To Beard or Not to Beard

Here’s the thing about facial hair on men. Today’s image of a sexy alpha male often includes the scruff beard; in fact, some of our heroes keep a constant two- or three-day beard’s growth. It makes them look manly, rugged, and sexy.

But the reality is those babies hurt like heck if they’re rubbed against the sensitive female skin. So where’s the fantasy come from and how does it transcend the reality?

It’s clear that bodily hair serves an evolutionary purpose – to keep the species warm in frigid climates. I imagine our primordial ancestors possessed lots and lots of the stuff in rather unbecoming places. Even though we no longer need facial or body hair for protection from the elements, regularly as clockwork, facial hair seems to be the only fashion variable that men consistently alter, change, or invent.

I freely admit that my fantasy man has a full beard and mustache. When my husband taught in a private college, he was not permitted to wear a beard, and moustaches were seriously frowned upon. The moment he no longer worked there, I begged him to grow a beard. I suppose the idea of the beard was forbidden fruit to me.

The wearing of beards was rare in the western world during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but became fashionable by the mid-nineteenth century when many civil war heroes and officers sported them. After World War I, beards fell out of fashion again and were virtually nonexistent until the sixties and the hippie movement. From the 1990’s on, beards have continued to be in fashion, with various modifications. Even the corporate western world has accepted the look. Actors, music stars, and athletes alike wear some form of beard and/or moustache. The new millennium certainly seems to be the heyday of facial hair for men.

AND YET, the great heroes of romantic fiction appear be beardless – moustache-less – facial-hair-less. What’s that about? What can account for that discrepancy?

So here’s the question. Which do you prefer – clean-shaven men or bearded ones? What kind? Why? Are your fantasy men different from real-life ones? Why?

I’m giving away another Pirates of the Caribbean tee-shirt to a lucky commenter — this one of Jack Sparrow in all his scruffiness. If you’d like to comment, but aren’t interested in Jack’s shirt, let me know and I’ll take your name out of the hat. Banditas are eligible!!!

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  • Anna Campbell says:

    Ooh, ooh, Banditas are eligible! That’s music to my wee (well, not SO wee) Aussie ears! Pick me! Pick me! I’ve got to say my fantasy doesn’t involve facial hair. Although I had a good friend at high school whose rather Bohemian Austrian mother always used to say in a throaty Marlene Dietrich voice, “A kiss from a man vizout a moustache is like bread vizout butter.” But I’m a sucker for European sophistication!

  • Helen says:

    I think if it suits the male go for it although I don’t like long beards short neat and tidy I like, my hubby grew a moustache not long before we got married in 1977 then about two years later grew the full beard and has had one ever since so I am really comfortable with it. When our eldest daughter was about 2 years old he was trimming it and ended up shaving it all off she would not talk to him or go near him until it all grew back so it has never come off again even though she is 27 now we all still have a giggle about her reaction BTW her partner does not have any facial hair. Loved the post Jo.
    Have Fun

  • Christine Wells says:

    I know someone (female) who had a permanent rash on her chin because of the bf’s beard. Ugh! I’m not a fan of facial hair on men, which is one reason I stay away from writing in the Victorian period!

    With actors, it seems to me it’s often the pretty boys that need the facial hair to make them look ‘manly’. It doesn’t really do anything for me. I’ve known men who, after years of having a moustache or beard, then shaved and it took about a decade off their apparent ages. So, no to the facial hair. I’ll take my bread wizout butter, zank you, Anna!

  • tetewa says:

    I usually prefer clean shaven but if kept neat and clean a little facial hair is not to bad.

  • KimW says:

    I like the five o’clock shadow beards and/or a mustache. I think if the guy is really hot and your attracted to him, you’ll get use to anything. Jack Sparrow aka Johnny Depp is a good example of that. He’s hot no matter what. Yummy!

  • Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) says:

    Coool! Banditas are eligible! Yee-ha! :> I have to agree w/ Christine I think its current popularity is due to how young the new crop of actors looks without a bid of bearding to define their baby faces. Look at Leo DeCaprio. (Do we have to?) He couldn’t look 30 if he tried, even with a beard. (And yes, I know he’s over thirty now, barely) And Dr. McDreamy looks better with one because it makes you look at his face, rather than focusing just on those lovely eyes. I’ve been told a full beard-n-stache combot is easier on a woman’s skin than the goatee and scruff, but…Ugh, no. My skin is really sensitive to beard burn. So, even though I love chest hair, I’ll second Christine again and skip ze butter as well. Snork!

  • AndreaW says:

    I don’t mind looking at a bit of scruff (goatee or five o’clock shadow), but don’t like the feel of it.


