What does a beard mean?

Quiggin3.jpg

John Quiggin’s full black beard is probably the most famous in Australian blogdom. Prominently displayed on his blog‘s masthead, the beard attracts regular commentnot all of it favorable. Recently two postgraduate researchers at the University of London reported that, among UK academics, beard wearing is associated with higher status (pdf). In explaining their findings they suggested that beards may be a signal of masculinity, strength, and aggressiveness. But are these the kind of traits we usually associate with Santa Claus or garden gnomes?

Whatever signals a beard sends it’s probably not as direct as telling the world its wearer is tripping on testosterone. While politicians seem keen on displays of strength and aggressiveness few male politicians seem keen on signaling these traits by growing beards. Why is that? And if long white beards signal wisdom and learning why don’t voters want a President or Prime Minister who looks like Albus Dumbledore or Galdalf?

In a paper for the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, Nigel Barber suggests that historically men have grown facial hair to enhance their marriage prospects but shaved when they wanted to create an impression of trustworthiness. According to this account, facial hair is intended to increase physical attractiveness to women and signal social status. So I suppose this means that a wife or partner ought to be suspicious if her previously clean-shaven husband grows a beard and starts traveling frequently for work.

I’m yet to be convinced that facial hair attracts women but I’d be interested to know what readers think. And now that Mark’s back on the market, maybe he could do with some advice.

Note: A number of bloggers, including John Quiggin linked to media reports about the study on facial hair and academic status. These included The Cranky Professor, Margaret Soltan and The Australian University Guide. I found it at Quiggin’s.

 

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Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

If you wanna whip out Occam’s razor here, I’d suggest hiding weak chins and basic laziness in avoiding the daily scraping might also be key factors in raising and operating a beard.

Hence too perhaps, the rise of goatees and/or shaven heads among men who’d otherwise look a lot less defined with a receding hairline and/or a jawline like beach erosion.

For the record, I shaved on Saturday arvo and I don’t doubt that Cap’n Quiggin would look just as butch clean-shaven.

C.L.
2022 years ago

Peter Beattie shaved his upper lip when he got serious about becoming Premier of Queensland. I think it has less to do with power than it has with a stuffy semi-monastic sign of academic brotherhood.

Re power:

Our last bearded PM was Joseph Cook (1913-14), our last with a rotary was Billy Hughes (1915-23).

The last bearded President was Benjamin Harrison (1889-93), moustachiod – William Taft (1909-13).

Bearded Brit: Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, Marquess of Salisbury (last term 1895-02); mo: Harold Macmillan (1957-63).

New Zealand: Helen Clarke: (1999-).

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

The only photo of me with a beard is far scarier than any of JQ so I don’t think I’ll go there, Don!

david tiley
2022 years ago

There are plenty of recent kings with beards, but the point of being a king is that you get the goodies without a popular vote.

I suspect women don’t much like beards. The origin of the current fascination for follicular Brazilians is very very murky, but it may be seen as an upside down version of the desire for a clean shaven face. Though the uses of fully visible lips on a place more usually displayed in public are much more obvious.

It is true that bare faces communicate more. In my case, having a beard is simply safer, as anyone who has seen me in the bathroom of a morning will testify.

I wonder if this post will survive the spam software, or has an entire nation been banished from the domain of comments?

John Quiggin
John Quiggin
2022 years ago

How about some comments on my new (putatively improved) beard?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Strangely enough, Brazilians don’t seem to generate blog spam. It’s probably because it’s not at all obvious how you would go about delivering a pube-waxing job over the Internet. I don’t get spam offering to repair my car or paint my house either.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

John

It strikes me as a tad Rasputin-like, albeit fuller and more groomed. Personally I preferred the old Ned Kelly look.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

JQ if you don’t shave it off ASIO might apprehend you as the leader of the local AQ brotherhood~

sophie
sophie
2022 years ago

Well, my husband’s been bearded and beardless. I foubd him very sexy both ways! It does change a man’s face but not his appeal. I first met him when he was beardless–thought he was pretty cute–but I was already married then(I was a child-bride at 19!)–met him two years later again when he had a beard–didn’t even recognise him at first–but found him just as attractive. And by that time my first marriage was down the tubes, and the rest as they say is history.
He shaved his beard off again about eight years ago because he was fed up of it itching and scratching. He did it in stages so as not to frighten the kids! First a goatee, then a moustache, and then the full clean shaven deal. The kids were very chary at first but soon got used to it. (Now they laugh at his bearded pictures!)And I think it rejuvenated his face. but he was just as attractive to me with a beard as not.
Whether that’s typical of women or not I have no idea. It’s just an individual’s reaction..

