Here's a question you rarely see asked on beard care blogs: why do men grow beards in the first place?
And yet, this is quite an important question to ask. After all, knowing the evolutionary purpose of the beard may help shed some light on how best to take care of it – even how to style it.
The answer, it turns out, is less straightforward than it seems. Charles Darwin, for instance, theorized that beards “had the power to attract women. Over the millennia, the theory goes, bearded men were more successful in procreation than their smoother competitors, and the human beard evolved into its present form. In short, men now have beards because our prehistoric female ancestors liked them.”
The obvious counterpoint to this theory, though, and one which Darwin noted himself, is that not all men actually grow beards – not full ones, anyway. Certain ethnic groups are considerably more likely to be able to grow full beards than others. And even within ethnic groups, there are great variations. So the idea that beards answer to some universal evolutionary pressure seems unlikely. Another counterpoint? Beards have not always been considered desirable, and even outside the realm of current fashion, in many cultures it has been traditional to remove them by shaving or even (ouch) plucking. The ancient Eygptians, for instance, were famously clean shaven; and patrician Romans often were as well.
But surely there must be something to them, or else they would not occur, in one form or another, so commonly. As the BBC explains, “A man’s ability to grow a fulsome beard isn’t actually neatly linked to his testosterone levels. Despite this, a number of studies have suggested that both men and women perceive men with beards as older, stronger and more aggressive than others. And dominant men can get more mating opportunities by intimidating rivals to stand aside.” So maybe, if this line of thinking is correct, beards are not so much about making a man more attractive, as they are about making him seem (if unconsciously) more dominant.
Which would mean, oddly, that beards are as much – or more – a communication between men as between men and women. This would corroborate the gist of other research that has found that traits associated with dominance often benefit men in other social arenas as well.
So, as things currently stand, there is no solid consensus on why men have beards. But what is indisputable is that beards are important social signifiers; one that, at the very least as fashion accessories, can do a lot to influence the way a man is perceived by others. And for this reason, it's vital that anyone who owns one do his best to keep his beard well cared for (after all, one thing no one wants to signal is bad hygiene).
And those are two things we definitely know about here at Scruffy Jack's. We offer a range of beard care products so that, whatever it is your beard is for, it'll look good doing it. For shorter beards, or those who are looking mostly to keep their beards moisturized and fresh, we offer Scruffy Jack's beard oil in two refreshing scents. We also offer beard balm for high-control styling of longer beards (and hair!). Not sure whether you need an oil, a wax, or both? Check out our article on the difference between them here. And whether you choose to wear your beard short and trim, or long and luxurious, just remember that, historically, you're in good company!