If there’s one positive social contribution that came from the swing toward uber-hippie, 90s revivalism, it’s that beards have come back into style, both in Hollywood and elsewhere. Truly, the vast majority of men look better (and more sexually provocative) with a little hair on their face, even if it’s just a bit of strategically-cultivated stubble, and this is especially true of categorically attractive gentlemen who are also famous. Who are the sexiest celebrities with beards? And more importantly, which actors look better with beards than they do without them?
Many folks consider the beard (and its other, more artisanal derivatives, such as the mutton chop and the handlebar mustache) to be a pure, distinguished, and noble form of creative expression. A bearded man is a man fully realized, in all of his glorious, masculine splendor – the nuances of his individual maleness, whether dapper and well-groomed, or burly, untamed, and lumberjack-like, on proud display for the rest of the world to ponder and appreciate.
Contrary to popular misconceptions, Cooper somehow manages to look more well-groomed and less sleazy with a beard than he does without one, as these contrasting photos demonstrate.
If you’re like us, it probably gives you a mild, creeping sensation of brain freeze every time you witness Kit Harington outside a greasy, angst-ridden, Medieval context, which may be a contributing factor in our reflexive rejection of his clean-shaven look. His gentle, delicate beard does help him to exceptionally embody the “sensitive young poet with a guitar” aesthetic, however.
Maybe it’s because we got used to seeing him as a werewolf all the time on True Blood, but the hairier Joe Manganiello is, the more rugged and dangerously sexy he appears to us.
With a beard, Gerard Butler looks like someone you could tell your problems to, then snuggle up with for several hours eating ice cream and giggling. Without a beard, he looks like a man eager to aggressively backhand your children in the grocery store for breathing too loudly.
Few men on planet Earth can really rock a mustache, even with some auxiliary, supporting chin stubble. By that standard, Pedro Pascal is basically a superhero.
Jason Momoa rose to fame playing the sexy, terrifying, shirtless Khal Drogo on HBO’s Game of Thrones. His old school, Conan-like masculinity could not have been achieved without his flowing braids, copious eye makeup, and respectable growth of facial hair.
Idris Elba is so secure in the transcendent power of his signature Van Dyke style beard, that he has rarely appeared onscreen without it. Though his smooth, naked babyface remains stunning, it’s no match for the masterful dignity of his trademark look.
Maybe it’s just because we’ve seen so much of him, but Mr. Jackman, frankly, doesn’t even look like a human without at least a little bit of stubble.
Michael Fassbender is creepy no matter what, but he’s also one of very few men whose beard makes him look younger, rather than older. Perhaps this is thanks to the beard’s blithe copper tones. (Plus, seeing Fassbender without a beard always reminds us of Shame.)
Justin Timberlake pulled off one of the most impressive evolutionary shifts in entertainment history, transforming convincingly from a ramen-haired tweenybopper to a distinguished and celebrated icon of adult masculinity. There is no doubt Timberlake’s laudable successes with beard experimentation played an important role in this.
Unlike most others on this list, Tom Hardy is unperturbed by extreme boldness when it comes to his facial hair. At its pinnacle, Hardy’s rugged, finely trimmed, yet still strategically shaggy beard virtually epitomizes the lumberjack look.
2014’s Sexiest Man of the Year, Hemsworth’s People cover represented a tragic missed opportunity to display his manly scruff, though he was at least sporting a suggestive growth of stubble.
Mr. Pine’s beard sort of makes him look like a Bond villain, but in a way we approve of.
Mr. Depp rose to fame by cultivating a boyish heartthrob image in the 80s and 90s, but his more mature, black-eyeliner-and-goatee incarnation is our favorite look.
We’re not sure why he’s always doing that weird, lopsided thing with his mouth, but regardless, Ian Somerhalder does certainly look more deviously suave (or suavely devious) with a modest growth of hair on his face, than he does without one.
Chris Pratt is almost too cute for his own good, so it’s a very smart move for him to allow his stubble to accumulate into something more substantial, spiritually divorcing him from any of the more negative man-child connotations.
Jude Law is a smolderingly intense man at all turns, but something about this fine growth of beard makes him really look prepared to get serious.
Ryan Gosling is known for playing tough guys with soft, gooey emotional fillings, and the dapper, yet slightly rugged ambiguity his beard adds to his face helps offset his boyish features in pursuit of this goal.
His career may not be flourishing as impressively as his facial hair, but at least Keanu Reeves is managing to look his age without looking like a 90s refugee.
Jake’s searing blue eyes and babyface defined his early career, but his neatly-trimmed facial coiffure has eased his transition into a meatier adult persona.
Jamie Dornan’s chiseled beardlessness is just a little too intense for us. With some facial hair, he appears intimidating, but at least remotely approachable.
Ben Affleck’s beard is among the most simultaneously well-groomed and lustrous we’ve ever witnessed (plus, we won’t lie, that tiny mole on his face has always sort of bugged us).
Mr. Diggs looks eerily identical in almost every image ever captured of him, aside from his facial hair evolution, which has served as a vital tool for determining the chronological positioning of his photographs.
“Distinguished” may not quite be the word for Ashton Kutcher’s manicured beard, but it does at least make him convincingly resemble an adult.
Zac Efron looks half-asleep most of the time no matter what choices he makes about his facial hair, but he’s still a notable entry, thanks to how vastly different in age and intelligence his beard makes him seem, regardless of his uniformly disengaged expression.
On Breaking Bad, Jesse Pinkman’s slow decline into personal chaos was mirrored in his lustrous growth of beard. In real life, Paul’s beard makes him look both more approachable and, somehow, more likely to spontaneously kick your ass.
In his more chiseled and clean-shaven iteration, Seth Rogen is, of course, appropriately worthy of praise and admiration. However, nobody quite exemplifies the scruffy, hot nerd aesthetic quite like bearded Rogen does.
We’re actually surprised it took Mr. Rudd so long to sprout a beard, considering his deeply entrenched hipster credibility. It has been only relatively recently, however, that Rudd has foregone his recognizably clean-cut presentation and opted for a medium-length hair, casually-bearded, hip college professor look.
Jon Hamm’s bold, thick, woodsy style makes him appear commanding and intimidating, but in a kind of adorable way.
Pitt can pretty much rock any follicular configuration he wants, as far as we’re concerned. Bearded, however, he acquires a kind of fatherly approachability that is simultaneously reassuring, and a little hot.
Denzel’s classic look is clean-shaven, but his occasional foray into beard-dom gives him an especially dignified, professorial bearing.
Channing Tatum’s face without anything growing out of it makes us feel vaguely uncomfortable, like he’s made out of modeling clay or something. Even a light growth of beard is deeply reassuring.
Sans facial hair, Pattinson looks like a superficially personable gentleman who, deep down inside, seethes with unfathomable evil. With facial hair, he looks like a secretly golden-hearted person whose rough encounters with humanity’s darkness have forced him to become externally tough and grumpy. R Patz let his facial hair fly free while filming The Lost City of Z in Belfast in 2015.