• “It’s not something from a evolutionary perspective that makes you better at hunting or gathering. It’s simply a sexual trait.” (NurPhoto/Getty Images)
Think that having a beard is just a fashion statement? Think again. A new study shows that it could signal a male's suitability as a long-term partner.
By
Shannon McKeogh

3 Mar 2017 - 1:17 PM  UPDATED 3 Mar 2017 - 2:06 PM

Thinking of growing a face garden? Well here's one reason to go ahead. New Australian-led research has found that women may find men with beards more attractive as a long-term partner.

This research, published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, was based on an online social experiment of 8,520 heterosexual women rating their attraction to photographs of clean-shaven, stubbled and bearded males.

The study also compared the attraction to different masculine and feminine facial features.

Most participants regarded bearded gents as a real catch when it comes to long-term relationships.

"Male-typical facial features such as a pronounced brow ridge and a more robust jawline may signal underlying health, whereas beards may signal men's age and masculine social dominance,” the study reads.

“…Our findings suggest that beardedness may be attractive when judging long-term relationships as a signal of intrasexual formidability and the potential to provide direct benefits to females.”

"Beards seem to be communicating qualities for long-term relationships."

But it’s not all good news for bearded men, as female participants in the study judged stubbled guys with masculine features as being more suitable for shorter flings.

“Women judge masculine faced men with squared jaws and deeper set brow ridges as more attractive for a less committed relationship,” says the study’s lead author, Dr Barnaby Dixson from University of Queensland.

“If you ask women to judge clean shaven, stubble or bearded men, we found rising masculinity with more beard. However sexual attractiveness [measures show a] peak at stubble.”

But for the long haul, beards come on top says Dr Dixson: “beards seem to be communicating qualities for long-term relationships”.

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The long-term beard lovers

Women with bearded partners sure do love them.

Stevie O’Cuana, a photographer and communications consultant tells SBS her partner’s bodacious beard has been a part of their committed relationship for nearly 10 years:

“He’s had it for most of the time. I think I was pretty quick to ask for it to stay,” says O’Cuana. “In fairness though, he does look like he’s 12 without it. I think it suits him. It’s part of his personality at this point.”

“It happened by accident one time, the barber shaved a little too close and most of it had to go. I cried. A bit. I couldn’t hide my sadness. It didn’t impact on our relationship…much. But I couldn’t wait for it to come back.”

Anna Kiss-Gyorgy, a consultant specialising in change management has been with her partner for two years and he has always been with beard.

“I love Jamie’s beard because it is impeccably cared for, soft and makes him look distinguished,” Kiss-Gyorgy says. “Instead of cologne, he uses beard oils that smell divine, and after checking old photos to make sure he actually has a chin, I am happy to embrace the beard forever.”

So if a beard can make a man appear more suitable for a long-term relationship, what happens when he shaves it all off? For Kiss-Gyorgy, she says her relationship and attraction to her partner wouldn’t change, but O’Cuana admits it’s not that easy.

“It happened by accident one time, the barber shaved a little too close and most of it had to go. I cried. A bit. I couldn’t hide my sadness. It didn’t impact on our relationship…much. But I couldn’t wait for it to come back.”

To beard or not to beard?

Study lead, Dr Dixson, himself bearded for many years at his partner’s request (it makes his chin “less pointy”) and is fascinated by the attachment we have with facial hair.

“Beards don’t perform any function in survival, growing a beard doesn’t make you more healthier, it doesn’t impact on that at all, it’s clearly a visual cue or signal of masculinity,” he says.

“It’s not something from a evolutionary perspective that makes you better at hunting or gathering. It’s simply a sexual trait.”

But if you want to be more appealing to the opposite sex and masculine, “beards are the way to go,” he says, “because you can’t really change how square your jaw is”.

However, if you live in a world surrounded by men with beards and are contending for a female suitor, you’re better off showing off a bald chin loud and proudly:

“Some of our other studies have shown that if there are too many beards, they’re less attractive then when they are rare. In biology this is called frequency dependence, if there’s too much beardedness around you, things can become saturated and clean shaven does a bit better.”

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