Physical attraction can be subjective. It can also be scientific. It turns out there are a number of innate — and, yes, some learned — reasons that women find themselves drawn to specific men and certain types.
So if you happen to spot a guy in real life across the bar or on a screen whilst scrolling left on a dating app and you can’t quite put your finger on what it is about this man that makes your pulse quicken and your eyes linger, we may have the answer (or answers!) for you.
It could have to do with his facial hair, a sexy scar on his cheek, his hair color, or that six-pack of abs. It could also be something a little less obvious: from the color of his shirt to his subtle body language. Your piqued interest may even be situational. Want to understand the motivation behind your attraction to some guys? Read on to find out all the surprising physical traits in men that are absolutely irresistible to women.
Women are attracted to men they perceive to be on their level
It is called "matching." And, no, we are not talking about getting his and hers underwear — although, that would be kind of cute. Rather, this concept notes that people are generally attracted to others whose looks they measure to be akin to their own. Women tend to go for guys who they deem to be on their level and in their league.
A study found that people on a dating site were more likely to answer a suitor’s request if they were of equal attractiveness. Of course, it should be noted that there were separate judges ranking the looks of both parties — to keep things relatively objective.
Dr. Mark Sergeant, a Nottingham Trent University psychologist, explained the general rational that motivates this matchy-matchy matchmaking to The Independent, and it is really rather simplistic — if not slightly shameful and petty: "If they are much better-looking than you, you are worried about them going off and having affairs. If they are much less attractive, you are worried that you could do better." Now doesn’t that just make you swoon?
Women like men with a little stubble
While many women trim, wax, pluck, and shave their body hair and stray facial hairs, men who are hoping to attract these fuzz-free ladies should consider letting their own stubble grow in. As it turns out, most women find a five o’clock shadow (or even more!) to be a highly attractive feature in a male partner — even if it does sometimes feel like sand paper.
When women were tasked with ranking men’s attractiveness as part of a 2013 study published in Evolution and Human Behavior, they gravitated to images featuring guys with "heavy stubble." Interestingly, a separate group of surveyed men agreed with the women’s assessment of attractiveness. What is more, both men and women agreed that dudes with full beards appear to be both more paternal and healthier.
A second similar study published in Personality and Individual Differences also found that women tend to prefer light stubble, and even rated the guys who have it as more suitable partners for non-committed romantic flings and long-term relationships alike.
Women prefer men who are a bit older and more mature
As noted by PsychCentral, the "George Clooney effect" is real. So men, take note: Those crow’s feet are sexy, and that salt-and-pepper hair of yours is doing you some serious favors. Step away from the Just for Men. (Also, we at Health Digest speak for every root-dyed woman when we say: This situation is wholly unfair.)
A study cited by the aforementioned site demonstrated that while men tend to rank a woman’s looks above her accomplishments, women generally care more about a man’s success than his facial features. Naturally, more accomplishments and success come with age and time. which may be why we like the look of mature men. Dr. Fhionna Moore, the lead researcher of the study, explained that while she and her fellow researchers assumed this preference would change with independently successful women, it surprisingly did not.
"The preferred age difference did not change as we’d expected — more financially independent women actually preferred even older men," Moore explained. "We think this suggests greater financial independence gives women more confidence in partner choices, and attracts them to powerful, attractive older men." Hey, they don’t call them silver foxes for nothing.
Women like muscle definition (but not too much)
It’s not exactly rocket science, but an analysis of multiple studies published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that women do, indeed, find muscular males to be sexier than men lacking definition. But, guys, that does not mean you need to be totally ripped; it turns out that ladies prefer "moderate muscularity." Chiseled abs? Yes, please. Body builder biceps? Not necessarily.
Interestingly, the research found that women also rank men with muscles to be "more physically dominant and volatile, and less committed to their mates." They also said that their most recent flings were with muscular men versus the longer relationships they had with less brawny bods. Worth noting: Muscular men also report having more sexual partners and more affairs with women in other relationships.
