6 Mar 2015

Peak beard – is it hair today, gone tomorrow?

Beards have been in vogue for a few years now, but big beards are having their moment too. So have we really passed “peak beard” – or is the best yet to come?

There are dating apps devoted to those who grow them, and those who love them.

The beard trend has been hard to miss, but maybe it isn’t going away soon, with an ever growing variety on show.

Stylists offer retro beards with names like the Lumberjack, the Captain and even the Artic Explorer.

And now there’s a photographic exhibition at Somerset House, dedicated to beard appreciation.

Photographer Brock Elbank spoke to Boya Dee about how he selects the models for his show, who have their own sometimes surprising stories to tell.

“It would have been extremely easy for me to shoot 60 hipsters, but that would have been a bit boring,” Elbank said.

Australian Jimmy Niggles grew his beard out of tragedy, after his friend died from a melanoma on his neck. He has started a charity appealing for “beard ambassadors” to encourage people to get regular skin checks.

‘Peak beard’?

Meanwhile, model Billy Huxley ditched his razor and found that it was his bank account that also began to grow.

So is this final proof that “peak beard” has yet to come, that the trend has strength in it yet?

There were fears last year that the fashion had reached its zenith, after a scientific study suggested that beard wearers become less attractive when more people let the facial hair grow out.

A team in Australia took images of men at four stages of varying facial hair growth: clean shaven, five days of growth, 10 days of growth, and a full beard, with at least four weeks of untrimmed growth.

The researchers at the University of New South Wales then posted these photos online in various groupings and asked men and women to rate them.

Beardy men (top L to R): Anton Chekov, Ben Affleck, Zach Galifianakis, Jared Leto, George Clooney, Brian Blessed, Fidel Castro, Joaquin Phoenix, Leo Tolstoy, Davick Beckham, Alfonso Cuaron, William Shakespeare

“When full beards were rare or when the four levels of beardedness were evenly distributed, full beards enjoyed significantly higher attractiveness than when full beards were common,” said Professor Rob Brooks.

The phenomenon is known as “negative frequency dependency”, and is not uncommon in evolutionary biology.

So will it be a case of hair today, gone tomorrow, and an inevitable end to the latest trend for beards?

A beard exhibition is a strong statement in favour of the fashion, and the facial hair fans we spoke to were attached, in more ways than one, to their new looks – so maybe the world still isn’t bored of the beard just yet.