- World Cup 2014
By: Hugh Wilson
You may be getting more handsome and even smarter. But don't take our word for it - it's science!
Can we just say how fine you're looking today? Somehow you look taller, a little more muscular, a bit smoother.
And you're on good form with the chat, too. If we're not very much mistaken, you're as witty and sharp as you've ever been. We're guessing that if you decided to chat up a girl in the bar tonight she'd be putty in your hands.
You may think we've gone mad - and you may well be right. But that's not the reason for this outpouring of obsequiousness. If you're a man, you've probably never looked or sounded better. Here's why.
Partly, it's vanity
First off, let's examine the shallow end of this pool. You may look better than ever because you're trying harder than ever. In the last decade, male cosmetic surgery figures have gone through the roof. An industry for male grooming products and cosmetics has been created almost from nothing.
You probably knew all that, but a new study puts (beautifully wrinkle-free) meat on those bones. The survey of nationwide beauty parlours found that demand for male hair removal, manicures and tanning sessions had reached record levels.
'Our customers are telling us that they are seeing a huge and increasing demand from men asking for beauty treatments,' said Richard Hull, managing director of Salon Services UK Ireland, which commissioned the survey.
'With the male hairdressing market estimated to be worth £1.2bn alone, this market now represents a significant opportunity for hairdressers and salons across the UK.'
Meanwhile, a new study by dating site match.com found that in some areas of the country men are now more likely than women to go for a spray tan or sunbed session before a date.
In a nutshell, some men are looking better because they're spending a stack of cash on their looks.
Partly, it's evolution
But that's not the whole story. The fact is, we're all getting a tiny bit more attractive to women, whether we spend money at the beauty salon or not.
And that's down to evolution. When we think of evolution, we tend to think of something that happened long ago, to our cave-dwelling, thick-browed ancestors. Not so, says Dr Virpi Lummaa, from the University of Sheffield's department of animal and plant sciences.
'It is a common misunderstanding that evolution took place a long time ago, and that to understand ourselves we must look back to the hunter-gatherer days of humans. Humans continue to be affected by both natural and sexual selection.'
So what's that got to do with your pulling chances tonight? Well, according to Dr Lummaa's research, it means that human traits are still evolving to increase their chances of mating success. And this is happening faster in men than in women.
Dr Lummaa's study looked at detailed church records of almost 6,000 Finns born between 1760 and 1849, and analysed their mating success and fertility. It found that sexual selection is still happening in human populations.
Co-author Dr Alexandre Courtiol, from the Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin, said: 'Characteristics increasing the mating success of men are likely to evolve faster than those increasing the mating success of women.
'This is because mating with more partners was shown to increase reproductive success more in men than in women.'
And what characteristics increase the chances of mating for men? The research speculates that men may be getting better looking (from a female point of view) and more intelligent even. Because if sexual selection is still taking place in humans, and these are traits women find desirable in men, men will slowly adapt to fit the ideal.
Women will evolve to fit male ideals too, but at a much slower pace because they don't have an evolutionary need to mate with multiple partners.
Evolution may have equipped men to be more intelligent than women anyway. If there are any women reading, don't shoot the messenger. Psychologist Professor Richard Lynn has written that, on average, adult men score five IQ points higher than women.
He claims that this is evolution at work. When our ancient forefathers hunted for food it took all their cognitive powers to bring home the bacon (or venison) day after day. That resulted in men evolving proportionately bigger brains than women.
Partly, it's progress
Evolution is a very slow process, however. Scientific and technical advances are also working to make men more attractive to women.
For example, it's largely improvements in childhood nutrition that have made both genders, but men in particular, taller then ever. Studies show that height is a physical trait women appreciate. Good childhood nutrition has also been linked to higher IQs.
The upshot of all this is that men fit female ideas of attractiveness better than at any time in human history. Our faces may be, on average, more symmetrical and more appealing, our bodies taller and our brains sharper. Add to that the time and money we're spending on self-improvement and there's only one possible conclusion: boy, you're looking fine!
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