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What All Bearded Musicians Should Know


Have you noticed how many people in bands have grown beards lately? From Iron and Wine’s Sam Beam to Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold, Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos, Les Savy Fav’s Tim Harrington, Fucked Up’s Damian Abraham, Ray LaMontagne, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ Alex Ebert, Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell, The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach,… I mean I could continue till tomorrow, there are tons of them, and more and more of them it seems.

Beards are nothing new of course, they were very trendy at the end of the 19th century, but far less popular mid 20th century. However, according to the New York Times, the beard re-emerged in full force a few years ago (around 2005) among Brooklyn hipsters… I can say that they are in full bloom among Silver Lake residents and Silver Lake is the hipster capital. Apparently, you can even have facial hair transplants now, and they could cost up to $8,500 according to the NY post! But why do all these men want with this out-of-control facial hair? They want to attract the attention? They should be more careful because this is not what science says.

The blog Sex, Genes & Rock’ n’ Roll gives a very scientific approach of the beard phenomenon and explains that the current trend is not working to hipsters’ advantage anymore. According to evolutionary studies on guppies (a small fish) a rare combinations of colored spots represent a double advantage for males: they are less likely to be preyed on and more likely to mate. But, because of natural selection, this rare combination soon doesn’t stay rare, and obviously the females become less interested. In other terms, a trait is regarded as good or bad, depending on how common it is. The idea is simple and it may be tempting to generalize, and it was in fact tested on humans: subjects were asked to rate 36 faces of men with different levels of beardedness from clean-shaven faces to full bearded faces. When clean-shaven faces were rare, they were considered as the most attractive ones and when full beards were rare, they were regarded as the most attractive ones! That’s simple, we reacted the same way than these female fish, not very surprisingly, and bearded hipsters should know that.

Beards are getting old, there are too many of them and girls are tired of them already – I have never, never liked them actually. Still, there are beards and beards, some are bushy and hirsute (the worst ones) others are well kept and more studies are required to see if the goatee, the Van Dyke, the chin curtain, the Hollywoodian (many many styles)… are still regarded as rare and thus favored by women! I hate all of them but that’s just me, beards are a statement, they want to affirm masculinity and manliness, or translate a sort of nostalgia for the good old times when every man was a lumberjack living in the woods…. Isn’t it Bon Iver’s shtick? Beards also can give an hippie/new messiah aura (Alex Ebert), build a teddy-bear-inside-a-tough guy character (Damian Abraham) or even give that false intellectual with a musketeer groomed look (Kanye West). However, beards are too common, too numerous, too ubiquitous, and too much! Beards are not a testimony of how much testosterone men have in their body, they are an accessory like this vintage cardigan. Real bearded men get up and hipsters go get a shave!

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