Stubble is (and is likely to have always been) the most attractive beard length and type.
This one is sure to spark some controversy. But I’m afraid it’s no longer a case of subjective opinion – science has spoken.
Perhaps it’s not as simple as that. Of course, as with anything aesthetic, there is a significant variation in opinion.
But it’s nice to know that there actually is some data to suggest that stubble is the type of facial hair that women respond to the best.
In 2016 An Australian study assessed how 8500 women responded to images of men with differing amounts of facial hair. So what did they find was the most attractive beard length?
They found that lightly and heavily stubbled faces were more attractive than both fully- bearded and clean-shaven faces. Taking more of a bird’s-eye view however, they found that men with any amount of facial hair were more attractive than clean-shaven men.
Having said this, fully-bearded men were seen by women as more “masculine” and better “long-term partners”.
But remember, we’re purely talking about aesthetic appeal and attractiveness. Boy, did stubble win that game.
By the way, if you’re curious, click here to check out my most recommended stubble trimming and grooming products of the year.
Let’s look a little closer at this curious yet absolutely essential grooming study.
The men’s grooming study of the century
This study is just phenomenal in so many different ways. The fact that these distinguished academics took the time to collect this much data on this subject is fantastic.
As you’d expect, it wasn’t able to dissect and assess the attractiveness of every single hair length possible because, well – that would be ridiculous.
It did, however, present this cohort of women with very carefully modified faces at four different stages of beard growth – clean-shaven, five days growth (light stubble), ten days growth (heavy stubble) and four weeks of untrimmed growth (fully-bearded).
As explained above, stubble (both light and heavy) was found to be more attractive than fully-bearded and clean-shaven.
But as always, there’s a caveat to this.
Men with full beards were considered more masculine and better “long-term prospects” than stubbled men.
This doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Male-typical, testosterone-dependent features like facial hair have long been thought to be indicators of social status, dominance and sexual maturity to the opposite sex.
Men with long, lustrous beards or even short-but-full beards are able to portray this image.
But the question as to why these women preferred stubble over full beards when it came to attractiveness is one that deserves to be explored deeper.
I’ve listed 12 possible reasons why stubble beards are the most attractive beard length. First, I go through 6 reasons why stubble beards are more attractive than longer beards specifically. Then I go through 6 reasons why stubble beards are more attractive than clean-shaven faces.
6 reasons why stubble beards are more attractive than longer beards
1. They’re seen as more hygienic than long beards
Now don’t get me wrong. This is definitely not to say that people with long beards are sheltering an army of bacteria beneath their whiskers.
In fact, there’s no real evidence to suggest that, despite it being a popular old wives tale.
But the fact of the matter is, a long, woodsman style beard is going to accumulate more dirt, oil and dead skin cells than an extended goatee.
Regardless of how often that beard is washed or cleaned, the likelihood is that there is a layer of gunk mattifying the base of the hairs and clogging skin pores.
Also, as bacteria start to break down any accumulated sweat, it’s likely that an odor will be released – as with any other hair-covered body surface.
In contrast, with a stubble beard, it’s easier to cleanse the underlying facial skin and so this is less of an issue. That layer of gunk is much less elusive and isn’t able to slide by so easily.
2. It’s rugged but not shabby
As this study showed, facial hair is hot. As longtime beard hype men, this isn’t exactly a revelation to us. But it’s just refreshing to know some others love it as much as we do.
Of course, facial hair will always be seen as stereotypically masculine and whether this is right or wrong will be a topic for a whole new article.
Facial hair is what’s known as a “secondary sexual characteristic” and develops during puberty as a response to rising testosterone levels.
It’s one of the reasons why it is so closely associated with masculinity just like chest hair is.
This typically male feature being absent in clean-shaven men is potentially a reason why the bearded boys won this one.
But their attractiveness being partially determined by beard length is fascinating.
One of the reasons why stubble beards were seen as more attractive than longer beards may be because although the longer beards may have been seen as more “rugged”, it can also easily cross into the realms of disheveled, shabby or slovenly.
Stubble beards are able to maintain an air of masculinity while at the same time coming across as organized, put together and neat.
This is one potential reason why although fuller beards were seen as more “masculine” in this study, they were seen as less attractive than stubble beards.
3. It doesn’t mask bone structure
Some might say that masking that chiseled jawline and those cheekbones beneath a pile of face fur is an unforgivable sin.
Even if you didn’t have these aesthetic blessings, you’d be surprised by how much people still want to see them.
Yes believe or not, people do find facial features attractive. As beard enthusiasts hell-bent on figuring out how to expertly cover them up, it’s important to always bear this in mind.
