According to my wife, the definitive statement about the mustache, which is relevant, is “a kiss without a mustache is like an egg without salt.”
I had a beard in school because I forgot to shave a few days in a row and said WTF? might as well leave it that way.
I shaved for a job in 1976, and resented shaving for 23 years. I was on the verge of filing a sexual harassment claim on the grounds that forcing me to shave was forcing me to emasculate myself. I was saved the trouble by a change in company policy.
I truly believe that part of the anti-beard passion is because a beard is an aggressive masculine display. As evidence, I refer to the reason my father-in-law (retired from the US Navy) told me sailors are no longer allowed to grow beards. He said the Chiefs felt that a sailor with a beard was being insubordinate.
So-called superiors don’t want to face men, they want to face emasculated little boys.
As for the women, those I’ve been with appreciate my beard for the same reason they like a glass of champagne: it tickles going down.
One of my favorite bearded scientists is Aubrey De Grey. Since he’s planning on living forever he has a legitimate Immortal Beard.
Not that anyone asked, but my beard’s name is Dazzler.
I had a glorious blond fu manchu ‘stache, so long ago that it was actually in style. I shaved it off on my 30th birthday on the theory that at that point I wanted to look younger, not older. Later, my new wife saw some old pics and liked them, so I tried to grow it back, along with a beard. It, um, wasn’t blond any more.
And I have to admit, I don’t entirely trust men with beards that are overly well-groomed.
Deanne Taylor says
I prefer to look at men with beards. They look nicer to me. I think there’s something genetic going on.
Actually the idea of beard tax is hardly new…
It was introduced by Tsar Peter I in Russia in 1705.
Ho, ho, ho! Surprise, surprise! The Bearded Weird has just arrived! — 60s song
I sprouted a cookie-duster right out of high school. My father asked, “Are you cultivating on your face what grows wild on your ass?” I replied, “It grows wild on my face, too — I just stopped mowing it.”
When I struck out on my own, I filled out with a flavor-saver. Unlike my brown hair, it was quite auburn. I’ve had it since 1977. Met my True Love and had two children (quantum leaps in human evolution).
Then, in 1990, my job required me to wear a respirator. I wasn’t allowed to just hack a trail through the bush, so I shaved off the whole thing. My True Love had never seen me bare-faced. Neither had my children. My 6-year son looked at me funny, like I was pulling some kind of joke. My 2-year old daughter hid behind my True Love. Six months later, I was rotated out of the position that required the respirator, and grew back my face fur. (There was a gradual transition from “you need a shave” to “you’re growing a beard.)
“See my beard, ain’t it weird? Don’t be skeered — it’s just a beard.” — George Carlin
Now my auburn glory is mostly gray, but it still gives the illusion of a chin, and I don’t have to shave every day.
Re: #41 — Ditto, ditto, ditto, and check. In my case, barbecued ribs are problematic.
So, let’s hear it for beards — the visible mark of masculinity.
And I forgot to mention the BLF…:
Carlie, #18: “So if social convention says that men get to have beards, microbial communities and all, when do women get to not shave their legs?”
It is up to women to stop shaving their legs. Women don’t need permission. There are actually good reasons to have hair on the legs. Shaving removes some of the skin’s protective outer layer. I think a sexy woman is just as sexy with hair on her legs, especially if it reflects being more in touch with her natural body.
other than enhancing my jawline and giving me a dark, dick tracey-esque lower facial geometry, it saves me from losing a half-pint of f****ing blood every morning…
… aside from that, it provides tons of situational irony when someone calls the raging atheist with a beard “jesus”.
beard on, brothers.
Never trust a skinny cook, sure, but a prof without a beard? Hey! Wrong! You didn’t think that one through. I know a very nice and trustworthy professor of statistics who simply cannot grow one, no matter how hard she tries.
My bloke has a beard. It suits him well, and I like it. Maintenance is required, though. He uses some kind of hippie pirate themed moisturiser to keep the beard in good nick and smelling nice.
I have had what my daughter describes as an “aggressive beard” for a number of years. It’s difficult to describe but it is influenced by an imbalance in the graying of my hair and a Mongol/Pirate/Klingon aesthetic. I try not to discuss it with my wife for fear that she will petition for its removal.
The website http://mustachesofthenineteenthcentury.blogspot.com/ has a terrific collection of 19th Century pictures of fine mustaches but the man absolutely disdains full beards. I wish someone would counter that with a site of exceptional 19th Century beards (I’ve heard the late 19th Century called the Age of the Beard). Charles Darwin had a terrific beard. As did Karl Marx, Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Carnegie.
Stephanie Z says
I was married for seven years before I saw my husband’s chin. I guess the look on my face was enough, since he’s never suggested shaving it again. It’s a goatee in summer, full beard in winter, yummy year-round.
Beards are dead sexy–and much more cuddle-friendly than stubble.
Ron Sullivan says
Stephanie Z in #69 nails it.
Every now and then My Man Joe threatens to shave his beard off and I have to lobby vigorously against that. I love it. (Along with the rest of him, with the occasional exception of certain toenails, which I merely accept.) It feels good, it looks good, it smells good even when he hasn’t been hanging it over the barbeque for an hour–what’s not to like?
I give it a trim every week or two and he trims off my split ends maybe once a year. He’s got a woman who appreciates beer and I’ve got a man who appreciates chocolate. Plus we share a byline without ever having murdered each other over phrasing. Obviously a match made in Heaven, for strictly godless values of “Heaven.” (Michigan?)
