Showing Off Beards is a Form of ‘Male Peacocking’

Photo courtesy of Francesco Lodolo, Flickr

After scrolling through my Instagram feed this past weekend, I noticed a follow request from a peculiar account: “BEARDEDBADBOYS_NEWJERSEY.” This Instagram page showcased images of grown men exhibiting their beards, as well as memes stressing the power of the beard, especially in regards to the supposed attraction that women feel toward beards and bearded men. 

Curious, I conducted some of my own research and I came across a website titled, “The World Beard and Moustache Championships.” These championships were hosted in Brooklyn, New York and Leogang, Austria in 2015 and began in 1990 hosted by a German beard and moustache club. The competitions there continue every other year and are still celebrated today. It became clear to me that men all around the world have been embracing their facial hair for years, but just recently has this fixation with beards enchanted millennials in America.

Men are beginning to embrace their facial hair as a way to stand out. In other terms, growing a beard could be considered “peacocking.” 

Peacocking is a term used to describe one’s attempt at being noticed, much like a male peacock will display his beautiful feathers to attract a mate. However, male peacocks are not the only animal in existence to use their looks to attract a mate or a romantic partner of interest. 

Writer Kate Hakala of discusses the study of male peacocks in relation to the dating habits of men, citing research conducted by scholars from the University of Western Australia. These researchers concluded that, “Male primates who live in larger, multi-level societies use flamboyant and conspicuous markers to signal ‘identity, rank, dominance or attractiveness to females.” 

This study, among others, supports the idea that humans are descendants of apes. In addition, the human male exhibits similar behaviors to that of apes in relation to this topic. It can be assumed that a man with a beard tends to draw a woman’s eye almost immediately, regardless of whether or not the certain woman finds him attractive because of the striking difference between themselves and their hairless counterparts.

Upon accepting this new fad, I began to notice more and more beards popping up around Ramapo College’s campus, and I decided to inquire about the recent interest in the facial hair phenomenon. 

I approached a bearded colleague of mine, sophomore Nelson Potter, and asked him what prompted his decision to grow out his beard. 

“I lost my razor and refuse to buy another one; blades are 10 dollars to replace,” said Potter. Although this response was unexpected, it is also understandable. At 10 dollars a blade about every two weeks, people who shave are looking at about 20 dollars a month on a college budget. 

Perhaps financial reasons are the cause of this hairy outbreak, but I wanted to know more. 

I asked the same question to sophomore student James Isaac Burns and his response was much different: he stated that his girlfriend was the reason for growing out his beard. I began to wonder if other women were more attracted to bearded men. If not, I wanted to get down to the root cause of it all. 

I decided to ask women on campus how they feel about men who have facial hair. After intervieweing three women, the general consensus among the three was that they love the look of bearded men. 

“It makes them look more rugged and manly,” said sophomore student Meredith Mancouso.

This occurrence is both conscious and unconscious depending on personal preference. But research supports the idea that flashy facial hair will get more attention. Whatever an individual’s preference is, beards might just be the next big thing to hit millennials this year and for years to come.