From atop the ivory towers of scientific inquiry we’ve been given numerous studies and papers on the nature of beards and its effect on the man and society. Our faithful companions sometimes seem more than just inanimate objects. It just so happens that beards hold a special place in our biology and our civilization.
Sexual attraction has already been attributed to various lengths of beards in this study. There have been additional studies done throughout the years to backup our other multifarious claims of bearded superiority. These various sources are all peer-reviewed and sound science. Let us Begin!
Sign of Dominance
In the Oxford Journal of Behavioral Ecology, comes a paper about beards augmenting perception of a man’s age, social status and perceived aggression. This particular paper did not take into account attraction or find any evidence to point towards such.
At first this may seem contradictory to the more recent study about beards increasing attraction. But attraction is a tricky science after all. The Romantics of the 18th and 19th century spent the better half of a century trying to define attraction and love. Perhaps scientific analysis is adept at exploring this further.
The study calls upon our good pal Darwin and his idea about beards evolving via female choice as an adornment. It mostly looks into how beards signal status and dominance. The study used Europeans from New Zealand and Polynesians from Samoa to rate bearded faces. These studies showed that beards increased perception of aggression and proved to correlate with the hypothesis that beards evolved for instrasexual selection. Basically, aggressiveness and social status win out against all other weak males. The beard, a signifier of that.
The next study is a fascinating read. Titled: Of Lion Manes and Human Beards: Some Unusual Effects of the Interaction between Aggression and Sociality, the study first looks at aggression on its most infinitesimal level from the lowest of creatures and then compares the advantages it grants lions and bearded men.
The main crux of the study is that lions and men genetically developed beards for social reasons. Only male lions develop manes and only male humans develop beards. It helps to be an identifier of gender, advertises dominance and seen as sexually attractive for women.
An interesting tidbit of information talks about how social communications and attacks are focused to the head, face and neck area. This was proven in the preferences of children through a psychological study. The areas of the back of the neck and sides are all ripe for exposure. But with the advent of our own manes we’ve covered them for protection. It is also true that a beard lessens the blunt force of an attack.
Something that is often proclaimed by beard aficionados is that beards protect you from harmful UV rays. Rather than rely on pure conjecture, the idea has been proven true in another Oxford Journal paper. The Radiation Protection Dosimetry published this piece a few years ago.
While the methods they used to test this were sound, it was found that around fifty to ninety five percent of ultraviolet rays were blocked from the underlying skin. There is something called Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF). Beards ranged from two to twenty one. This is a most likely unintended genetic benefit to those with beards. But it is something to take note of.
The beard isn’t just a flashy ornament, but something engrained into the biological consciousness of man. There is still a lot more we have to learn about beards and probably more questions along the way. We’re on a trajectory of knowledge and more questions being answered about our genetic code.
Our next inquiring endeavor should call to question why so many great real and mythological figures are fellow bearded brothers. We could probably give a few answers to that already, but we’ll let the scientific method figure out the rest.