Does a Beard Make You Look More Masculine? (Physical and Social Cues)

Beards seem to be everywhere. They are popular in American culture among the celebrity set, working class, and all population segments in between. What’s the appeal? Do beards make you look more masculine? Research says yes.

A beard can make you look more masculine because facial hair is equated with manliness and virility. Facial hair appears at puberty due to the surge in androgenic hormones. Growing a beard or mustache communicates manhood to the outside world.

Read on to learn the science and possible pros and cons of beards and masculinity!

Beards and masculinity

Love or hate them, you can’t deny that beards change perceptions. Researchers have been intrigued for years about the psychological effects of facial hair. 

Beards are perceived as masculine because they signal physical appeal, strength and health, paternity, and socioeconomic success.

For centuries, beards have gone in and out of fashion for various reasons. The past decade has seen a beard resurgence that doesn’t show any signals of dying. Here are some of the reasons why beardedness and masculinity go hand in hand:

  • Physical appeal
  • Strength
  • Health
  • Paternity
  • Socioeconomic success

Physical appeal

Men have the market cornered when it comes to easy facial transformation. Weak chin? Grow a beard. Fat face? Grow a beard. Turkey neck? Grow a beard. Strategically grown beards can hide flaws, improve facial shape, and accentuate positive features to improve appeal. 

Strength

Remember Samson? His hair was his strength. Centuries later, we still equate hair growth with manliness and bravado. Lumberjacks don beards, and they can chop logs for hours. A rugby player’s pitch domination seems to coincide with their level of bearddom.

Studies show that facial hair absorbs blows to the face backing up the assumptions that beards may give a man an edge during a fight or attack.

Health

Beards have a reputation for harboring all kinds of pathogens. While it’s true bacteria can live in facial hair, following simple hygiene measures keeps the creeps at bay. In fact, facial hair works as a filter to ward off bugs from entering the body.

 Women perceive men with beards as having better immune systems, and studies show their preferences for beards don’t waiver even when the possibility of lice or ticks is introduced.

Paternity

The first introductions of androgenic hair coincide with a teen’s coming of age. It’s no surprise that both single and married women view bearded men as suitable partners for rearing children. Beards add years to a man’s age and give an aura of maturity. These factors help solidify the bearded-father effect.

Socioeconomic success

Facial hair can communicate a higher social status and economic success. Both men and women perceive bearded men as social climbers and better handlers of finances than their clean-shaven counterparts.

Are beards attractive to women?

There’s probably no more excellent debate than beard preferences among women. Some women love them, while the other camp despises them with the same enthusiasm. 

Beards are attractive to many women but a turn-off to others. Women tend to favor heavy stubble and view bearded men as long-term relationship contenders. Surveys show that men feel more confident when wearing a beard, and women are attracted to confidence.

A look at message boards shows this love/hate relationship in real time. Reddit users are pretty blunt when sharing their opinions. “I think most men look better with some facial hair,” was the sentiment of many, while others said,  “…a long bushy beard is a hard NO” and “I hate facial hair.” 

They all seem to agree that with whatever you choose, keep yourself clean and well-groomed. In the succinct words of one user, “…if you can’t be bothered to maintain it, shave it the heck off!”

Fun fact: In many of Shakespeare’s plays, male characters without beards were made fun of by the women characters claiming they weren’t manly. This was a direct reflection of Renaissance thinking that theorized facial hair literally grew every time semen was expelled.

Do guys with beards have more testosterone?

Do you know how male birds outshine females with bold colors and impressive feathers? There are several reasons for this, but one is to alert the females that they are ready and able to mingle. Is facial hair a fair gauge of a man’s testosterone levels? Not really. Even though beard hair is influenced by testosterone, it’s not a valid signal for an abundance of this hormone

Do men with beards look more aggressive?

Beards do seem to enhance the aggressiveness factor. A study in the Behavioral Ecology Journal concluded that a male with a beard was perceived as more aggressive than the same male without a beard. Facial hair is often associated with aggressive criminal behavior. Studies show that mock jurors assume bearded men were responsible for violent crimes. When asked to sketch criminals, 78% of study respondents included facial hair.

Do men with beards look more dominant?

If two men meet up on the street, one with a beard and one without, who will appear to be the most dominant foe? Research suggests it would be the bearded lad. Even if the clean-shaven guy had a facial structure rivaling Mt. Rushmore, the addition of a beard wins the dominance battle

Potential cons to having a beard

While a beard can make you look more masculine and mature, there are a few cons to consider.

The potential cons to having a beard are workplace restrictions, upkeep time, partner preferences, and the masking of emotions.

  • Workplace restrictions
  • Upkeep time
  • Partner preferences
  • Masks emotions

Specific jobs may ban beards altogether or put length and style restrictions on them. Beard hygiene and proper grooming take time. Believe it or not, some women out there don’t appreciate the look or feel of whiskers. A beard may make you seem angry or aggressive while masking your feelings of happiness or sadness