WIKIMEDIA, DAVID SHANKBONEWomen find men with beards attractive, although more so when beards are rare, according to a study published this week (April 16) in Biology Letters. A team led by Barnaby Dixon of the University of New South Wales in Australia speculated that when it comes to facial hair preferences, the evolutionary process of negative frequency dependence, or the tendency for a phenotype to become more successful as it becomes rarer, may be at play.
“Big thick beards are back with an absolute vengeance and so we thought underlying this fashion, one of the dynamics that might be important is this idea of negative frequency dependence,” coauthor Rob Brooks told BBC News.
The researchers showed 1,453 women and 213 men images of a man’s face with four different levels of facial hair, ranging from clean-shaven to light stubble, heavy stubble, and full beards. The study participants consistently rated heavy stubble and full beards as more appealing when they were rare among the lineup they saw. The same held for clean-shaven faces: women rated beardless men more attractive when they were rare.
“The idea is that perhaps people start copying the George Clooneys and the Joaquin Phoenix[es] and start wearing those beards, but then when more and more people get onto the band wagon the value of being on the bandwagon diminishes, so that might be why we’ve hit ‘peak beard,’” Brooks told the BBC.