James Russell
2022 years ago

“my husband’s been bearded and beardless”

*tries not to read innuendo into this statement*

John Quiggin
John Quiggin
2022 years ago

The best explanation of academic beards, from the Australian University Guide, is that stroking them is an aid to solemn thought.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

Doesn’t stroking them generate static electricity though John? You’d wouldn’t look very solemn with someone’s term paper stuck to your face.

James Farrell
James Farrell
2022 years ago

Anti-beard 1: I wore a beard for a year when I was 25. One day the old Italian lady next door said: ‘What did you grow that beard for? You look like an old man. Shave it off. You might get a pretty girl.’ I thought anything was worth trying.

Anti-beard 2: Possibly Roald Dahl’s least attractive character is Mr Twitt. It says on the back cover that Dahl had already resolved by age 16 to one day ‘do something against beards’.

That said, a beardless Quiggin is as unthinkable as a beardless Haddock.

I think beards are a bit like South African accents: they heighten whatever feeling you already have about a person. If you already think they’re a fool or a phoney, the beard will ake them that more irritating. But if you think someone’s a great intellect and all round decent bloke, you’ll love the beard too.

derrida derider
derrida derider
2022 years ago

FWIW, when a young man I found my strike rate with women was definitely higher after I grew a full beard (though admittedly the rise was off a pretty low base).

Did the paper about beards and academic status control for age? If not, it may just be picking up the impact of changing fashion (older academics grew a beard when it was fashionable, older academics tend to have higher status).

Vee
Vee
2022 years ago

Doesn’t barry jones have a beard?

Gianna
2022 years ago

I don’t know much about beards but I know that I like them. I’m sure I’m in a minority because the male norm is for shaved faces but for me there’s just something primally attractive about beards. They trigger associations with cavemen or vikings so definitely rugged masculinity. Not necessarily power, but strength. I guess I like the outdoor, woolly-mammoth killing type. Especially indoors.
But they have to be good beards. Nothing worse than convincing a boyfriend to grow a beard only to have him grow some pathetic wispy fuzz and you’re secretly thinking, shave it off, shave it all off baby….

and….david Tiley and your upside down face..i’m still laughing….

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

“shave it off, shave it all off baby….”

that’s what boys are always saying to me about getting a Brazilian, Gianna. but I suspect the experience of shaving off a beard isn’t as unpleasant…

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

hmmm, I thought maybe by talking about whether or not I have a Brazilian might recreate that same locker room atmosphere we had on the thread about nipple and genital piercings :)

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

then let me start the ball rolling. yellow.
what sort of man wants a shaven ***** anyway? no fun

Fyodor
2022 years ago

Well, I was going to comment, then got the “Sad tidings” and thought it might be a bit gauche.

Seeing as you’re up for it, so to speak, what IS the lesbian-identified view on going Brazilian in Tassie? And, on the general subject of pubic grooming, what’s the view on the ridiculous “landing strip” coiffure?

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

no fun, Jason? lots of guys complain about pubic hairs in their teeth!

arguments against Brazilian – infantilises women, hurts a lot

arguments for – shows off genital piercings

that’s only a non-exhaustive list!

Fyodor, naah, I need the distraction! personally, I see no point in landing strips – no half measures I say, either Brazilian or nice and hairy (but neatly trimmed like John Quiggin of course)… not sure if that’s the general lesbian-identified view.

I’d be interested – seriously – if anyone knows of any research into why Brazilians have become massively popular…

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

this infantilising trend sounds sinister …

“no fun, Jason? lots of guys complain about pubic hairs in their teeth!”

these men are obviously less than cunning as linguists (sorry, couldn’t resist)

Fyodor
2022 years ago

“no fun, Jason? lots of guys complain about pubic hairs in their teeth!”

I didn’t realise men were getting their teeth so involved in the process…wouldn’t that hurt? By the way, Jason, I think it’s called a “vagina”.

I agree with you on the landing strip, but I’m not sure that JQ has modelled his whiskers on the ole map o’ Tassie, though he does claim it’s “improved” [how? aerodynamically? less soup caught?].

That research idea could be a real winner: get funding and I know of one PhD candidate who’s a dead cert for the “field research”.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

” didn’t realise men were getting their teeth so involved in the process…wouldn’t that hurt? By the way, Jason, I think it’s called a “vagina”

??? what did you think I was talking about, Fyodor??

