Beard trend is ‘guided
The pattern mirrors an evolutionary phenomenon "negative frequency dependent sexual selection", or to put it more simply "an advantage to rare traits".
The bright colours of male guppies vary by this force which is driven by females’ changing preferences.
Scientists at the University of New South Wales decided to test this hypothesis for men’s facial hair recruiting volunteers on their Facebook site, The Sex Lab.
Luckily in real life, we never mate with an average. We mate with an individualProf Rob Brooks, University of New South Wales
"The idea is that perhaps people start copying the George Clooneys and the Joaquin Phoenixs and start wearing those beards, but then when more and more people get onto the bandwagon the value of being on the bandwagon diminishes, so that might be why we’ve hit ‘peak beard’."
"Peak beard" was the climax of the trend for beards in professions not naturally associated with a bristly chin bankers, film stars, and even footballers began sporting facial hair.
Some say the Rubicon was crossed in January when Jeremy Paxman, the BBC Newsnight presenter, shaved his beard off, saying "beards are SO 2013".
Paxman’s beard which briefly trended on Twitter sparked a debate about pogonophobia the fear of beards.
Media captionMinutes after the news programme started on BBC Two, the phrase "Paxman beard" had become a trending topic on the social media site.
In this latest experiment, 1,453 women and 213 men were asked to rate the attractiveness of different samples of men’s faces.
When Greece’s economy tanked did beards take off? That’s something we’re going to look atProf Rob Brooks, University of New South Wales
Some were shown mostly "full" beards. Others were shown mostly clean shaven faces. A third group were shown an even mixture of all four varieties clean shaven, light stubble, heavy stubble and full beard.
Both women and men judged heavy stubble and full beards more attractive when they were rare than when they were common. And likewise for clean shaven faces.
Negative frequency dependent preferences may therefore contribute to changing beard fashions, Prof Brooks concluded.
"We know beards go through cyclical fashions. People used to speak about a 30 year timescale," he said.
"There is a wonderful paper studying photographs of men from 1871 to 1972 in the Illustrated London News. Sideburns moved on to moustaches, then full beards.
"In the 1970s
facebook besthairbuy it was handlebar moustaches. In the 80s it was Magnum PI moustaches. In the 90s we saw a lot of clean shaven men, and now big bushy beards are back."
The recent boom may have its roots in the financial crisis of 2008, Prof Brooks suggests.
"I think one of the reasons beards have made a comeback now is that it’s a difficult time.
With female hair colour, there is speculation that red, brown and blonde spread via their noveltyProf Rob Brooks, University of New South Wales