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The Future of Hair
Have you ever noticed that, in the movies, humans from the future are depicted as hairless? It’s the same with most humanoid aliens. These super-human beings, it seems, have either shed their coats through natural selection, or they’re all deeply into electrolysis.

To a point, I agree with this vision of evolutionary destiny. I can’t imagine a good rationale for armpit or crotch hair, for instance; those sorry patches will surely be selected out of existence in due course. In fact, most hair from the neck down has no good reason to be there. Even the heaviest thickets of chest and back hair would be a poor defense against the cold if we were caught naked out in the wild. Indeed, they serve no purpose other than being the butts of cruel jokes. Good riddance, I say.

From the neck up, the value of hair becomes more debatable. I will assert straight off, however, that beards are destined for the evolutionary scrap heap. If you have a beard, you probably think you look good in it; dashing, even. I am sorry to report that you do not. There may even be some women in your life who tell you that they like it. The truth is that they are just trying to make you feel good. And if you’re sporting one of those five-day-growth stubbles now popular in Hollywood … well, let me just say that any woman who claims to admire this homeless bum look should not be entrusted with the keys to your Ferrari.

Beards, in my view, are admired mostly by their owners. The other functions of a beard — to intimidate animals or other men — are no longer called for in our world. The only other possible excuse for wearing one is that it makes a good mask. Weak chins, bad acne, and other forms of facial disfigurement can be effectively hidden with a beard (though only if it is thick enough to be opaque; wispy growth will only make matters worse). In any case, I don’t think evolution will keep beards around simply as a favor to the painfully shy among us.

The demise of the beard will also doom mustaches, mutton chops, soul patches, and all the other patently ridiculous subgroups of facial hair. Sideburns, which have a foot in two different hair universes, will no doubt be sorted out as they have already been with women.

It is here, just under the nose, where I depart from science fiction’s prediction of hairlessness for our descendants. From this point on up, in fact, hair becomes an indispensable factor in the survival of our species.

Take nostril hairs. These humble watchmen, along with their cousins stationed at the entrances to the ear canals, help fend off unwelcome intrusions by dust, insects, and airborne embers into our delicate inner regions. It is unglamorous work, to be sure, but it is enough to spare them from the evolutionary axe.

If it’s glamour you want, we have the eyelashes and eyebrows. Their usefulness in communication and their role in attracting mates mean that they too will be spared. As long as sex plays a part in reproduction, there will be hair around the eyes.

And then, there is the mane itself: the topknot, the crest, at once the most beautiful and the most ridiculous feature of our physical identity. This grand thatch — theoretically infinite in length and configuration — can do it all: attract mates, enhance lovemaking, provide warmth, even act as a raw material for clothing and fine household furnishings. Natural selection would not dare to strip us of such a wondrous growth. It might make for good science fiction, but we’ll never get to the future without our crowning glory.

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