Scientists warn we've hit 'peak beard': The more people grow facial hair, the less attractive it is
Hipster beards meet evolutionary biology: Researchers say 'negative frequency-dependent selection' is making beards less attractive
After years in the cultural ascendancy, covering all manner of faces from Hollywood to hipster-ville, it seems that the beard’s day in the sun might finally be over.
A new study published in the journal Biology Letters suggests that we might have reached ‘peak beard’, with the overwhelming popularity of facial hair meaning that the beard is no longer unusual enough to be attractive.
Researchers from the University of New South Wales found that when test subjects were shown a succession of clean-shaven men followed by individuals sporting anything from light stubble to Charles Darwin-style face-clouds, it was the second group that rated more attractive.
However, the opposite was also true, and when the test subjects (comprising of 1,453 heterosexual or bisexual women and 213 heterosexual men) were shown a succession of photos of men with facial hear, it was the un-bearded individuals that were deemed better looking. Novelty, it seems, is a key determinant in the attractiveness of beards.
Studies of historical beard-wear support this thesis, with different styles waxing and waning in popularity. In 1853 the most popular form of facial hair was a pair of sideburns, but this was superseded by the sideburns-and-moustache look in 1877. By 1892 full beards were most popular, with moustaches then peaking between 1917 and 1919.
This phenomenon is also known as “negative frequency-dependent selection” and can explain how populations maintain a certain amount of diversity despite natural selection constantly filtering out characteristic to find the most apt set of traits.
For example, when non-poisonous butterflies adopt colour patterns to look like their poisonous brethren, birds will avoid the mimics because of their previous experience with the poisonous ones. However, when the non-poisonous butterflies become more prevalent, birds are less likely to have had a ‘bad experience’ with that colouring and the advantage is lost.
The researchers from New South Wales found that the same mechanism was in place with beard attractiveness – although in this case the traits are not sexually selected, but behavioural instead.
Speaking to the Guardian, researcher Robert Brooks said “It appears that beards gain an advantage when rare, but when they are in fashion and common, they are declared trendy and that attractiveness is over.”
“These trends usually move in 30-year cycles from when they are first noticed but, with the internet, things are moving a lot faster,” said Brooks. “If guys aren’t getting any joy with their beards, they will quickly change.”
- 1 National Orgasm Day: Six reasons (plus one bogus one) why they're good for us
- 2 The 'world's most beautiful vagina' has been debunked by science
- 3 Whoopi Goldberg tells Cara Delevingne to suck it up: 'She's not famous. I'M famous'
- 4 John Green schools morning show hosts after awkward interview with Cara Delevingne
- 5 Doctor Who: Christopher Eccleston says why he left the BBC series after just one series
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Stuart Baggs dies: Apprentice star 'The Brand' found dead aged 27
Whoopi Goldberg tells Cara Delevingne to suck it up: 'She's not famous. I'M famous'
John Green schools morning show hosts after awkward interview with Cara Delevingne
Supermodel Gisele Bundchen mocked for wearing a burka to avoid being seen visiting plastic surgeon in Paris
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...
£15500 - £17680 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has become available...
£60000 - £120000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This conference call startup i...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital and print design a...