If you're a man with the ability to grow facial hair and you haven't tried it even once in the past decade, then you really are one of the 1%. The 90s saw an all-pervading trend for the clean-shaven look and it lasted well into the noughties. However, sometime around 2010, facial hair crept back into the mainstream. It started with a little stubble and quite quickly blew up into big bushy beards. Since its first peak, the big beard trend has slowed down considerably. However, after the lazy lockdown looks of the last couple of years, it seems like we might be gearing up to reach peak beard all over again. Whether you're proud of your magnificent man fuzz, or couldn't think of anything worse than having a hairy face, it pays to be up to date on matters of everything male grooming. So, here's the lowdown.
The First Time Around
Experts in the Western hemisphere agree that peak beard hit around 2014. It was at this point that the hipster subculture was at its height and as such, a lot of us were sporting way more facial hair than usual. The trend was pervasive, catching people from all walks of life, be it competitive gamers, sportspeople, musicians, or that guy who works at the coffee shop. In fact, allegedly there was not a single guy that worked in a coffee shop who did not sport a beard in 2014. You can probably Google it, or something? What is fascinating about this though, is how exactly we got there. It turns out that hipsters aren't exclusively to blame and it might be more down to our hard-wired evolutionary instincts.
How Did We Get There?
Evolutionary biologists believe that the beard craze grew so rapidly because so few people sported one beforehand. Sometimes when looking for a potential 'mate', we are attracted to scarcity. If very few people have beards, then people find those select few who do have beards more attractive. Scientists in Australia studied exactly this idea and found it to be true. Novel and rare traits are indeed found sexually attractive more often than common traits. The theory is that clean-shaven men began to notice bearded men receiving more attention and so the beard trend began.
However, as the beard trend grew, the clean-shaven look became the rarer trait. By the time peak beard hit in 2014, in some areas, it was significantly more common to have a beard, or at least some facial hair, than to be clean-shaven. Thus began the reversal of the trend, as men began to notice that those with less facial hair were receiving more attention. Of course, the rise to peak beard was not fueled by sexual desire alone, but also hyper-masculine advertising, bearded male models, and the push for making a profit from beard grooming products. It seems that peak beard was both achieved and abolished by the two things that are said to make the world go round, money and sex.
Is it Coming Back?
Caption: There's nothing wrong with wanting to keep your facial hair, but a little grooming goes a long way
Though the beard trend spent a good five years or so dying out, the beginning of 2020 spurred it back on in an unusual way. With more of us working from home and also spending less time socializing, the need for grooming seemed to become less of a focus for us men. Whilst some of us were happy to let the five o'clock shadow continue to grow for a few more hours, others reverted right back to not bothering to shave at all. The change has been far slower this time around and with more of us getting back to the office, it remains to be seen if the beards will be lost once more.
Whatever happens to the trend, if you personally have spent the past year or so growing that face fuzz, then you might be a little too attached to it to want to let go just yet. There are plenty of ways to maintain your facial hair so that you can look tidy, but enjoy a slightly lower maintenance grooming regime. Whether the beard maketh the man remains to be seen, but if you're going to have one, then make it a majestic one.