The Good and the Bad of Facial Hair

I haven’t seen my chin for over 38 years. In that time, my facial has varied considerably in

Beard and beer

length, but I have never shaved it off. In fact I don’t ever remember shaving my upper lip, although in the excitement of my impending manhood, I may have the first couple of times.

Since we live in an age where everything must be studied, researchers have taken a look at perceptions of beards and come to drawn some differing conclusions. of course, since the studies were conducted in different geo-polictical regions, cultural biases may be at play.

First, from Brazil we learn that if you are looking for a job in a conservative, shave it off.

Perception of men’s personal qualities and prospect of employment as a function of facial hair. de Souza AA, Baião VB, Otta E.

The present study investigated the contribution of men’s facial hair to impression formation. Participants evaluated photographs of one of four versions of a man–clean shaven, mustached, goateed, or bearded–on a 7-point scale. In Study 1, participants were 106 Brazilian undergraduates (68 men and 38 women). Beardedness was associated with older age, greater responsibility, and leftist political ideas. In Study 2, respondents were 50 Brazilian personnel managers (28 men and 22 women) who made hiring decisions at different companies in the city of Saõ Paulo. Personnel managers clearly preferred clean shaven over bearded, mustached, or goateed men as prospective employees. In a hiring situation for a conservative occupation, a man who signals disposition to conform to rules may be preferred by personnel managers over another who signals nonconformity.

Then from  Morristown, NJ, we become aware that if you don’t want to be taken for a criminal, shine up that chin.

Mock jurors’ perceptions of facial hair on criminal offenders. Conti RP, Conti MA.

Two studies were conducted to measure whether mock jurors would stereotype criminal offenders as having facial hair. In Study 1, participants were asked which photograph belonged to a defendant in a rape case and which photograph belonged to a plaintiff in a head-injury case after they were “accidentally” dropped. The photographs were similar in appearance except one had facial hair. 78% of 63 participants (or 49) identified the photograph with facial hair as being involved in the rape case. In Study 2, 371 participants were asked to sketch the face of a criminal offender. 82% of the sketches (or 249) contained some form of facial hair. Results are consistent with the hypothesis that criminal defendants are perceived as having facial hair.

But, when it comes right down to it, all we men want to do is to breed. Passing on our genetic material is our entire raison d’être and this is the only reason we might have for staying out of prison or working. So here’s the important study (from Australia):

The role of facial hair in women’s perceptions of men’s attractiveness, health, masculinity and parenting abilities Barnaby J. Dixson, Robert C. Brooks

Facial hair strongly influences people’s judgments of men’s socio-sexual attributes. However, the nature of these judgments is often contradictory. The levels of intermediate facial hair growth presented to raters and the stage of female raters’ menstrual cycles might have influenced past findings. We quantified men’s and women’s judgments of attractiveness, health, masculinity and parenting abilities for photographs of men who were clean-shaven, lightly or heavily stubbled and fully bearded. We also tested the effect of the menstrual cycle and hormonal contraceptive use on women’s ratings. Women judged faces with heavy stubble as most attractive and heavy beards, light stubble and clean-shaven faces as similarly less attractive. In contrast, men rated full beards and heavy stubble as most attractive, followed closely by clean-shaven and light stubble as least attractive. Men and women rated full beards highest for parenting ability and healthiness. Masculinity ratings increased linearly as facial hair increased, and this effect was more pronounced in women in the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle, although attractiveness ratings did not differ according to fertility. Our findings confirm that beardedness affects judgments of male socio-sexual attributes and suggest that an intermediate level of beardedness is most attractive while full-bearded men may be perceived as better fathers who could protect and invest in offspring.

So there you have it. If you want to get a job in Brazil, or stay out of jail in New Jersey, shave. In Australia, if you want to have be perceived as a good parent, let it grow.

I’ve never been arrested, I used to work, and I raised 3 great children all without shaving. That was here on PEI, mileage in different cultures may vary.

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