When you are thinking about growing a beard one of the first things you worry about is – what is this going to say about me to the people around me? There is no doubt that beards can be perceived as either good or bad things depending on who you talk to. My beard has contributed to very polarized opinions and reactions. Some people absolutely hate my beard and tell me to remove it. Others say that it’s trendy and cool… I guess I just can’t please everyone – and you shouldn’t try to either. In this article we’re going to talk about what does having a beard symbolize? And what science has to say about beards.
According to science having a beard symbolizes patience, potential aggression, amplified happiness, the ability to forge your own path, and that you care about what you look like. There are also a number of religious symbolic reasons that a man may grow a beard.
There is no doubt that in popular culture having a beard symbolises strength, assertiveness, and a slight ruggedness in the characters that have a beard. Maybe it is a throwback to our wild days or potentially it is just Hollywood changing our perception of what a beard is and what it tells us about the person wearing a beard. Now, I’m going to have a look at the evidence of what a beard says about you and what it symbolises.
What does a beard say about you?
A beard is a very simple thing. It is simply the emergence of hair on the upper lip cheeks chin and neck. But the thing is that everyone’s beard is different. You may have patches you may have a curly beard you may have a dark beard – a beard puts you on show. That can be either a good thing or a bad thing depending on what your beard looks like and the opinions of the person looking at it. There are a few things that are arguably irrefutable about someone who grows a beard – and the first one is that you have patience.
It signifies patience
There is no doubt that it takes a while for a beard to grow. If you want to know about the stages of beard growth check out my other article – growing a beard? These are the stages that you can expect to go through! – Click here.
Beards grow incredibly slowly and the average facial hair growth rate is about half an inch per month. That means it’s like watching paint dry. Also, as your beard grows longer the rate of change of beard length decreases which means that the longer your beard is it seems to take forever to grow. This is just an optical illusion but it can still be incredibly frustrating if you’re waiting to grow out those extra couple of inches.
The thing about growing a beard is that you need to have an end goal in mind. When I first started grow my beard I would have easily given up in the first few months because it just starts to look really rubbish. Check out my YouTube video on awkward beard stages and hacks to overcome the mess:
There is no doubt that you have to push patiently through any potential issues and have a little bit of faith that your beard will become the beard of your dreams. Not only does it physically take a lot of time but it can take an unexpected emotional toll too.
I know for me that’s growing a beard has been something that has allowed me to practice patients and acceptance. My beard has tested my ability to stay dedicated to growing a beard as well as pushing through the days where my beard doesn’t necessarily look as good as I would hope. It is something that every beard grower will go through and will forge the bonds of bearded men everywhere.
That’s what a beard growing process looks like from the inside but what does it appear to the outside world – it’ll be surprising to you to find out the scale at which a beard can signify both anger and happiness to an external observer. There is some science in this bit too.
Arguably, beard is evolved as a way the males to display dominance and aggression. This is all well and good in a natural selection driven world but what happens in a modern society. Does having a beard automatically mean that you are inherently more aggressive.
A group of Australian researchers explored this question by asking 227 participants to look at a series of photographs of people’s faces and rate whether the face displayed happiness or anger.
The study from the University of Queensland revealed that the participants of the study were quicker to classify angry bearded photos than other types of photos. This suggests that beards enhance the visual cues associated with recognising anger. The scientists also found that the participants were quicker to classify clean-shaven faces as happy.
You may be thinking that this is due to the participants having a negative perception of beards. Luckily the researchers also remove this bias from the study in a follow-up investigation. The results of the second study showed that the effect of identifying angry faces quickly with beards was limited to anger. The researchers concluded “participants were slower to recognise sad expressions on bearded faces than on clean-shaven faces, which indicates that the recognition advantage for bearded faces observed in our first experiment does not generalise to all negative expressions.”
But it’s not all about negative emotions…
In 1/3 experiment the researchers show there might actually be societal benefits associated with having a beard. They asked 450 participants to rate the faces used in the first experiment but this time also asked how pro social the faces were. They found that bearded faces were rated as more prosocial than clean-shaven faces. That means that there is an enhanced duality when it comes to beards. Beards can actually convey quite an angry presence but when you smile it is quickly seen as happy, accepting, and friendly than a face that is shaved.
I have never encountered someone that I would consider to be particularly aggressive because of their beard. I’m sure that you will be able to find nearly every type of person aggressive or otherwise, bearded or clean-shaven. Remember that these studies are all about the perception of beards which relate to evolutionary biology rather than a sweeping statement of what bearded men’s personality traits are like.
So, given that information let’s look at the societal status perceptions that beards create in women.
The famous evolutional biologist Darwin proposed that beards evolved in human ancestors by natural selection – that is, female choice selected the beard as a highly attractive trait. Therefore men with beards were more likely to have sex and create children that carried the bearded Jean. A study from 2012 published in behavioural ecology showed that women from very different ethnic groups view beards very differently. Europeans from New Zealand and Polynesians from Samoa, do not rate bearded male faces as more attractive than clean shaven faces. However, women and men from both cultures judge bearded faces to be older and give them a higher social status than the same man when clean-shaven.