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

I think it’s more a matter of where hairs end up afterwards… as you know, a tongue is involved and tongues have a habit of being located close to teeth…

I’ll leave you boys to it for the moment – have just called a cab to go to see a specialist…

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

pubic hair is the quintessence of sexuality in full bloom in a woman. men who want it all clean and cut down there are … shall I say sound somewhat creepy?

being agile and quick of tongue while avoiding entanglements is what the fun is all about.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Come on Jason, cut it out. I’ve just had a late lunch at my desk. Fish almondine.

Polly
Polly
2022 years ago

Yellow, maybe the attraction is that it infantilises (god I’m glad I didn’t have to say that I could hardly get my tongue around typing it).
Its either that or it makes it easier to find where they should be.

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

I’m hoping the latter, Polly :)

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

I’ve posted this piece of original verse on my very old blog before and with Don Arthur’s indulgence (after all, this is a frivolous blog entry to begin with) will do so again since it seems highly pertinent to our discussion of teeth getting tangled up with pubic hair.

The Cunning Linguist

While limply lay the libido’s anchor,
The lover’s lyric, flew from mouth,
Dabbled in dew frayed
From his lady’s forest fiefdom fair,
Leered lovingly a-while, then,
Tongue-tied in tender tresses
And petulant pink petal caresses,
Lashed Letheward through the lush lair
To his Lady’s rolled tongue.
Clit-crazed, it piped Pan’s priapic prelude
To which they danced lip to lip.

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

further on the advantages of a Brazilian, it shows off nicely any tattoos one might have on the mons pubis…

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

If we’re gonna be bearding eachother on this hair-raising subject, could we have at least a whisker of decency here. Especially you Jason, posting that bit of posey…without accrediting the author.

When it comes to tonsurial tastes downunder, personally I’m pretty unruffled either way. As long as they’re above room temperature, that’s the main thing.

Tho’ there is somethe to be said for a lady (or man) who lets nature take its course in such coarse matters. Especially if you’ve been taught to floss after eating.

Amanda
2022 years ago

Any joy I could have taken in Princess Mary’s fairytale was dashed when I read an account of that famous night at the Slip Inn.

Fred was with some cousin or other, a Prince of Spain or Greece, I don’t recall. Mary was with a friend and was unfavourable towards the other bloke because of his body hair. But smooth shiny, Fred — oh my!

Mary was dead to me then. I say, a hairless chest and/or face, what’s the point?

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

Does Fred wax, Amanda?

Irant
2022 years ago
Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

” Especially you Jason, posting that bit of posey…without accrediting the author.”

Sorry, Nabs, while I’ll grant you original authorship of that overrated piece of juvenilia presumably featuring sparsely-haired pudendum called … what is it again? ‘Dolores’?, any perfunctory research through the archives of Hono Soit circa 1990s will demonstrate that that paean to the virtues of oral discourse among lovers was authored under one of my many pseudonyms

Amanda
2022 years ago

“Does Fred wax, Amanda?”

I certainly wouldn’t it put it past him.

Thanks Irant, I will now only refer to Mary as Her Royal Pogonophobist.

Gianna
2022 years ago

ah, interesting thread!

yellowvinyl–i reckon there should be a rule where whoever wants the other person to have a Brazilian should have to have one themselves first. and..gulp…people have tattoos down there? far out.

as for motive for shaving women, i think it has less to do with infantilising (since i don’t reckon the majority of men would truly find that such a turn-on) but more to do with simple curiosity–the fact that men (and i dunno, lesbians too?) are generally very visual creatures and perhaps they just want to get a better look at everything.

btw, jason, girls get pubic hairs in their mouths too, but do they send their bloke down to the salon to have their entire tackle dipped in hot wax and all the hairs ripped out? no, we just grin and bare it.

to drag the subject back to the safety of men’s beards for a second if i may–I just wanted to pass on to John Q that I do find his new beard an improvement now that it’s all nice and neat all over. kind of sean connery!

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

Gianna, yeah, I like JQ’s new beard shape better too!

on baring it, women are visual creatures too, but sometimes men can’t find the wood for the trees and a bit of clear felling helps the poor dears find the right button to push (apologies for mixed metaphor) :)

haven’t actually seen any tattoos “down there” with my own eyes (though I have encountered genital piercings), I’m going on the visual information I get from http://www.suicidegirls.com :)