How facial hair has changed in popularity around the world since 200 BC in one chart

Facial hair is not only attractive, according to scientists, it’s also popular, says Martin Vargic.

Vargic has analysed hundreds of historic images, paintings, engravings, and sculptures that date back as far as 200 BC to investigate how prevalent facial hair was throughout the world at different points in history.

He found that since the turn of the millennium, increasingly more men around the world have been growing facial hair, but it’s not nearly as many as during the turn of the 20th century:

In order to compile such a detailed account of history, Vargic dove into images in Wikimedia commons and historic websites. For dates that preceded 300 AD — when paintings and drawings were limited or completely unavailable — he looked at mostly coins or statues.

“I analysed several dozen of such depictions for each era, more than one thousands images total (with a number of them depicting more than one person), in order to come with as exact estimate as possible,” Vargic told Business Insider in an email.

Here are some of the interesting trends in the graph:

  • Between 80% to 90% of Chinese men had facial hair until 1700, when it dropped to a still respectable 70%. But in 1900, the number took a sharp dip and, of the five regions Vargic studied, China now has the fewest number of men with facial hair.
  • For 2,000 years, North America had the fewest number of men with facial hair. But around mid 18th century, we see a huge jump from about 10% of men having facial hair to over 90%.
  • Throughout history, the Arab realm has been the most consistent having between 80% and 90% of men with some amount of facial hair.

Though it’s hard to know for sure if this chart accurately depicts how popular facial hair is throughout the ages, Vargic argues that his method gives a representative sample of society:

“I used a wide variety of depictions of famous historical individuals (politicians, philosophers, scientists, artists, etc.) when making the chart,” Vargic wrote. “As their average preferences in facial hair usually reflect the preferences of society overall in their times.”

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