Of course, this can be subjective. Some women like a more undefined build. Remember the #dadbod craze of 2017? Research by the gym Planet Fitness found that 69 percent of surveyed women liked the approachable "dad bod" look (via Shape). So, rest assured, dudes. If you have a bulkier body type, so be it. There is likely a lady out there who finds you absolutely irresistible.
Women love a man in red
Hey, guys, are you looking to catch a specific lady’s eye? Next time you plan to see her, try wearing a red shirt. A study published by the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General found that women tend to find men wearing the bold hue more attractive than those in other colors.
Andrew Elliot, lead researcher at the University of Rochester explained in an interview with the university, saying, "When women see red it triggers something deep and probably biologically engrained. We say in our culture that men act like animals in the sexual realm. It looks like women may be acting like animals as well in the same sort of way." Elliot noted that women may see men in red as being more successful. "It’s this high-status judgment that leads to the attraction," he continued.
Of course, realistically, out of a study setting, that red shirt probably is not going to make or break a woman’s opinion of a man. Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher told The Week that women "have a huge cerebral cortex. If a man walks into a bar wearing a red sweater and has messy jeans, bad teeth and a bad haircut, we’re not going to be fooled by the sweater."
Women may prefer a man who at least appears to be successful
First impressions are important, right? If you see a man wearing an expensive suit, driving a souped up vehicle, or walking into a penthouse suite, you are likely going to make some assumptions about his wealth, success, and status. You may even be more attracted to him because of all these fancy factors. Thinking of it this way may make you cringe, but the truth is: We can all be a wee bit superficial.
A study in the British Journal of Psychology had women compare photos of a man behind the wheel of a red Ford Fiesta ST and that same man driving a Silver Bentley Continental GT. The women consistently ranked the latter photo of him as more attractive. Similar research in the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology found that women rated men as more attractive when his image was superimposed in front of a luxury apartment building.
FYI: When the tables were turned in both studies, men did not rank women in "higher status" situations as more attractive. Regardless, next time you think a guy is looking sexy in his sports car, ask your self: Is it the man, or is it the motor?
Women are attracted to men who take some physical risks
When a man engages in some athletic activity that takes skill and involves low-level risk, it is generally percieved positively by women. This may be why some ladies are attracted to guys who surf, skateboard, mountain bike, hunt, or engage in other similar pulse-quickening sports.
A study published in The Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that women may like when a man takes physical risks that are associated with hunting and gathering. This may sound silly; of course, modern-day women do not need a man to kill and fire-roast their meal. Nevertheless, the idea that a guy is resourceful and able to fend for himself (and his family) is generally seen as an attractive trait.
On the other hand, surveyed women were less drawn to men who engaged in more modern forms of risk — taking drugs, refusing to wear a seatbelt when driving, and anything that involved a general disregard for the safety of themselves and others. Bad boy surfer? Bring it on. Regular old bad boy? Move along!
Women like their men to smell good, but not for the reason you’d think
Women are attracted to men who wear a scented cologne, but their piqued interest may have little to do with their olfactory sense. This increased interest could be more about perception of confidence.
In a study published in The International Journal of Cosmetic Science, researchers gave one group of men a fragranced cologne and a second group a non-scented aerosol spray. Though both groups were ranked as equally attractive, women surveyed tended to favor video clips of those men who were wearing the actual cologne. Since, of course, the women could not catch a whiff of the scent through their screens, researchers deduced that they were able to pick up on the men’s increased self esteem.
Apparently, the simple act of putting on cologne with fragrance gives a man more swagger. As noted by the study, this can affect "impressions on others even when those impressions are formed in the absence of odor cues."
