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The Science of the 'Stache: Give It a Grow This Movember

This month is “Movember,” an international movement to raise awareness about men’s health, particularly prostate and testicular cancer. Men participating in “Movember” grow moustaches and raise money to fund cancer education and research.1 Yet, Movember may have an added benefit for relationships: women rate men with a full beard as more masculine, socially mature, dominant, and aggressive than they rate clean-shaven men. However, men with light stubble fare best on ratings of attractiveness and desirability for short-term and long-term relationships.2 Historically, men tend to grow facial hair during years that competition for mates is more intense (for example, moustaches were particularly popular in the early 1900s, based on images in the Illustrated London News),3 suggesting that facial hair fashion trends are attuned to the effect facial hair has on women’s judgments.

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As a side note, one of the only times that moustache fashion did not reflect competition for partners between men was during World War I; although competition decreased, there was a sharp increase in moustaches. One possible explanation is that soldiers wanted to look more masculine and aggressive, so during this time, facial hair was likely unrelated to attempts to attract women.

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1Movember Foundation (2012). About Movember. Retrieved from http://us.movember.com/about

2Neave, N., & Shields, K. (2008). The effects of facial hair manipulation on female perceptions of attractiveness, masculinity, and dominance in male faces. Personality and Individual Differences, 45(5), 373-377. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2008.05.007

3Barber, N. (2001). Mustache fashion covaries with a good marriage market for women. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 25(4), 261-272.

Dr. Gary Lewandowski - Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Lewandowski's research explores the role of the self in romantic relationships with a specific focus on self-expansion. He has authored dozens of publications for both academic and non-academic audiences and is a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Lydia Emery
Lydia's research interests include the role of the self-concept in relationship cognition and commitment, how perceptions of relationships affect relationship quality, and how people portray their relationships to outsiders on social networking websites.

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