  • CrystalG says:

    I like a nicely groomed beard on a man. My husband has a mustache and goatee and I think he looks sexy. 🙂

  • doglady says:

    I must confess that I prefer the look and feel of clean-shaven baby soft skin on a man. Not that it has to LOOK baby soft. It just has to feel that way. And I happen to agree that facial hair makes a man look older. Some men can really wear it well, but I just don’t like that burn!!

  • Caren Crane says:

    Jo, this is funny! When we first started dating, my husband had a mustache (though it wasn’t fashionable in the late 80s). He shaved it off after a couple of years and I (being change-averse) begged him to grow it back. He always kept it very neatly trimmed, thank goodness, and it didn’t bother me at all.

    A few years after we married, he decided to get rid of it. It’s been great! If he doesn’t shave for a couple of days and his cheeks get scruffy, our youngest daughter is quick to tell him he needs a shave!

    I tend to prefer my men clean-shaven in actuality, though the young ‘uns onscreen often do benefit from some scruff. Like Oded Fehr–oh my!

  • Kirsten says:

    Jo, first let me say that all those beautiful men in your post really made my morning!! Yehaw is right! 🙂

    My husband sports a very neatly trimmed goatee, and I love it. He shaved it off once and he’s got a very square jaw, and for some reason without the goatee he looked way too much like a football playing (which he was) frat boy (which he wasn’t) from college. Totally different person than the man I adore. It freaked me out completely, and he grew it back. 🙂

    I love the Bandita eligible contest–Jo ROCKS! 🙂

  • Buffie says:

    First — great pictures!!! All those guys look great with a little facial hair. And Shemar, I just loved him on The Young and The Restless!!

    Here’s the funny thing . . . I think guys are pretty sexy with a little facial hair. Something about the rough aspect just exudes sensuality. But I hate it when the hubby has it — I would much rather enjoy him clean shaven!!

  • Kate Carlisle says:

    Wow Jo, I agree with Kirsten — looking at all those lovely men first thing in the a.m. is a nice way to wake up!!

    As far as loving or hating facial hair, I’ve never been too picky. Some men look better in beards, some don’t. Some look good no matter what. 😉

    Frankly, I’ll take any of those darling men you’ve featured, bearded or not!

  • jo robertson says:

    Loved the Dietrich quote, Anna.

    And Helen, that’s funny because MY grandkids PREFER their bearded Pops to me! They like to play with his beard. I’m sure they think he’s Santa Clause.

  • jo robertson says:

    Gotta agree with the Leonardo comment, Jeanne. That baby face will stay with him forever. But hasn’t he grown into a really fabulous actor?

  • jo robertson says:

    That was what I was thinking, Andrea. What we like to look at — that five-o’clock shadow — is soooo different from the reality.

  • jo robertson says:

    Oh, doglady, I so agree. There’s this spot on a man, right below the eyes, high on the cheekbones, that I always go for. It’s so smooth! Okay, so I don’t ALWAYS go for because it’s been the one fellow for a long, long time.

  • Anna Sugden says:

    Oooh hunks for breakfast – yum!

    I think men look sexy with a shadow/scruff. Not really into ‘tashes or beards. Can’t stand soul patches and chin thatches!

    My dad has a full beard and though he occasionally shaves it off – he looks way, way better with the beard. He wouldn’t be my dad without it!

    For my own man I like the feel of clean-shaven or a slight shadow.

    Funnily enough, in books, when I read that a hero has a ‘tash it puts me off. Maybe it’s the whole Burt Reynolds/Village People thing?! Tom Selleck and Jeff Bridges are probably my two exceptions.

  • Jill James says:

    I hate scruffy men, but neat and tidy is okay. I think romance novels and covers still reside in a fantasy land where the good guy wears a white hat and is clean shaven and the villain wears a black hat and is semi-scruffy.

  • Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) says:

    Oooh, Anna, Tom Selleck just wouldn’t be TOM w/o that mustache, now would he? He’s top grade, that one! Agree too about the “soul patches and chin thatches” (which cracked me up, BTW) There’s a pro baseball player who has the whole chin patch thing going and he dyes it pink/red. Weiiiiiirrrrd. :> Freaks me out every time I see it, and it takes a lot to freak me out! Ha! And Jo, I agree, Leo DiCaprio has really grown into a good actor in spite of the baby face. :>

  • Aunty Cindy says:

    In the almost 20 years I’ve known him, I have NEVER seen my DH without his moustache! I’ve seen a VERY FEW pictures of him without it, but he was very young and looks DORKY! Okay, maybe he looks slightly dorky WITH it, but I love him anyway. However, I do NOT love when the rest of his face is scruffy and will tell him to SHAVE!