There is no doubt that in our society (a western society) beards can be seen as a trait of wisdom and status. You only have to think about the wise men betrayed in popular literature or movies to notice that they often have a beard. This beard allows them to stroke something while expressing opinions which apparently allows them to appear more wise. I know that when I want to appear more wise I certainly stroke my beard and look wistfully into the distance…
Ability to go against the crowd
Having a beard could show that you are willing to do something that goes against the grain of society. Beards aren’t necessarily seen as suitable for the workplace or seen as particularly professional. But really that comes down to the work environment you are in as well as the dress codes of a particular workplace. There is actually no reason why a beard cannot be professional. Check out my other article – does having a beard effect getting a job? Click here for the full run down on beards and having them in a professional setting.
Growing a beard tells the world that you are willing to do something that will make you stand out. You are also opening up the potential for other people’s opinions about your style. All of these signify a confidence that you are willing to stand out and go against the crowd.
That you care about how you look
Okay, growing a beard doesn’t necessarily show that you care about how you look. It’s the maintenance and shape and style of the beard that is the biggest signifier of whether or not you are willing to spend time investing in maintaining and grooming your beard. A really well-groomed beard and one that makes other men jealous signifies to the world that you are willing to invest the time in learning about maintenance of beards as well as how to keep them and your body tip top condition. It also signifies that you are willing to invest the relatively small amount of time every day to make sure that your beard looks as best as it can.
A rigourous beard routine doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend a lot of time in the mornings or in the evenings caring for your beard but it does mean that there is another thing on your mind that you need to take care of on a daily basis.
Beards don’t necessarily just have to mean something to you and the people around you. Beards can also symbolise something to your community or faith based organisation. Let’s now explore what a beard means in terms of the spiritual.
What is a beard mean spiritually?
When you think of bearded man you will almost certainly at some point think of Jesus Christ. Is it that Jesus just didn’t have access to a razor. I always think about whether or not his beard would have been to dry or not well kept because of the lack of beard oil and natural hair beard brushes. But it’s not just Christianity where beards are a common fixture. For some cultures and religions having a beard is now fashion statement. Growing a beard is a sign of dedication to the religion and of a deepened spirituality and connection to their faith.
Let’s take a look at each of the main religions and what a beard means to them spiritually.
Many churches actually teach against having facial hair. The only rule concerning facial hair in the Bible is found in Lev. 19:27, which says, ‘You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard”. So if you are a dedicated Christian it may be that this tiny sentence is enough for you to no longer cut your hair on your face and that is completely up to you.
Besides this one statement in the Bible nothing else is set for against beards. However, in some Christian denominations having facial hair is a sign of rebellion. This arguably dates back to the 1960s when it was fashionable for young men to grow beards as a sign of protest of the Vietnam War.
So Christianity has not much to say on the active growing a beard – Jesus had one and there is no reason you can’t have one too.
the beard in the Jewish faith is a mystical and spiritual expression of the soul. For Jews the beard symbolises God’s divine attributes of mercy and compassion. By growing a beard a person of Jewish faith is able to tap into spiritual energy and can elicit divine mercy upon themselves.
Beards are based on Jewish traditions and rituals that are over 4000 years old. Beards in the Jewish faith are grown because of the biblical prohibition of applying a razor to the face. In modern times the electric razor is allowing Jewish men to shave as the razor does not come into direct contact with the skin. It is likely that the people with long beards in the Jewish religion are those who follow the mystical and spiritual tradition of not grooming their beards but quite often they may tuck them in on themselves so that they look presentable in a professional setting. There are others that do not follow the mystical element of Judaism and so bring their beards to keep them short.
Amish men grow beards for two reasons:
- as reference to the old Testament where beards were worn as a sign of wisdom and godliness and,
- a godly intention which was set during creation to make a distinction between Adam and Eve – or men and women.
A full-length Amish beard is viewed as a symbol of wisdom (which seems to be backed up by the psychology science experiments above) of status and respect. The beard signifies for Amish men that men are inherently different from women and that God intended for a clear division between man and woman.
Younger men in the Amish condition may have aced short beard and as Amish males move into their 30s they’ve start to wear a fuller and longer beard stop rather than just wearing a wedding ring and Amish man can also signal that his taken by growing a beard. In some Amish communities the men begin wearing a beard of marriage – so is a obvious signal to show that he has become a man… Or whatever that means to that particular community.
Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world and males in this religion grow a beard as a sign of freedom and respect to their God.
In the areas where seekers is most common cutting hair is a sign of slavery. And the Sikhs have always promoted inequality and challenge rituals and injustices in society. That is what makes a seat beard particularly powerful – it is quite the statement. Sikhs also consider that the beard is an integral part of nobility and dignity and a respectful token towards their manhood. They also refrain from cutting their beards out of respect for their God-given form.
They find a beauty in being confident in just allowing their beard to grow as their creator intended.
For me, growing a beard wasn’t a conscious decision to show the world that I was trying to be anything other than myself. And I think that a lot of other men are in the same position. It’s not that we start growing beards, necessarily, because we have something to say to the world. For many it is a personal challenge to grow one or maybe it’s just a thing to do on their bucket list – grow a beard at some point in their life.
Whatever the reasons you have to make sure that you are growing a beard primarily for you and no one else. Having a beard could mean something far deeper and meaningful to you than it does to another person and that comes down to personal choice and personal expression.
How ever outsiders, and women, view beards seem to be of particular interest to evolutionary biologists who want to work out why we have the capability of showing that a man has gone through puberty through growing a beard. However, this can sometimes turn the beard into more of a science experiment than individuals like. Sure, beards may have played a role in moulding the current human form through evolutionary natural selection but, at the moment let’s not try to overthink it too much – just enjoy growing your beard and allow it to symbolise whatever you wish it to symbolise for you. Happy beard growing!