For several years now, it’s been fashionable to sport not only a little bit of stylish designer stubble, but an enormous lumberjack-style beard. If you’re a man who’s considering growing a beard (or shaving one off), then you’re likely to be influenced by the opinions of the fairer sex. After all, most of us wouldn’t both washing if we didn’t, at some level, think that a woman somewhere might approve of the decision.
What Does the Data Say?
The literature on this subject is covered quite extensively in Psychology Today by ‘attraction doctor’, Jeremy Nicholson. One study in 2008 had female subjects examining a number of male faces and sorting them in terms of attractiveness. This resulted in most women judging the men with a little bit of stubble as most attractive, but fully-bearded faces as most masculine, aggressive and mature.
If you feel that your face lacks these qualities, it might therefore be time to start growing a beard. The findings of this study were largely echoed by a later one in 2013: women like a little bit of stubble, as it confirms that the man they’re looking at is, in fact, out of high school.
Now, you might assume that we’re talking about women and men encountering one another for the first time in bars, clubs and train carriages. But what if you’re already in a long-term relationship, and you want to signal to your partner that you’re ready to settle down and take things a little more seriously? In this instance, the maturity-signalling qualities of a big, lush beard might be exactly what’s required.
What’s Wrong With the Polling?
Of course, there’s no shortage of opinion on whether men look good with or without beards – and you’re going to get a slightly different response depending on which woman you ask. Polling data on the subject isn’t entirely reliable, for several reasons.
Firstly, people lie to pollsters. If a political candidate seems a little bit uncouth, then the average person will be less likely to confess to supporting them – even if they go on to do so in the anonymous comfort of the polling booth. A woman’s preference in a man is pretty personal, and so they might simply lie about what they do and don’t find attractive.
Secondly, whether a woman finds a beard attractive will vary according to the man who’s wearing it. When Jason Momoa sports a massive beard, he’s probably going to attract a lot more interest than the average man, because he’s Jason Momoa. If a woman claims that they don’t like beards, it might be that they tend to see them worn by unattractive men.
Thirdly, and we can’t stress this enough: women tend to like men who look comfortable in their own skin. If you’ve grown a beard with the sole purpose of attracting women, and you don’t really like it yourself, then women are going to be able to scent this from a mile off, as a musk of desperation.
Fourthly, fashions change over time, and some of the studies mentioned go back as far as a decade. Back then, beards didn’t enjoy the mainstream support that they do now, and so it’s far less likely that women (or men) are going to profess an appreciation for them.
What Sorts of Beards Do Women Not Like?
As we’ve hinted, the chance of a woman liking your beard will depend on the sort of beard you’re wearing. Exactly what message are you sending out with your facial furniture?
Let’s start with the high-risk types of beard. Beard-growers are in less danger here than moustache-growers, who risk looking dictatorial if they’re not careful. If you’re growing a goatee, then you stand a stand a stronger chance of looking like a more fantastical sort of villain. Think Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon, or the lead guitarists of innumerable black metal bands, or Lucifer himself.
At the other end of the spectrum we have Amish-style beards without moustaches. Now, the Amish grow these for obscure cultural reasons – but everyone else just thinks of them as Amish beards. Unless you’re going for a very specific aesthetic, it’s probably best to avoid these. Of course, you might be tempted to simply allow your beard to grow wild and free. This approach has the advantage of being low-maintenance; you don’t need to spend hours in front of the mirror, taming your facial hair. Results here may vary, however. You may discover that your beard sticks out at bizarre angles, and is rather a different colour than you anticipated. Still, by growing your beard in this way, you’ll have a chance to discover what sorts of beard best fit your personal style.
Finally, we have the Wizard. You know what we’re talking about, here: the Gandalfs, the Merlins, the Dumbledores. Growing a beard for longer than twelve-months (at which point it qualifies as a ‘yeard’) is a considerable challenge, and should be attempted only by gentlemen who know exactly what they’re doing. If you get to a certain age, then you might well be able to pull this off – but if you’re looking to attract a woman, this particular spell isn’t going to be all that effective.
As magnificent as a good beard can be, it’s clear that facial hair doesn’t suit every face. And whether women find your beard attractive shouldn’t be your only consideration in growing one. If you have an office job that requires you to meet new people and represent a company to would-be clients and collaborators, then having an enormous bushy beard might not be appropriate. If your heart really is set on growing a beard, then you might need to change careers in order to do so – and for many of us, the hassle isn’t really worth it.
Finally, it’s important to note that women aren’t just attracted to the beard, but to the man behind it: and that even the best beard isn’t a substitute for a personality!