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January 09, 2004

Hair

The Economist has an article about the hairlessness of everyone's favorite primate.

But human hair is generally fine and short, and so humans look naked compared with their closest animal relations. How bare they are, though, does vary racially—which may explain why one Thai lady has requested that her European boyfriend should have his entire body waxed.

The last point discussed was facial hair.

The theory here is that sexual selection has kept facial hair in men, presumably because this advertises their male hormones. But why, then, do so many men, in so many cultures, shave them off? Perhaps the fear of parasites is driving some men to be clean-shaven. Maybe the goatee is a compromise between being clean and manly. Or, perhaps, shaving is popular because facial shape in humans is a sexually dimorphic characteristic. Men tend to have squarer jaws than women, and they shave to highlight this. If so, this would explain the trend for emphasising the edge of the jawline with a fringe of hair.

So is this why men shave? Does The Economist have it right, or is it something else?

Posted by Thrasymachus at 04:47 PM