Evolutionarily, what is the point of beard? Children, females, and men of all kinds can work without it. But nowadays, no matter what street you walk, you'll find well-maintained (and poorly-maintained) facial hair of all sizes and shapes, from designer designer stubbles to waxed moustaches and hipster beards. You will meet.
Seeing men paying attention to their appearance makes it easy to guess that they are just looking for a partner. However, our research on beards and voices shows that beards have probably evolved, at least in part, to help men improve their status among other men.
Compared to many other primate males and females, males and females look very different on average, partly due to the hair on the male's face. And when looking at the differences between males and females, the explanation is often summarized in evolution by sexual selection. This is a process that supports traits that improve mating opportunities.
But interestingly, women don't seem to care much about their beards. Some studies have found that women prefer less or more hair on men's faces, while others report preferring a cleanly shaved look. The lack of consistent evidence means that it is not possible to conclude that the beard has evolved because the woman was attracted to the beard.
Therefore, researchers have suggested that a second type of sexual selection may provide an answer. To breed, it is often not enough to be attractive. They also have to compete with the same sex for mating opportunities. The funny and shy guy behind the bar doesn't have the opportunity to compete with his brave brothers otherwise. And there is evidence that the beard has evolved to help men do it.
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. This is something that holds true both in modern times and throughout human history. Dominance can provide a staggering shortcut to mating opportunities: genetic evidence indicates that about 8% of the male population of Asia today is a descendent of Genghis Khan and his family. A study by the well-named Nigel Barber linked British facial hair fashion from 1842 to 1971 to the proportion of men and women in the marriage market. It turns out that beards and mustaches were prevalent at a time when the majority of single men were competing for a few women.
It's not just the beard that can convey the dominance. So is the voice. People tend to choose voice leaders, and men lower the pitch of their voice during competitive work when they think they are more dominant than their opponents. Like the hair on the face, the pitch of the voice makes a slight distinction between men and women. To understand the origins of beard and voice evolution, we tested whether they were considered attractive, dominant, or both. We asked 20 men and 20 women to evaluate the superiority and attractiveness of the 6 men who had their facial hairs and were videotaped four times. Then I used computer software to create four versions of each video. In this version, the male voice has been changed to be heard up and down. It turns out that the male voice, which sounds lower than average, was rated as the most attractive. Really low and high sounds weren't very popular. In contrast, the male voice was perceived to be more dominant as it deepened. Whiskers did not consistently affect the attractiveness of men, but in line with previous studies, it was recognized that those with facial hair were more dominant than others.