Women find men’s scars to be sexy
A scar can be feel like a badge of courage for some. For others, it is just a source of self consciousness. But men with mild facial scars need not worry that women may find them unattractive. On the contrary, ladies seem to like a man who has a facial marking that tells a story. A study published in Personality and Individual Differences confirmed that women found men with photo-realistic "non-severe facial scarring" attractive. Interestingly, however, they found these same scarred males more appealing for short-term flings and relationships, but less ideal for lengthy, committed ones.
As explained by Live Science, the swooning for this unexpected feature might be less about the wound itself and more about the traits it could be associated with: bravery and unabashed masculinity. It is also worth noting that men were indifferent to scars on the opposite sex. They found women equally attractive with or without mild facial scarring.
Women want men who present themselves with open body language
It is true that we give off lots of non-verbal cues to those around us. And as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. So it can’t be denied that our body language makes quite an impression on the opposite sex.
A study out of Princeton University showed that "postural expansiveness" can make someone more attractive in another person’s eyes. This means that when a man stands tall with an expanded chest, open palms, and proud posture, a woman is likely to notice and find him more appealing than she would if he were shrunken in, slumping down, or closed off.
Another reason noted by the research? "Expansiveness makes the dating candidate appear more dominant." This can be especially pertinent in an online dating situation where "success sometimes is determined by a split-second decision rendered after a brief interaction or exposure to a static photograph," the study explained. Yes, a quick first impression of stance and body language can make all the difference between accepting a date or denying one — so, do as your mama taught you, and stand up straight.
Women like men who appear (modestly) proud
Fake it till you make it, right? When it comes to acting proud (whether or not you actually feel that way), showing off a boastful grin could hep you score more dates. At least for men.
Using pictures, a study published in Emotion had women rank the attractiveness of men with facial manifestations of emotions. Women were most attracted to guys that demonstrated, or rather looked as if they were demonstrating, pride. Oddly, though, they were not as drawn to men who looked happy — even ranking men who appeared shameful and moody above the latter. Interestingly, men had an opposite reaction when shown pictures of women. They were least attracted to ladies who looked proud.
Either way, we say be true to yourself. Initial attraction aside, you are going to want a partner who experiences a range of emotional responses — not least of which is happiness and pride. And while a brooding, moody man may look sexy at first sight, a smiling, accomplished guy who also values your successes is more likely the catch you have been searching for.
A man who can laugh and make a woman crack up is a keeper
Never underestimate the power of a laugh. Everyone loves someone who is willing to show their silly, lighthearted side. And the ability to make someone crack a smile or give a giggle is the ultimate sign of a sexy personality — so it is no surprise that women like men that embrace humor.
A study published in the journal Personal Relationships confirmed this, noting that women ranked men with a sense of humor as more desirable for long-term relationships. Men, on the other hand, cared far more about a woman’s attractiveness than her ability to make him laugh.
University of Kansas researcher Jefferey Hall lead a second study that had similar findings. He shared the simplicity of the humor-attraction link in a press release, saying, "If you meet someone who you can laugh with, it might mean your future relationship is going to be fun and filled with good cheer." The truth is: Over time, good looks may fade, but shared laughs will keep you united through thick and thin.
Women may prefer men with darker hair
Blondes may have more fun, but it seems that brown and black-haired men get more love. In a study published in Psychological Studies, men were asked to wear either a blonde, black, brunette, or red wig to a nightclub on separate nights, and ask women to dance with them. The results? Brown-wigged men were received positively 30 percent of the time, while black-haired men got accepted invitations 35 percent of the time. Men with blonde wigs were given a "yes" 27.5 percent of the time. And as for the red-headed guys? Well, they had a slimmer shot at nailing down a dance-floor date — with only 13.8 percent of women answering affirmatively (via Psychology Today).
Interestingly (or perhaps predictably), when the tables were turned and women wore wigs, men responded most enthusiastically to blondes. Those bubbly clichés are hard to break. Of course, all of these results should be taken with a grain of salt. There are several caveats to this particular experiment — so, men, no need to run to the drug store for a box of hair dye just yet.