A beard, or lack thereof, correlates with socio-cultural relationships. If I have available free men of marriageable age, then women begin to give preference to men with facial hair. At the same time, women in modern societies prefer good fathers, and good fathers will always have a slight femininity in appearance.
Doctor of Historical Sciences, anthropologist, leading researcher at the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences Marina Butovskaya has written the book “Secrets of Sex. Man and Woman in the Mirror of Evolution. " In it, the researcher showed the specificity of male and female behavior in traditional societies, the connection between reproductive success and social status and economic well-being. Butovskaya talks in detail about the universal and culturally specific ideals of beauty and the methods of their research. Here is an excerpt from this book that explains how women perceive facial hair on men.
An analysis carried out by ethologists in the late 90s has demonstrated that there are still beauty criteria that are universal for any culture - European, Asian, African. First of all, the face must be clean, free of acne, scars and blemishes. Often in the literature you can find the idea that pallor is an attractive feature for women. Ethological studies carried out by the Austrian scientist B. Fink and co-authors, in which a computer analysis was used of the most preferred female faces by the respondents, refute this point of view: men seem to be the most attractive faces with a predominance of the pinkish spectrum.
Male beauty is a protruding lower jaw (the famous "strong-willed chin"!), Prominent cheekbones (Fig. Below). The nose can be large or small, it doesn't matter. Low eyebrows and well-developed superciliary arches. Somewhat unexpectedly, for a man, big eyes are not a positive sign, but rather a neutral or negative sign. Attractive and male face, as well as female attractiveness, is an objective marker of reproductive qualities. Recent studies by K. Soleras and co-authors (Soleret al., 2003) indicate a direct relationship between female perception of a male face and the quality of male sperm.
However, plump lips and a smooth oval of the face, as factors of female attractiveness, are not at all trifling quirks of male taste. It is these traits that are associated with a woman's youth and a high concentration of estrogen in her body. The latter play a leading role in the successful conception and bearing of the fetus.
But the high level of testosterone does not make men more attractive to women when it comes to a long-term partner. The same experiment was conducted in Europe, China and Japan. The respondents were offered three options for a woman's and a man's portrait: averaged, feminized and masculinized. The most "cute" turned out to be the feminized, feminine version of both female and male faces. At first, this put the researchers in bewilderment, but then a hypothesis appeared, which was confirmed by the facts: women in modern societies prefer good fathers, and good fathers will always have a slight femininity in appearance. More masculine types - Real Men - divorce their wives more often, pay less attention to children and in this sense can be carriers of good genes, but less often they turn out to be faithful husbands and good, caring fathers.
Large eyes, a rounded convex forehead, a round head, a small nose and a small, slightly protruding chin, clear, smooth skin - all these characteristics are typical for the appearance of a child. In ethology, such a look was called the "children's scheme". K. Lorenz proved that an individual possessing the indicated signs evokes warm feelings and a desire to provide help and care in observers. A child's round head and smooth face serve as pacifying signals and suppress the aggressive intentions of others. In addition, these same signals indicate the safety of a given individual for others. Parents who react with the utmost concern to the "childish scheme" may have left more surviving and healthy offspring than their counterparts who remain indifferent to these signals.
Childhood appearance in adults is associated with such psychological characteristics as openness, compliance, sincerity. It has also been found that adult men and women with childlike features evoke romantic feelings in Caucasian women and men.
Perhaps clean-shaven men's faces are perceived by women as more peaceful and have a pacifying effect on them.
The intense secretion of sex hormones during puberty leads to the maturation of the face and body. As it matures, the child's appearance gradually disappears. In men, the jaw becomes larger and wider, the nose lengthens, the brows develop, and facial hair appears. Mature traits are indicative of strength, dominance, status, and competence. Cross-cultural evidence suggests that a large mandible is a universal indicator of dominance.
Facial hair growth is a biological marker of male maturity. Facial hair and scalp hair have different chemical compositions and serve different purposes. It is assumed that the presence of facial hair in men is indicative of their aggressiveness and potential reproductive ability. Like the other two characteristics, facial hair growth is stimulated by the secretion of testosterone during puberty. The intensity of beard growth depends on the level of androgen secretion in a given individual.
R. Fox and a number of authors associate the reproductive success of males in hominin communities with rank in the social hierarchy. In this context, facial hair could have evolved as a signal of threat and domination, as it visually enlarges the lower part of the face (primarily the lower jaw). This attachment to the lower jaw is not accidental, because evolutionarily it is associated with teeth as a weapon. In an adult man, the chin protrudes strongly forward, and in a child it is extremely poorly developed.
