- Overall, the women said the sexiest men were those sporting heavy stubble, followed by short stubble.
- Men with full beards and clean-shaven men were rated the lowest on the overall sexiness scale.
In the past few years, a number of predictions have declared the end of the beard. “Sorry guys, beards are over,” said the website Mashable. “Beards Aren’t Cool Anymore,” said Vice.
But beards are still here — at the Oscars, parading down catwalks and on regular guys. Could it be that beards are more than a fashion statement?
Science suggests that facial hair can play a significant role in a man’s love life.
Last year, researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia decided to explore male facial hair to determine what role, if any, beards play in sexual attractiveness, masculinity and short- and long-term relationships.
The team gathered data from 8,520 women, who were divided among three groups:
Each group of women was shown pictures of men with varying degrees of facial hair. The images, which had been manipulated by the research team to show the same men more or less bearded, showed the men with clean shaven faces, light stubble (five days of growth) heavy stubble (10 days of growth) and a thick beard representing about one month of growth.
Next, each group of women was asked to mull a different question about the man’s sex appeal.
What kind of man is most attractive to a woman looking for a short-term fling or one-night stand?
Men with light stubble won that contest, closely followed by men with heavier stubble, suggesting that the scruffy look appeals to women looking for fun, but not commitment.
But when it came to choosing a long-term partner, a guy with whom a woman could have babies or settle in for the duration, the more facial hair the better.
Men with heavy stubble and full beards were the clear winners on this question, suggesting that men who are ready to commit might do better if they shave less often.
The authors of the study theorize that for women who are looking for a long-term mate, beardedness may be more attractive as it “indicates a male’s ability to compete for resources.”
Barnaby Dixson, a human behavioral ecologist at the University of Queensland and a co-author of the beard length study, has been researching mate preferences for a decade. He explains that both sexes judge men with beards as older and more masculine, and describe them as generous, sincere, industrious and self-confident.
But Dr. Dixson, who sports a full beard, says research has also found that facial hair is associated with some antisocial
traits, such as aggression and social dominance. While these traits might not be pleasant if you’re looking for a fun fling, they might be alluring if you want an alpha male to support your family and fend off predators.