When you see a guy rocking a long, full and burly one, it really is difficult to know what they’ve got going on underneath.
It’s wouldn’t be surprising to find that a potential partner might be scared off by that uncertainty.
We often find that stubble beards in fact do the opposite. That is to say, it accentuates facial features and doesn’t mask them.
It can give the chin and jaw definition and prominence that it may have never seen before. When done correctly it can be great.
In addition, that uncertainty just isn’t there. A potential partner knows what to expect as there’s no mystery hidden beneath. They know that if they were to shave completely one day for whatever reason, they probably wouldn’t look too different.
4. It’s easier to be intimate with a stubbled man than a fully-bearded man
It just is. I mean, this should be obvious.
Going in for a kiss knowing you might get lost in the thick depths of a Gandalf-style beard is a very real fear a potential partner might have. Why take the risk, they might ask.
Sure, the feel of stubble against your face isn’t ideal. It’s prickly, tickly and can be itchy. But it depends on the length.
Also, there are specific tactics that can be deployed – including the use of beard oils rich in soothing substances that soften the hairs, moisturize the skin and make it smell great.
In other words, it’s not the end of the world. A well-groomed, well-nourished stubble beard is much more tolerable during those intimate moments.
5. It’s far more versatile
Being with a man who had a beard you could easily take grocery shopping, to a wedding as well as to a job interview with no funny looks – is attractive.
It’s just a fact that stubble beards are just more versatile. They work and are acceptable pretty much anywhere you can think of.
Sure, it may not grab as much attention as a fuller or longer beard, but sometimes that’s exactly what a partner wants.
They don’t want the second looks. They want you all to themselves and could really do without the attention.
Plus, although it may not be universal, it’s generally accepted that those with longer or fuller beards may not be as employable in certain fields of work.
Again, this is not universal and please don’t take this the wrong way.
But it’s not hard to believe that in the corporate world, for instance, the lumberjack look just won’t cut it.
Whether this is right or wrong I’ll leave up to your judgment. But the fact that a partner may take this into consideration is definitely worth noting.
Not having to worry about this and knowing your partner has a versatile beard is attractive.
This may be yet another reason why the subtle yet stylish stubble beards are the most attractive beard length.
6. It’s lower maintenance
Now here’s an unnerving thought. The thought of your man potentially spending way more time than you in front of the bathroom mirror, incessantly pruning and preening away at his beard.
Fuller and longer beards need more care and maintenance. That’s not to say that stubble beards don’t. In fact, a good stubble beard needs regular attention and that’s fine.
But the longer, bushier and thicker a beard is, the more time and more product is necessary to keep it looking sharp.
There are definitely those that dislike the thought of a man being overly occupied with an aspect of his aesthetic appearance. The long beard is no exception. This trait in itself could be considered unattractive.
Compare this with the stubble beard. If I had to describe it I would use words like “simple”, “efficient”, “ready-to-go”. It’s groomed enough to be considered neat, but not too time-consuming to be considered an obsession.
This is attractive.
6 reasons why stubble beards are more attractive than clean-shaven faces
1. It adds maturity to the face
OK, so we’ve sufficiently put down longer beards and championed stubble in this article on the most attractive beard length.
Time to shift our attention to clean-shaven faces.
One reason stubble beards are more attractive than clean-shaven faces would be that facial hair (regardless of length) adds an air of maturity to the face.
It takes away that cherub, boyish look. Stubble replaces it with a seasoned-veteran-of-life look that has seen and done things you can only imagine.
Why wouldn’t it make a man look wiser, more experienced and mature?
This isn’t much of a revelation. It’s usually the go-to method a man turns to when they want to look older – whether it’s for a job interview or for a dating profile.
It just works.
2. Stubble suggests patience
This one’s a little more left field.
When someone sees a man that’s clean shaven, sure it looks neat and tidy. You can’t really go too wrong.
It’s a safe bet that you wouldn’t get many looks of disdain or disgust. On the whole, a clean-shaven look is pretty universally accepted (as hard as it is for facial hair addicts such as us to believe).
But one factor that people may pick up on is that a man with a clean-shaven face might be taking the easy way out. Funnily enough, there’s just something quite lazy about simply removing all the hair from your face.
With no attempt at styling or using facial hair to enhance appearances, it just seems like such a waste.
A man with a beard has taken the time to get up early, trim, shape and style before going about his day.
That level of effort doesn’t go unnoticed and it can speak volumes of a man.
Patience is a virtue.
If he shows this much patience in his grooming habits, it’s only natural to assume that this same patience is translated into other aspects of life.