I convinced my husband to grow his beard. I got tired of the whining about how hard shaving was on his skin. Coupled with his long hair, he now looks like the white man’s Jesus.
I’m with the other women who like men with hair, as long as it’s not on their backs. Even then, I can live with some of that better than I can guys with no chest hair. Must be an evolutionary thing, and it’s really weird, because the men in my family didn’t have chest hair! But I like it. Something to play with during romantic moments. ;)
What can women do, who want to be Women of Science? Beards are then (mostly) impossible, so what else conveys the weight of a beard?
Bride of Shrek says
E @ #72
A non-bimboish name would help. I have friends who have just named their newborn daughter Pixie Tiffany Candy. I have a hard time imaging that name belonging to say, a Neurosurgeon. For the love of all that is (?un)holy I wish people would think about the stupid names they land kids with.
The last time I shaved my beard my then girlfriend was most upset.
I prefer my women to not shave their legs. That way there is no stubble. In my experience, women shave because women notice when they don’t.
Quote-mining E@72 (i.e., taking out-of-context and so changing the question):
Your local costume and theatrical supply shop probably has a collection of fake beards, moustaches, eyepatches, and hats with arrows or swords stuck through them. You could dress like a pirate!
Ever since I could first grow a goatee, sometime around 14 or so, I’ve rotated between clean shaven, goatee, and full beard. The past 3 or so years I’ve been stuck, like a skipping record, on goatee. I think this is because I like my facial hair, AND I like wet-shaving; badger hair, safety razor and all.
Ah, BYU. We used to have endless fun just by transposing the nouns in their motto: “The world is our campus”. I tend to ruffle some (students’) feathers on the rare occasions that my work requires me to visit. It’s far too seldom that I get to actively enjoy making people uncomfortable.. (along w/ the goatee I have long hair, and look like a heathen in general.)
#8 forgot another relevant Spanish saying: where there is hair there is happiness.
Stubble is why tough (and considerate) women don’t shave, but pull their hairs out (wax, or cute little pink torture machines; I love my cute little pink torture machine) Bearded men can complain, but they are nowhere as discriminated against as hairy-legged-women. I know this from experiece. Yes, it is women who mostly discriminate hairy-legged-women, since they become invisible to men (which on the other hand comes incredibly handy)
I’ve never seen my partners chin and I’ve no intention to do so. I request a full beard now and then, when I get too fed up with the stubble. And if he ever cuts off his hair, I’ll cut his balls, too *g*
It is actually funny how many of Jesus’ followers do not like people who look like Jesus (or at least like Jesus looks in the movies) maybe they consider this is unfair competition? or that it harbors unappropiate feelings among the females?
Who else flashed on the stoning scene from “Life of Brian”?
While I unfortunately missed the first coupla days of the BCA Intensive Course, I’m told that the session on growing crystals mentioned that having a beard was the best way to get good results. Obviously it carries around lots of seeds for all kinds of compounds.
My own testosteronelevels are too low to grow anything of significance. But I’m too lazy to shave daily, so I usually just look scruffy.
Some people still think beards are cool.
They forgot to run the unsmooched control! Bad Science!
Nick Gotts says
Someone said “a lot of old-time religious dudes had prodigious beards – do you really want to be associated with those cretins?”
I have just one word for you: Darwin.
Oh, maybe another: Kropotkin.
In the UK there is, supposedly, a “Beard Liberation Front” – headed (chinned?) by a well-known Marxist and witty-letter writer, Keith Flett.
Come now, this is supposed to be an evolutionary site – what about some nice evo-psycho just-so-stories to explain shaving? This, rather than beard-wearing is after all what requires explanation; why would a sane person scrape their face with a sharp piece of metal every morning? Here are my efforts:
1) Advantage in inter-individual fighting. Being grabbed by your beard is very painful.
2) Advantage in inter-group fighting. You need to be able to distinguish friend from foe: the first band in a region to shave would therefore have a big advantage – and shaving would then become associated with successful groups and be copied. This would also explain the swings of fashion – once everyone is shaving, the first group to revert to the beard would have an advantage!
3) Some cultural markers of gender can be explained as exaggerating innate secondary sexual differences: shaving or plucking in women exaggerates their comparative facial and bodily hairlessness, short hair on men exaggerates their broader shoulders. Despite what one would think, male facial shaving might be explained this way, if the shape of the chin is a better indicator of testosterone levels than the thickness of the beard. If this is the explanation, one would expect men with “stronger” chins to be more likely to shave!
4) Handicap Principle. Shaving shows that you are fit enough to waste time, to risk cutting yourself (no haemophilia, obviously), and to forego the heat-retention advantage of a beard in winter.
5) “Sneaky male” strategy. In the patriarchal band of the EEA, the patriarch would obviously expel young males as they approached adulthood. By shaving, said young males would fool the patriarch about their maturity, thus gaining opportunities for copulating with female band members.
I feel it would be rude and unfair of me to expect my girlfriend to do something I wouldn’t be willing to do, just because I happen to find smooth women’s legs more attractive. The same goes for makeup, high heels, etc.
As for women who aren’t my girlfriend, I have even less say in what they do.
(As for beards, I just can’t see myself shaving every day. And none of my lady friends have expressed disapproval. So fie on anyone who doesn’t like it.)
Dustin, OM says
I have a beard so that people can tell the difference between me and good Dustin (who lives in the mirror universe).
I have been inspired by this article, and the abuse that the proprietor at the Mustaches of the Nineteenth Century blog has heaped upon bearded men to create a blog that celebrates beards of the Nineteenth Century.