03/27/2009 05:32 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Getting Hairy: The Evolutionary Explanation for Recession Beards

If I were a man, just once in my life I would let my facial hair grow to 1860s steamboat captain proportions. I would wax those whiskers, give a twist here and there, add in sparkling barrettes, a plastic lobster, and other accessories until I had the B-52s of beards.

Look around you, pay attention on the street and especially in coffee shops and bookstores. More men, especially the unemployed, are sporting beards. WalletPop's Bruce Watson explains:

Many workplaces frown on facial hair, and those that allow it often have rules about length and cut. As unemployment releases the worker from the strictures of the office, the theory goes, he can use his new found freedom as an opportunity to explore his chin locks.This theory explains a lot, but barely shaves the surface of the phenomenon. It completely ignores the evolutionary power of whiskers. Facial hair is a visible, outward sign of one's masculinity; by growing beards, unemployed workers suggest that, evidence to the contrary, they have not been "unmanned" by their recent job troubles.

Taking this assertion as a starting point, it follows that the longer the beard, the more masculinity it exudes. Thus, while John Waters' pencil-thin mustache offers an air of sleaze and David Niven's well-trimmed lip locks suggest sophistication, Grizzly Adams' thick beard indicates a bottomless well of high-powered testosterone.

Whether you're sporting muttonchops or a Vandyke, let's see your recession beard. Send your pictures to WalletPop.