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A very serious cultural study on beards and which dudes look hotter with them

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May 27, 2019, 1:01 PM EDT

To beard or not to beard, that is the question.

Last year, when the Avengers: Infinity War trailer revealed that Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers had grown a beard, the internet went wild. How is it possible that Evans, this hunky cinnamon roll of a golden retriever boy scout bro, could get even hotter? It was almost unfair, yet there it was. We mourned the loss of Cap-beard for an extended period of time on SYFY FANGRRLS, but it also got us thinking as to what it was about some well-organized facial hair that had us all aflutter.

It turns out that there’s a scientific reason for that. It’s not just pure shallowness! According to a study in 2013 on the subject, facial hair acts as a major influence in shaping people's ideas about what we expect from men in society. The study revealed that "women judged faces with heavy stubble as most attractive and heavy beards, light stubble and clean-shaven faces as similarly less attractive." For men, it was the opposite case, with full beards as the most attractive. Those conducted for the study also revealed that full beards were judged as an excellent sign of parenting ability and healthiness, so all your daddy Steve Rogers jokes paid off in a big way.

The study is obviously not a definitive reasoning behind something that is often just an issue of taste and instinct (it’s also super binary in terms of gender and talks about menstrual cycles a lot in a way that is very discomfiting). But there is something to be said about how our perception of guys with beards can be so different from those same men when they’re clean-shaven. We are still coded to think of beards as more manly than shaved faces. It’s a look that comes with plenty of connotations relating to ideas of rural living, hygiene, strength, maturity, and much more. For Captain America, his beard was a sign of his growing weariness with the world. With Thor in Endgame, his long beard was further evidence of his grief-driven apathy following his failure to stop Thanos. Tony Stark has always had the same well-manicured facial fuzz, a sign of his attention to detail and delightfully preening public image.

But what of the other favorite men of geekdom? How do they fare with beards? Do we prefer them with or without?

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Jason Momoa

When Jason Momoa shaved off his beard for a charitable cause, the world shook to its very core. How was it even possible that he could live without a beard? Momoa is a handsome man but he’s someone who’s at his peak when he’s living his best hippie surfer life. He wears a long beard so well, looking not at all aged but maintaining a mythic allure that’s perfect for a dude best known for playing a Dothraki warlord and the ocean master. It’s not that Momoa looks bad beardless, but it does feel like he’s missing part of his soul when you can see his chin.

Chris Evans Infinity War

Chris Evans

The boy scout of the Avengers has always looked poster ready, as is befitting of the Government’s most beloved mascot. When he grows that beard in Infinity War, you know he means serious business, but then it’s gone in Endgame because Steve Rogers has to go back to being the hero that America needs. Evans is lucky enough to be the sort of human that looks handsome with and without a beard, although he was never able to pull off that cop ‘stache for Lobby Hero. Is anyone other than Tom Selleck and J.K. Simmons able to do so?

Actually, scratch that…

Henry Cavill mustache

Henry Cavill

Now there’s a man who can pull off a mustache. Who would have thought that Superman of all people would have the jawline and tenacity to wear the kind of mustache that looks like it’s going to arrest you for insubordination? Cavill’s mustache in Mission: Impossible – Fallout was so powerful that even near-invincible human being Tom Cruise was worried. The mustache was such a force of nature that Justice League could not deal with it. But there’s a difference between rocking a mustache and a beard. When you have a jawline that sharp — the kind you could cut glass on — it feels unnecessary to grow a lot of hair over it. But a little stubble to go with the ‘tache? We’ll allow it.

Chris Hemsworth

Chris Hemsworth

Of all the men on this list — and indeed, of all the Chrises — Hemsworth is the one who has had the most interesting beard evolution over the past few years. It’s one of the most crucial aspects of his iconic Thor look, the ultimate calling card of Viking magnetism. He’s worn it long, short, cropped, and free-flowing. In Endgame, he even braids it to keep it nice and neat after a few years of Lebowski-style hippie apathy. It’s a look Hemsworth pulls off but he’s perhaps at his prime level of hotness when he’s wearing less a beard and more stubble. Look at everything he’s doing in Thor: Ragnarok and tell me he isn’t just the hottest creature to ever walk this planet.

John Krasinski A Quiet Place

John Krasinski

Krasinski’s evolution into action hero and old-school leading man happened so slowly that we barely noticed he’d stopped being the dorky secret villain of The Office (you know it’s true, don’t lie). There’s a fascinating malleability to Krasinski that makes him so ready to evolve from geek to stud. Muscles and a good haircut help — but nothing adds to the verve quite like a well-maintained serious dude beard. He doesn’t have time to shave while the world is falling around him in A Quiet Place — he’s too busy trying to be a good parent and not get eaten by monsters! Krasinski definitely benefits from dad beard-ness.

Rahul Kohli

Rahul Kohli

You can find pictures of Kohli without a beard, but there's a reason there are so few of them available on this here internet. This is a man who knows what look works for him and has made a stylistic commitment to the fuzz life. When you know what looks best on your pretty, pretty face, then there’s no reason to experiment. May he never let his chin see the light of day.

Keanu Reeves Always Be My Maybe

Keanu Reeves

Keanu is a priceless and timeless favorite of the geek sphere. He has aged like wine, going from slacker rocker to super-cool hacker messiah to John f***ing Wick — and each and every time he has been fine as all hell. For someone who was so heavily defined in audience’s minds as the baby faced dude of Bill & Ted for a large chunk of his career, Reeves’ late-stage reinvention as a beaded badass feels like a natural and highly welcome evolution of his persona. Now he’s serious business. Well, as serious as you can get when you’re shooting all the guns and killing people while riding a horse. When you have a face as gorgeous as Keanu’s, sometimes you’re just lucky enough to be able to pull off all looks. But there is something especially appealing about current-era bearded Keanu, just grizzly enough but still never taking himself too seriously. Besides, did you watch the trailer for Always Be My Maybe, where he growls about missing Ali Wong’s thighs? Dude’s a sex magnet, and the beard can only enhance that.


Jason Mantzoukas

Wait, are you trying to tell us that Jason Mantzoukas has been clean-shaven at some point in his life? Yeah, we’ve seen the photographic evidence, but we still refuse to believe it. How could you ever imagine a world in which Jason Mantzoukas is beardless? Why would you ever want to live in such a realm of existence? There are few men alive who can pull off the dirtbag beard, but Mantzoukas does so with such aplomb and allure that it makes you wonder why other dudes don’t try it (although we’re glad they don’t). It is as much a part of Mantzoukas’s being as his catchphrase, “What’s up, jerks?” Long may it prosper.