A Wellington anthropologist whose doctoral thesis revived Charles Darwin’s theory that men evolved beards as a result of sexual selection has found that the idea men grew facial hair to attract women and scare off rivals may not be true in the 21st century.
It was not only Brad Pitt’s beard that women hated – they don’t like beards in general, according to a new study by Victoria University anthropologist Barnaby Dixson.
His paper in Behavioural Ecology found that 200 modern women in New Zealand and Canada thought facial hair made men look older, more aggressive, and less attractive.
They found 19 men from New Zealand and Samoa with full beards were significantly more attractive after the beards were shaved off.
And other men said that the men pictured looked older and angrier when bearded.
But both sexes said that facial hair added “gravitas” , and men viewed bearded men as having a higher social status and commanding more respect.
The results suggested that beards sent a signal of masculinity to other men but do little to attract women.
The Daily Mail reports a Canadian co-author of the paper, Paul Vasey, of the University of Lethbridge — who has a goatee beard — said the findings were made more sound by the inclusion of men from different cultures. But Northumbria University psychologist, Nick Neave — who was not involved in the paper — told the newspaper: ‘We are often of the assumption that male characteristics are to do with females and females choosing them. The other way of looking at it is that males’ faces and bodies are probably mostly designed to fend off other males and what females like is neither here nor there.’ Dr Neave’s own research along similar lines found light stubble was given the highest rating by women.