History and Evolution of Beards

Old man with moustache and sideburns

History and Evolution of Beards

We jump into a time machine. Searching for answers to explain the Science, Biology and History behind the facial hair. You see a forest, where a pack of animals is hunting for prey. They have human-like characteristics, such as long limbs, they walk upright with enough control not to fall on their face all the time, and they have the stupid grin that we have when we are strolling home after a bit longer Friday night than we were prepared for. They look like a cross-breed between a man and a monkey. Like everyone knows, at first we were REALLY hairy and did a few years of monkeying around. Then we decided to evolve a bit and lose some of our fur. Badam, and we are back to the present moment. So, what do we have in common with our hairy ape ancestors? After thousands of years we still have some of that same fur on us. Why is this?

Why did we lose our body hair?

There are many theories about why the human lost its body hair and below are a few of them explained shortly.

1. Aquatic-ape. This hypothesis suggests that there was a phase in our development, when our apelike ancestors lived a semiaquatic lifestyle, where they searched food from shallow waters. Fur is a bad insulator in water. That is why fur was lost and replaced with layers of body fat, like with other aquatic mammals. Though this theory has usually been debunked for not having enough strong evidence behind it.

2. Savannah adaptation. Our ape ancestors spend most of their time foraging in the forests, but then they evolved and started to hunt in the savannah. There upright walking ape running after its prey would be heated up, so for a more cost-effective body heat control we had to evolve out of most of our body hair.

3. Parasite and pathogen theory. My personal favorite. This theory suggests that because fur and body hair provides a great home for different kinds of external parasites, it is better to live without it. Evolutionary selection steered more and more towards the bare skinned. Bare skin is easier to keep clean, and due to our ancestors mastering the use of fire, we would not freeze to death during cold nights. This enabled us to live without a coat of fur warming us. If you have ever played the post-apocalyptic computer game, called Fallout, you might remember the mole rats. Yeah, those nasty, naked burrowing rat creatures living underground. They live in large colonies and that creates perfect conditions for parasites and pathogens. But, there are not as many parasites there as one might assume. The rats are completely free of fur, and survive the cold by bundling into a heap of wrinkly rat skin. Awesome!

Why did we keep some of our body hair? 

You might ask. And I shall answer you! Or at least throw some theories at you.

Beards are characterized as secondary sexual characteristics. Sex characteristics appear at sexual maturity. These are believed to display fitness ( individuals’ reproductive success ). This is because facial hair does not play a straight role in reproduction and is mainly displayed in men. Charles Darwin was the first to suggest that sexual selection may have led to beards. This suggestion has been debated always, many display evidence in their studies that majority of females find men with beards more attractive, while other studies claim that a clean-shaven man is more attractive.

We of course do not support these claims of clean-shaven faces being more attractive. We encourage you to grow the facial hair that you have always dreamed of, the more you like your looks, the more confident you will be, and that is the secret of  appearing attractive to other people too! And hey, it has also been proved that the facial hair is beneficial to your health! Studies have shown that facial hair helps to protect your skin from the harmful UV-rays. Those hairs on your face can block up to 95% of UV rays. Nice. Facial hair could also help with asthma, as pollen and dust get stuck into your facial hair, thus preventing them from continuing their way into your lungs. This way beard protects those precious and vital little buddies inside of you.

There has also been some studies, which say that beards are a form of signaling messages to other males. The one bearing more awesome beard and moustache is the stronger male. More aggressive and ready to mate at a momen’s notice. According to few studies, male beardedness is associated with being sexually mature and it is said to signal aggressive dominance to other males. In the other hand, the same studies conclude that a beard is a sign of lower social maturity, and women think men with facial hair are less attractive. Though from browsing through a few of these studies one can see, that the set up is not really flattering for the bearded fellows. Showing bad or modified pictures of unshaven men do not tend to look attractive. Just like bad and modified pictures of clean-shaven men tend to look funny to the human eye. Many other studies also contradict with these notions, saying that a more bearded fellow is more likely to be perceived as trustworthy guy and a natural leader. But enough of this side tracking, in the future I will dive into these peer-reviewed publications about facial hair more thoroughly!

Remember that these are just some theories about our furry evolution history and we do not really have a clear explanation for it. How interesting!

Since the ancient days of human civilization many people have sported some sort of a beard or a moustache. Delving into dusty history books shows that beards and facial hair seems to go in and out of style in cycles. Countless rulers, artists, sportsmen, legendary warriors and ordinary folk have carried and displayed their facial hair proudly. This has been recorded in lores, stories, history books, and immortalized in paintings and old pictures. Why men want to have a mustache or a beard? This all can not be explained by looking beards through the biology-lense, we have to dive into culture, history and modern day perceptions of beard. These are one of the many things I will write about in the future. Stay tuned and remember, Tame the Hair, not the Beast!

About the Author

Antti O.


The bearded overlord of Ahma Beard Products.

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