I spoke with Oldstone-Moore, a lecturer in history at Wright State University, about what beards can tell us about manliness throughout history, and about ourselves today.
Esquire: You write that "the history of men is written on their faces." Explain that a little.
So basically, if you want your guy to seem really smart and confident, and like he won't take crap from anyone, encourage him to grow a beard.
At the urging of his mother and also the president, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has shaved the much-GIF’d beard he sprouted last month.
Carney may have given in to the razor, but more and more public figures seem to be forgoing it: Secretary of State John Kerry, Obama speech writer Cody Keenan and—breaking news alert—Facial hair can radically alter the way a man looks, whether it’s a little stubble or a full-on beard.
Carney’s and Kerry’s beards have been endlessly debated on Twitter and blogs—Do they convey authority? —but psychologists can tell us how we really perceive men with beards, and why men evolved to grow extraneous hair on their faces in the first place. In their 1997 book , Israeli physiologist Avishag Zahavi and her evolutionary biologist husband Amotz proposed that beards are a costly signal of male competitive ability, since they can easily be grabbed by rivals during fights.
Recently, they’ve been shown to host bed bugs and sand fleas.
A new study published in the journal Behavioral Ecology found that guys appear more intimidating to other dudes when they have beards. While you're working your butt off at the gym, he's doing it, too—and secretly starving himself so he looks good in his board shorts." title="" src="data:image/gif;base64, R0l GODlh AQABAIAAAAAAAP///y H5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7" data-src="https://hips.hearstapps.com/cos.h-cdn.co/assets/cm/14/25/539fab3f46ef2_-_cos-08-guy-insecurites-lgn.jpg? While you're working your butt off at the gym, he's doing it, too—and secretly starving himself so he looks good in his board shorts." title="" src="data:image/gif;base64, R0l GODlh AQABAIAAAAAAAP///y H5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7" data-src="https://hips.hearstapps.com/cos.h-cdn.co/assets/cm/14/28/53bec010930d6_-_cos-08-guy-insecurites-mdn.jpg?resize=480:*" / Like it when your man has a little facial scruff?Facial hair, the authors wrote “may intimidate rival males by increasing perceptions of the size of the jaw, overall length of the face, and by enhancing aggressive and threatening jaw-thrusting behaviors ... The current study is the first to show that the beard augments a threatening behavioral display as bearded men with angry facial expressions received significantly higher scores for aggressiveness compared with clean-shaven faces ... This suggests that the beard plays an important role in intermale signaling of threat and aggression.” Other, past studies, have shown that when mock juries are presented with pictures of men accused of crimes like rape, the juries are much more likely to believe the bearded man is guilty.A 2004 study from researchers at Montclair State University in New Jersey asked 371 people to “sketch the face of a criminal offender.Their mean age was 23, and they agreed to shave halfway through the experiment.