The presence of facial hair on a man has a significant impact on his social perception by others. A male face overgrown with hair, in comparison with a clean-shaven one, receives from respondents significantly higher ratings for the following items on the scale of positive values associated with masculinity: physical strength, sexual potency, dominance, courage. On the scale of negative values associated with masculinity, men with facial hair also received higher ratings for the following indicators: more aggressiveness, imbalance, lack of kindness, uncleanliness. Among other things, men with clean-shaven faces looked younger than those with mustaches and beards.
In connection with the discussion of the attractiveness of male faces with a beard and mustache, on the one hand, and clean-shaven faces, on the other, the results of many years of research by N. Barber are interesting. According to this researcher, there is a positive stereotype of a bearded male face in European culture. Men with beards and mustaches are viewed by women as more valuable potential spouses. They are credited with the best reproductive qualities and the level of health in general. It is also assumed that bearded men are better able to provide for wives and children.
J. Reed and E. Blank analyzed the results of preliminary selection of frames from photographs, produced in various American companies (the age of men in the photographs is from 19 to 70 years), and found that men with facial hair were preferred. Such individuals were perceived to be more physically and socially attractive and rated as more competent, wholehearted, and reliable. The age and gender of managers did not significantly influence the choice of personnel, with the exception that female managers rated bearded men as more competent.
N. Barber points out a certain relationship between the situation in the market for grooms and the fashion for men's beards and mustaches. If the most favorable conditions for brides develop, that is, if I have free men of marriageable age, then women begin to give preference to men with facial hair. The mustache turned out to be the most significant in the list; a reliably positive relationship was also noted with the presence of a beard. But the presence of sideburns did not play any role in assessing the attractiveness of a man's appearance.
A very curious connection has been found between the fashion for the length of women's dresses and the situation in the market for grooms. Favorable conditions for women were significantly correlated with long skirts and more modest behavior in women; the more intense competition for suitors became, the more likely short skirts were fashionable. It is curious that earlier researchers have shown that the fashion for long skirts fluctuates in complete synchronicity with the fashion for men's mustaches and beards.
Psychologists and ethologists have repeatedly noted in their works that women are better than men able to read a partner's face and distinguish truth from deception. This state of affairs is not accidental, if we remember that for a woman the correct choice of a partner is directly related to the amount of energy costs that she should invest in the offspring in the future. A clean-shaven face in this regard is an ideal condition for obtaining truthful information. It is assumed that in conditions of a significant excess of free men, more confident women will prefer men with facial hair as marriage partners (because they do not fear their betrayal), and less confident women - clean-shaven men. Beard and mustache fashions are more popular in countries where marriages are more stable, gender ratios are bias toward males, and adultery is rare.
Baldness is associated with the effects of androgens, genetic factors and age. The bald head has evolved as a signal of maturity and social maturity. Age is an important predictor of the likelihood of baldness. At the same time, aggression and sexual potency in men decrease with age, and the desire to show parental care, prudence and wisdom increase. In the process of maturation, the appearance of a man changes from dominant-aggressive to dominant-caring.
Polls show that women highly value characteristics such as kindness and intelligence in men. Older men tend to be less aggressive and more likely to take care of children. Thus, a bald head acts as a signal of a higher social status and complaisance. But the same signal reduces the physical attractiveness of the wearer. Is it a coincidence, within the framework of all of the above, that in modern Western society it has become fashionable for men to shave their heads? Moreover, this fashion is primarily common among young men.
In accordance with the multiple fitness model, culture shapes the fashion for shaving and haircuts so that the appearance of a man reflects as much as possible adaptation to local environmental conditions. It has been noticed that a beard and mustache (provided that the growth of facial hair is possible) is more often worn in those places where the likelihood of skin defects on the face is high due to the abundance of infectious skin diseases and insect vectors.
Facial hair on a man can signal aggressiveness regardless of culture and historical period, but it is specific cultural norms that determine the social desirability of a given characteristic (fearless and valiant warriors) or its undesirability (a dangerous villain). In cultures where the development of facial hair is very weak or absent, even a small amount of hair is associated with evil, disgust and associations with animals (for example, in Japan).
In the course of our research (Butovskaya, Artemova, Arsenina, 1998; Artemova, Butovskaya, 2000) on the formation of gender stereotypes in children (Russians and Kalmyks), junior schoolchildren were asked to draw a woman and a man. Boys and girls almost never depicted a man with a beard and a mustache was rarely depicted. This was more typical of Russians than Kalmyks. When the boys were asked to paint their imaginary portrait as an adult, none of them drew a beard, and only a few Russian boys adorned themselves with small mustaches.