Column: The Beard Theory

Vanessa Sliva

Last semester, I fell in love with a beard. No, that isn’t a typo. I met a boy — let’s call him Harry — and I liked him solely for his well-trimmed facial hair.

At first, I didn’t notice my attraction to beards. If asked, I probably would have said I liked how handsome he was, or that he was a gifted writer or maybe even complimented his athleticism. But that was a lie, because one day, he shaved his beard and I didn’t recognize him. 

I was with friends at the intramural fields and an anonymous, strange-looking man waved to me as he walked by. Without thinking twice, I said to my friend, “That guy looks like a turkey,” but my friend didn’t laugh. Instead, he told me it was Harry. Naturally, I felt guilty and tried complimenting my turkey crush to compensate for my embarrassment.

If I’d had some guidance, or at least a picture of beardless Harry, I wouldn’t have dated him. In a relationship, being attracted to the other person is important and I’m not attracted to boys who could be mistaken for turkeys. From that day on, I started setting standards and making theories to follow. My first one was the “Beard Theory.”

The Beard Theory states that facial hair, beards especially, can be deceitful. Why? Because beards can be removed. Yes, some people look fine with or without a beard, and that’s great, but then there are the turkeys or the infamous baby-faced boys.

In college, a lot of people get lazier later in the semester. As a result of this laziness, a lot of guys don’t shave because it’s easier to manage. For someone who likes beards, this laziness is seen as an improvement for looks, but it’s not for everyone. Ultimately, beards are a personal preference. 

According to a 2012 joint study done by the universities of Wellington and Lethbridge, women are more attracted to beards, not for being attractive, but for having seemingly attractive qualities. The bearded men in this study were perceived as older, successful and more aggressive.

In this study, women claimed that the men, on average, appeared five years older than their actual age. For a younger-looking face, a beard can be a major improvement, giving someone the ability to look like an upperclassmen and avoid the baby-faced stage.  

This study also found that the bearded men had a higher perceived social status, making them appear more successful. By coming across as older and more successful, college guys can use how they look with a beard to leave a memorable first impression with the people they meet. At the same time, leaving a good impression isn’t solely based off of having a well-kept beard, a lot more is put into the equation. 

The first impressions of the bearded men in the study were that they appeared more aggressive in pictures where they had beards over ones where they didn’t. Aggression doesn’t necessarily translate to being intimidating, instead, it can refer to masculinity. Being manly can be attractive, especially in relationships, because it offers a sense of security. So if the statistics are right, male students can take advantage of this by looking manlier without actually being stronger or tougher. 

Maybe it was a mistake to date someone solely for their beard. But if I learned anything, I learned how effective my Beard Theory was. The next time I meet someone with a beard, I’ll say, “Hi, I like your beard. So tell me about yourself.” It isn’t the perfect pickup line, but hopefully I can avoid another turkey crush.