To beard or not to beard – that is the question many men may be asking themselves these days.
Male beards have made a definite comeback these last few years and while many think the craze has had its day, a casual look around any office or street scene will reveal many men’s faces in various degrees of hairiness.
While some men only allow slight stubble, and others keep it at a simple goatee, there are plenty of men allowing their beards to grow long. Some beards appear groomed and trimmed, while others are left shaggy and bushy.
In an article which appeared in Forbes Magazine in 2014, Gillette blamed the downward trend it has been experiencing in sales to a reduced incidence of male shaving.
In an article which appeared that same year in the UK Guardian, Procter and Gamble chief financial officer Jon Moeller said that the growing popularity of the three-day stubble “hipster” look had hit sales of Gillette razors, shaving cream and electric razors in established markets like the US.
While we’re used to seeing men with facial hair for Movember – the annual event where men grow moustaches and beards during the month of November to raise awareness about men’s health issues – I’m sure many are curious as to why Movember seems to last all year.
The answer could lie in a study conducted by the University of Queensland in Australia in 2016.
According to The Telegraph, researchers interviewed 8520 women who were divided into three groups. Each group of women was shown pictures of men with varying degrees of facial hair which ranged from clean-shaven, slightly bearded, light stubble, heavy stubble and a thick beard.
The women were then asked to rate the different men’s sexual appeal.
Their responses revealed that the women thought those with the heavy stubble as sexiest, followed by those men with short stubble. Clean-shaven men were rated lowest.
Men with light stubble were rated most attractive for a short-term fling, while men with heavy stubble or full beards were voted best in the category of long- term partner.
An 2012 info-graphic, published by the American Moustache Institute, revealed that growing a beard has been a sign of manliness since the dawn of time.
According to the graphic, prehistoric men grew beards for warmth, intimidation and protection.
Statistics which appeared on the graphic reveal that about 55% of men from across the world have facial hair, while two-thirds of women worldwide found bearded men to be more attractive when compared to clean-shaven men.
Monique Flemming – owner of Bonafide Beards, which makes and sells beard grooming products – said the beard trend started in South Africa about five years ago, following on the overseas trend at the time.
Flemming said her husband joined the bandwagon by ditching his razor and growing his beard, which she said her “inner cave woman” responded to.
This is why when he struggled to find the right products to deal with dry skin and itchiness, she decided to investigate a combination of ingredients said to make the perfect beard oil and took to the kitchen so he could hang on to his hairy look.
After a few tries, Flemming said she finally managed to make the perfect concoction, which her husband loved.
Their business, Bonafide Beards, began from there, with more and more men seeking out beard grooming products as they allowed their facial hair to grow out.
“But then the beard trend died down a bit in late 2015 and early 2016.
“I felt the dip in sales and more men became clean-shaven. But then just like that, the trend picked up again and the same men who had shaved their beards off grew them out again,” she said.
“I think after shaving the men realised that people weren’t reacting to them in the same way any more without their beards.
“ I think they saw that they weren’t getting the same attention as when they had beards so they grew them back.
“While I don’t know what we can attribute the trend to, it’s a trend which began overseas, hitting the streets and the red carpets and before long, our men were following it too.
“When my husband grew his beard, my inner cave woman immediately responded to his outer cave man appearance. I love that beard on him.”
Aside from beards being a trend, they are said to have some health benefits too.
According to website Beardology, facial hair can block up to 95% of the sun’s UV rays. Facial hair is also said to protect skin from signs of ageing on the face and neck, keeping the skin looking younger.
“The hairs protect your face from the drying effects of wind and allows moisture to be preserved under the protection of the beard,” the article reads.
“If you use a moisturiser, it will work better under a beard than on exposed skin where it can be rubbed off more easily.
“Facial hair can help you avoid acne and skin rashes … by not shaving.
“Shaving helps spread bacteria around the face, infecting the follicles. Beards and moustaches may help filter out allergens.”
The Daily Dispatch asked a few of its readers – both male and female – why they loved beards.
The answers were:
Sinethmba Nobuswana: “A beard is the new six-pack man. For men like me, who don’t have a six-pack, this is my six-pack.
“It’s made me who I am. Without it then I don’t love myself. A lot of people don’t love me without it either.”
Loyiso Songelwa: “Beards are a trend. They were fashionable back in the early 90s and like everything of that era, they made a comeback. Just look at fashion items like the bell-bottom jeans for instance, they were popular once, the popularity died down a bit but then it came back. It’s the same with beards.”
Anelisa Gayi: “I’m attracted to men with beards. I don’t know what it is. They just look so manly. My boyfriend was clean-shaven when I met him but I managed to convince him to grow a beard and it just looks great.”
Sonwabile Mpumlo: “Men with beards look great. They look manly and strong.
“A man with a beard looks like he’s capable of doing anything.
“ I think maybe it’s something we saw in our fathers and loved, I don’t know. All I know is that beards look great.”
Flemming stressed the importance of proper beard grooming for all men.
“Some men don’t practice proper hygiene habits and their beards end up smelling a bit funky or feeling coarse and that is not appealing at all, especially to women,” she said.
“There are some women that are against their men having beards and I think it’s because those beards are not properly looked after. Every time they kiss or hug their men then they interact with the beards and if they smell or look scruffy, the woman will be against it.
“A lot of my clients are actually women buying products for their partners or sons. I get men coming to me to say my wife or my girlfriend doesn’t like my beard and I always ask why.
“In many cases you find it’s because its the way it feels or smells. I cannot stress enough how important grooming is.”