Have we reached ‘Peak Beard’?

I’ve sported a beard for a number of years now. Sometimes it’s just short stubble length (generally after a trimming fail), sometimes it’s a feral bushman look. Thus, I did a double take at this headline on Stuff.co.nz – “Have we reached ‘peak beard’?

Apparently, an Australian study found that women finds beards more attractive when beards are rare. The more popular beards become, the less attractive they become to women. The article noted that:

The study’s findings are noteworthy, given that the beard seems to be the trend du jour among many 20- and 30-something men. The beard has become as ingrained in hipster culture as flannel, skinny jeans and a disdain for a Seattle-based coffee company.

Now, the article in question was pinched by Stuff from the Kansas City Star, so it may be that the humble beard is yet to reach saturation point in New Zealand. Certainly, Gisborne (my town of residence) seems some way away from flooding the beard market.

From an evolutionary biology perspective though, the concept of ‘peak beard’ raises a quandary. If beards are deemed attractive when rare, there’s a biological incentive to grow a beard when no one else is growing one – you’re more likely to find a mate and breed! However, once the concept catches on and more beards are being sported, the biological incentive begins to fade, slowly becoming negative as the clean-shaven men establish dominance in the attractiveness stakes.

Therein lies the quandary. For those men who aren’t early adopters, the longer they leave their embrace of the beard, the less the effect that beard will have. Leave it too long and you risk being the ‘beard tipping point’ – the beard that breaks the camel’s back and drops beards from being ever so mildly attractive to ever so mildly unattractive. And who would want to be that man, the man that ruined beards for everyone else?

Things to think about.

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