From moustaches to mutton chops, the different forms of facial hair are numerous. And it is this choice that makes picking a style so difficult.
But worry not, gents, for science is on hand to help. A recent study asked women to rate which facial hair fashion they found most attractive and the results show a resounding winner: heavy stubble.
The study, helmed by the University of Queensland, Brisbane, polled over 8,500 women to get the results, and researchers believe stubble scored the highest results as although it acts as a signal of a man’s age and social dominance, it doesn’t overly get in the way.
Participants in the study were presented with photosets of 16 different men, with facial hair ranging from clean-shaven to fully-bearded, and then asked to assign a score to each.
They were also asked whether or not they’d consider a relationship with the man based on his beard and, if so, whether that relationship would be long- or short-term.
Whilst stubble won out, beards still beat the baby-faced, and were deemed the most likely to succeed in long-term relationships. Heavy stubble was preferred for short-term flings. So what can we learn from these results? If you’re looking to settle down, let it grow. If you’re looking for something short-term, stubble up. One fact to remember however; clean shaven men were perceived as being more financially successful and career focused.
“You need to get it right,” says Adam Brady, of award-winning Ruffians Barbers in Modern Barber Magazine. “And, of course, this depends on personal preference to some extent – there are those who love the Jesus-style long hair and long beard combo. But, for others, it looks more dirty man than Messiah.”
“The same can be said for the goatee and slicked back hair pairing,” Brady continues, “A bit ‘90s magician?
“However, there is one thing that everyone can agree on, and that’s trying to grow a beard when you simply don’t have the right facial hair growth is a terrible idea. It will make you look fluffy, a bit depressing, and just not worth the effort.”
Human Behaviour lecturer Tamsin Saxton has researched the social aspect of facial hair in depth. She believes that although the way men view their own bristles is fairly constant, that facial hair’s effects on the fairer sex is less clear-cut.
“There’s good evidence that men with facial hair are perceived on average as being more aggressive and dominant than clean-shaven men,” says Saxton. “In contrast, there’s a lot of variation in whether women find facial hair attractive or not. It appears that men’s facial hair might have arisen under selective pressures to compete with other men, more than to attract women.”
There is also some data to suggest that interest in beards is waning. The "Gold Rush" of people bringing out beard oil and related products reached a peak last year and is slowing. In contrast, Google and Youtube searches for " Wet Shave", "How to Shave" and related searches has tripped in the past 8 months. So perhaps we are on the brink of change? Because if everyone is doing it, it's no longer edgy or trendy.