To Beard or Not to Beard?

Careful hipsters: Beards may be bad for, ahem, procreating

New study says beards may be bad for, ahem, procreating

Austin Photo Set: Beard and mustache competition_feb 2012_5
Beards are in — for now. Photo by Jon Shapley
Nick Offerman judging beards at Meat Fight 2013
Nick Offerman is judging this man's beard. Because that's what manly men do. Photo by Robert Strickland
Austin Photo Set: Beard and mustache competition_feb 2012_5
Nick Offerman judging beards at Meat Fight 2013

Apparently researchers in the United Kingdom are taking time out their busy tea-sipping schedules to ruin our day. A study published on April 16 in the Royal Society Journal's Biology Letters says that as a society, we may have reached the beard tipping point. Citing an experiment that had heterosexual and bisexual women and heterosexual men rank different types of facial hair according to attractiveness, the study concludes that the more prevalent a particular type of facial hair, the less attractive it is perceived.

It does not fare well for the beardos.

According to Zinnia J. Janif, Robert C. Brooks and Barnaby J. Dixson, authors of the study, this magical bearded Renaissance we are in the midst of may have reached "peak beard." Trends would indicate that now that we've reached the tipping point, nature (and fashion) will dictate that the pendulum swing back towards a clean shave.

On a biological level, human beings look for less common traits when looking for a mate, thus helping to ensure a better chance for our offspring's survival. So, if a woman is surrounded by bearded men at, for example, Yellow Jacket Social Club, her instinct is to pick a mate who looks dissimilar to those around him.

But certainly this can't be dictated by nature, you say. Beards are manly! Bearded men drink whiskey and build furniture and chop wood while wearing flannel shirts. Bearded men are like Nick Offerman and he is a man. Well, says the study, that's not exactly true. What is considered "masculine" is more often dictated by what's in style than an inherently manly trait.

In an interview with the BBC, Brooks, one of the authors of the study, says that this recent beardo fad most likely has its roots in the 2008 economic crisis. "Young men are competing to attract someone when work is not easy to come by. So we might expect some aspects [of masculinity] to get turned up to eleven," he told BBC. Brooks notes that shortly after the stock market crash of 1929, beards also came back into fashion.

Before you grab your Bic and start shaving, let's take a collective breath and remember that we are Austin, Texas, where beards are almost as prevalent as breakfast tacos. No one, especially not the English, is going to tell us what we should or should not shave (and what we do or do not find attractive!). And if these Brits are right and beards are going the way of the bell bottoms, then so be it.

As long as we can keep the black rimmed glasses.