Evolutionary Theory Of The Week

Lockdown has been an unsettling time for pogonophobes. With hair salons out of bounds, more and more men are sporting the Bob Geldof wildman look.

I had always thought that growing a beard was a sign of men getting in touch again with their primal side. Facial hair is natural and in the absence of a safety razor, it was safe to assume that early members of the Homo sapiens species sported flourishing beards for no other reason than that.

That was until I flicked through the pages of that invaluable organ, Integrative Organismal Biology, and, specifically, an article detailing the research conducted by some biologists, Ethan Beseris, Steven Naleway and Dave Carrier.

They conducted some experiments to test whether the presence of a beard enabled a man to more easily absorb a blow to the face. Using a skull covered in different types of sheepskin to represent styles of beard, trimmed, shaggy etc, they dropped a weight on to the chin, and measured the force via load cell.

What they found was that that “the peak force was 16 per cent greater and the total energy absorbed was 37 per cent greater in the shaggy sample rather than the trimmed one”. This finding has led them to conclude that man developed the beard to give extra protection in a battle.

My theory is that men were then as they are now, inherently lazy and relishing the extra five minutes in bed that dispensing with a shave gives them.

Scientists, eh!

One thought on “Evolutionary Theory Of The Week”

  1. I can well believe that before the invention of steel, shaving was considered an onerous task best avoided, though the Romans and, I think, the Ancient Egyptians, seem to have managed it with whatever alloys they had. (The existence of false Pharaohnic beards, suggests that Pharaoh shaved and used a falsy for ceremonial occasions.)

    One theory concerning the wearing of beards in the modern era suggests that when the fashion is for clean-shaven male faces, the bearded man stands out and attracts attention. Conversely, when beards are in fashion, it is the clean-shaven visage that draws notice. Egotists, take note.

    The situation today is rather strange. In my experience a simple safety razor with a disposable blade does the job perfectly well but the men’s counters of shops are packed with razors and electric shavers of stunning complexity. Floating heads are the very least you expect to find in the modern “male grooming” kit. It seems that having a face that is hard to shave, whether real or claimed, is essential to some men’s self-exteem.

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