A question has been on the minds of trend followers and barbershop patrons for years: have we reached peak beard yet?
This grooming craze kicked off about a decade ago but the past few years have been huge for lumbersexuals.
But as the hipster look went mainstream, people started predicting that facial hair would fade as fast as their hairlines. But it hasn’t. And it won’t, at least not entirely, according to those on the frontlines. In partnership with Wahl, we investigate the hairy question.
The beard is here to stay
“Beards are still very on-trend,” says Dylan Portner, co-owner and director of education at Glassbox Barbershop in Toronto. “They’re changing, but they’re not going away anytime soon.”
The beginning of the trend coincided with the 2007-2008 global financial crisis, and researchers have theorized that men started growing beards (often a sign of masculinity) to gain an advantage over their peers in the precarious job market.
In a study entitled “Beards and the big city,” researchers found that beards are more common in cities with larger populations, where there’s often more competition for jobs and mates.
“A beard is a social amplifier of masculinity within the context of a crowded environment where you’re trying to get ahead,” explains Barnaby Dixson, one of the authors of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Queensland in Australia.
On the other hand, Portner thinks the trend started as a rebellion against shaving. Workplaces became more casual and men embraced the laidback look, wearing jeans instead of suits and beards instead of baby-faces, he says.
Facial hair as a status symbol
It grew from there—literally and figuratively. Beards got bigger and bigger, becoming a status symbol.
“Guys thought the bigger your beard, the more masculine you are,” explains Luca Pigliarolo, a stylist at Frattelli’s Salon in Thornhill, Ont. “It wasn’t until we started shaping beards to accentuate men’s facial features that they really became fashion forward.”
Since then, beards have gone through many manly iterations—there was the mountain man, the moustache and even beards bedazzled with glitter.
Celebrities like Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Gosling got on board and helped shape the style. The most recent Avengers film was the first in which all the superheroes had facial hair, Portner points out, a testament to its enduring appeal. Bucky Barnes has groomed stubble, Black Panther looks slick in a box beard and Doctor Strange rocks a goatee.
Indeed, the popularity of beards has held steady because they make men look sexy and stylish, garner a ton of compliments and are appealing to potential partners.
In a 2016 study published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, Dixson discovered that women find men with facial hair more attractive than those without.
Women show the strongest preference for heavy stubble, followed by light stubble and full beards. Clean-shaved gentlemen ranked the lowest on the sexy scale.
In another study, published in 2014 in the Journal of Biology Letters, Dixson and his colleagues report that women and men find men with beards more attractive when facial hair is less popular and clean-shaven guys sexier when they’re surrounded by bearded brethren, suggesting there’s an advantage to standing out.
“When it comes to the craze with growing beards, it could reach a saturation point and drop off,” Dixson says. “If everyone’s bearded, where’s the uniqueness or distinctiveness?”
For now, men are still sporting facial hair in large numbers, but beards are much more refined.
“We’ve definitely seen the fall of the big burly beard. People are going much shorter, much more stubbly,” says Portner, adding that a lot of his clients are opting for sharp lines or a faded look.
So have we reached peak beard? Some argue that beards are here to stay. Just like jeans, facial hair will always be fashionable, but the styles will shift. Jeggings and Grizzly Adams are out, and faded jeans and beards are in.
“I don’t think beards are ever going to go away because they can take so many different shapes and sizes,” says Pigliarolo. “A beard adds to a man’s overall look and becomes part of his identity. Guys are hanging on to their beards for that simple reason.”
“Whether or not you choose to embrace the beard, the WAHL Lithium Ion Trimmer ensures every man is as sharp as he can be. Learn more here. Note: all men interviewed for this article have beards.