    Now, I have seen Jo-Mama’s DH and I can NOT imagine him without his very nicely trimmed beard and moustache… very distinguished and sexy, IMO.

    Most of the actors sporting facial hair I do NOT find sexy. I’d tell them the same thing I do my DH… SHAVE! But I will admit that Eric looked MIGHTY FINE in that closely cropped beard in “Troy,” but then I COULD be slightly prejudiced…


  • Donna MacMeans says:

    I think the attraction to facial hair is an attraction to the testosterone. It’s a visible statement that – (grunt) I’m a man. 🙂

    My husband would love to grow a mustache or beard (and I must admit I’m curious to experience the difference) but everytime he tries, it looks scraggly and sparse. I love him with he’s clean-shaven and smooth. I love him when he’s scruffy first thing in the morning and I feel his chin lightly brush the back of my neck. Oh He**, I just love men!

  • Suzanne Welsh says:

    I have a funny story to tell…my daughter works in a real estate agency office. One of the agents asked her who the two old ladies in the picture on her desk were. She told him, that’s my Grandmother and GRANDFATHER. Which is really funny since my dad has had a moustache for about 30 years! LOLOL

    As far as my men…I like my husband sans beard. Jim Clavezel in The Count of Monte Cristo…defintily beard. oh baby! Clive Owens…sans beard. Viggo in LOTR, definitely beard and as a brunette. My high school English teacher, with beard, but only because it made him look more bald and somewhat like William Shakespere!

  • jo robertson says:

    Okay, AC, we know you’d go to the ends of the end for/with Eric!!

  • shannon says:

    Okay… so you know that spot on a man’s face just below the eyes? That part is always, always soft. And the scruffier the face, the softer that spot seems to feel. So count me as a scruffy lover. Although I must say, I do NOT like a full beard and stache… just the barely there look of a shadow on the face and never down the neck. Yuck! The only reason I wouldnt like a scruff is if I were in my 20s again and in the habit of looong make-out sessions, and really… who does that once they’re married? 🙂

  • hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna says:

    I am not crazy about a beard, I can handle a mustache as long as it is very neat.

  • Keira Soleore says:

    It depends—is all I’m sayin’. It all depends on whether it’s personal, it’s in the stories, what kind of bookish stories, or it’s in movies and pictures. For pure eye candy, that two-day growth is yum-yum.

  • Keira Soleore says:

    Johnny Depp? With, without, every which way—is all I’m sayin’.

  • FilmPhan says:

    I’m loving this topic. I do like a guy with scruff or even a small beard. I makes them seem more masculine and rugged. I really don’t like the whole baby faced look a lot. On some guys it my look better but I am attracted to guys with a beardy face.

  • Kennan says:

    no beard for me! and i prefer none for my husband as well 🙂 hee hee. also, my kids won’t kiss their dad when he is scruffy!

  • Kirsten says:

    Hey–hrdwrkdmom!! haven’t seen you around for a while–I have a book for you! Alyssa Day’s Atlantis book is waiting for you to claim it…email me at if you want it!

    Shannon, you crack me up..I guess the long makeout sessions do decrease in number over the years. 🙂

    Keira, you’re in rare form as well…and kennan, I’m still ROFL over your comment…

    Ladies this was a fabulous topic! Thanks for coming out to play with the Banditas!

  • Keira Soleore says:

    Banditas, apologies for sticking this comment in here, but I didn’t know how else to let you know…

    Thanks a whole ginormous bunch for introducing me to Julie Cohen and her book “Delicious.” The rhythm of her prose, the comedy, the romance–all fell on my ear with the perfect rhythm. I’m off to Amazon now to suss out what I can of her backlist.

  • MaryF says:

    I like a little scruff, like Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Gerard Butler. But I don’t like full beards.

  • Susan says:

    My answer is yes. I like men with a bristle or a beard. And I like them without.
    What can I say? I like men!
    Susan Shay
    To School a Cowboy

  • VoodooGoddess says:

    My DH is not allowed to grow facial hair because it makes him look evil! But I’d take McSteamy with a little scruff any day! Tell me, is there anything better than Hugh Jackman with a little stubble? Hubba Hubba!


  • Aunty Cindy says:

    don’t know if you’ll be checking back here, but THANX for the kudos. Our shoe-diva V.Anna deserves those for bringing Julie to the lair. And you’ll be HAPPY to hear (as all us Banditas were) that Julie had so much fun with us that she is RETURNING in January!

    Oh, and Marie, the answer to you question about Hugh Jackman is a RESOUNDING NO! Your old Aunty (and Christine and Joan, to name 2 more) can’t think of ANYTHING better…tho Eric is JUST AS GOOD! 🙂