3. Stubble suggests creativity
This one is more evident with certain beard styles more than others. But a reason why a stubble beard (for instance) is more attractive than a clean-shaven face is that it suggests a flair for fashion and aesthetics.
Sure, if you’re just sporting a 5-o-clock shadow it may not be as obvious. But if groomed properly, even that just displays an effort to use what you’ve got to highlight your best features.
It shows that you’re actually making an attempt to express yourself using style and grooming.
A clean-shaven face could be seen as dull or bland. The only effort it takes is to whip out a razor and have at it. It’s a physical effort, but not a creative effort.
Get creative, guys. Creativity is attractive.
4. Stubble is masculine and socially dominant
We’ve touched upon this point already.
Remember, this is an explanation as to why stubble is more attractive than a clean-shaven face. But these arguments apply to facial hair styles in general.
It’s fascinating how the one context in which longer beards were seen as equally attractive to stubble beards was when women were looking for a long term partner.
This could be because facial hair is male-typical and testosterone-dependent.
As stereotypical as it is, facial hair is manly and that’s usually an attractive feature in a potential partner.
Stubble is certainly no exception. Although it may not be as pheromone-spraying as a longer or fuller beard, it still beats clean-shaven in this game any day.
5. Stubble suggests pride in your appearance
This one may cause some head-scratching. Surely clean-shaven does too, you may ask?
Yes, it does. Shaving your face does show that you care about your appearance. Enough to change its natural form, anyway.
But it doesn’t suggest as much pride in your appearance as a neatly groomed stubble beard does.
So beard grooming and manscaping aren’t for everyone. But it does say a lot about a man’s personality.
It’s no different to taking the time to pick out and pay for a nice watch instead of just going for a bare wrist. Or choosing to style your hair instead of just going for the washed-and-dried look.
Wearing a well-groomed stubble beard is a statement. It shows that you care about how you look beyond just getting rid of what you don’t like.
It shows that you use what you do have to your advantage and would go the extra mile to make it work for you.
Pride is attractive too, gentlemen.
6. It suggests you’ve got some attitude
Facial hair is edgy.
Stubble beards are edgy.
Why is this? Well, one reason is that they’re not universally tolerated or accepted. There are plenty of people that may not like them and there are plenty of settings where they may be seen as out-of-place or unacceptable.
Having facial hair shows that you don’t care. You wanted to do something and you went for it full throttle. No holding back.
It’s your life and you aren’t here to please anyone.
The reason stubble hair is great in this respect is because it strikes a fine balance. It shows that you’ve got some sass and attitude but it also shows your potential partners that you’re still perfectly employable.
It just exudes confidence in your own appearance. That sort of swag is immediately obvious and it’s – yes you guessed it, attractive.
What length of stubble should you go for?
We’ve delved pretty darn deep into why stubble is better than long beards and better than clean-shaven faces.
But you may now be asking, what exactly is stubble and what length should you grow it to?
It’s generally accepted that stubble is that period between clean-shaven and a short beard. Some refer to it as hairs between 0.4mm to 5mm.
Anything shorter is really too short to make a noticeable difference to the appearance. Anything longer is dipping toes into short beard territory.
Now the length of stubble you go for is very subjective and really depends on your other features. It’s really a case of experimenting.
Grow out your stubble for 10 days and just have a trimming session one afternoon. Start with a longer size guard length and just work your way shorter until you get to a look you like.
One important consideration is the style you want to go for.
Certain stubble beard styles such as a goatee would work better with slightly longer hairs. The color of your facial hair should also be considered. It’s generally accepted that lighter colored facial hair works better when it’s longer.
Another factor you might consider is whether your beard grows patchy. If so, shorter stubble may make this less apparent.
Well, there you have it. We’ve always thought it but apparently, we’re not the only ones.
Stubble is attractive.
Now I know there are some die-hard beard purists who may even say that stubble shouldn’t even be considered a beard.
But as far as we’re concerned if it sprouts out of the face in the right areas, it’s a beard. When you cross into the 3-4mm hair length range there’s really no argument anyway, so why make the distinction?
We’ve given you some reasons as to why stubble is so attractive. But to summarize, stubble is special. It says so much by saying so little (sorry if that sounds pretentious, but it’s true).
Yes, it’s subtle. So subtle that some people may not even notice it. But that’s the beauty of it. The chances are they did notice it but didn’t even consciously realize.
It suggests patience, creativity, masculinity, pride and so much more without being in-your-face or over-the-top.
What do you think? Are we in agreement with regards to stubble beards?
Ready Sleek founder. Obsessed with casual style and the minimalist approach to building a highly functional wardrobe. Also a fan of classic, vintage hairstyles.