Beards were present during ancient history as can be seen on Greek statues of the Farnese Hercules, Poseidon, Hades and Zeus. Beards are even referred to in the Bible (Lev.13:29-32) and many people believe that Jesus wore a full beard. In the 19th century, beards were widely popular after the US Civil War.
Currently there has been a shift towards more men wearing fuller thicker beards again. Some say this is linked to the economy and that in times of financial hardship, men look for new ways to highlight their manliness. And what better way than to grow a full beard? However, the downside is that when more men have beards, they become so common place that women’s gazes turn to clean shaven men. This is because women are more attracted to men who exhibit a rare trait (i.e. a beard in a sea of clean-shaven faces or a clean-shaven face in a sea of beards). This gives those men an evolutionary advantage. Take Prince Harry as an example. With his ginger hair and full beard, women all over the world are tripping over themselves to get his attention. He is perceived as being an ideal mate precisely because he stands out.
My personal opinion is that more beards appear during times of higher military service. After years spent shaving everyday due to military requirements, men return home looking to establish their independence and individuality again. They also are looking to maintain the masculine identity that being in the military provided. What I mean is the military contributed to a soldier’s self-esteem and identity as a man. After returning home many male veterans look for ways to maintain the masculine appearance their military uniform provided.
Some have opined that we have reached “peak beard” (you know, like “peak oil”) and that the only way from here is down. It seems that the majority of people still feel that to look professional you have to be clean shaven. With more men having the knowledge of how to properly care for a beard, the perception of beards will change over time and they will become more accepted in society. If bearded men do ever overtake clean-shaven faces (ie, 6 out of 10 men have a beard) then you can expect the tide to turn again towards shaving.
Looking for more? Read:
5 tips to growing a great beard
The essential tools needed to grow a mustache