Whether you like it loose and rough like Chris Hemsworth, or are more a fan of the Rylan Clark, smooth and sculpted version, the beard fad is looking like it’s here to stay. But why has facial fluff grown in popularity, and how long will it last?
I used to absolutely hate any kind of facial hair. So I was completely confused when, about a year ago, I found myself thinking, “phwoar, that guy is rather dishy!” as a guy with a plentiful supply of chin fluff walked by. So captivated had I become by the rugged, manly craze, that when my husband asked if he needed a shave I responded seductively, “No… Let’s see where you can take that beard.”
You may be surprised to learn that this bearded boom is more about maths than it is about beards being an indicator that a man has come of age. Scientists believe that evolution is the solution to this furry phase. Certain characteristics or traits are selected over others because they lead to a sexual advantage. There are two types of selection: negative frequency-dependent selection, which is where the trait is more attractive the rarer it is, and positive frequency-dependent selection which is the opposite – the trait is more attractive when it is common.
Examples of negative frequency-dependent selection can be found in nature. The flu virus is master of this type of selection. When a flu virus is common, humans have immune responses ready to fight it off. However when a rare virus comes along it is extremely successful because no immune response has been developed allowing the rare virus to spread quickly through the population.
Luckily, other than for a bit of stubble-rash, beards are a lot less dangerous. But it seems that their popularity falls into the same category. Because beards were quite rare they became highly valued. It follows then, that all trends in fashion may be in part down to evolution and not completely at the whim of Versace and Chanel. Maybe this scientific titbit can also help you get ahead of the game. Get your hair permed and dust off your MC Hammer pants and you might just become the most popular style guru around.
But could we be hitting the beard barrier? We may see a decline in this furry fashion because there are so many bearded men around now, the value of the beard is decreasing. Just like the post-seventies facial hair phase-out, scientists think this selection pressure will force the popularity of beards back down.