KICKIN’ STACHE The 2009 World Beard and Mustache Championships

Ov Dali, English, Verdi, the Alaskan
Whaler and the Hungarian/Wild West…




It’s Memorial
Day weekend, and Anchorage, Alaska is buzzing with hordes of the happily
hirsute. The city is hosting the 2009 World Beard and Mustache Championships,
and facial hair formations of every size, shape, and construction adorn the
mugs of men, young and old, that have congregated here. Lumberjacks,
Confederate soldiers, Amish, Round Table knights, Old West cowboys, hippies,
Scotsmen, trappers, fops, and even Moses himself are represented by the
elaborate costumes they wear. Clearly, there’s a sense of the ridiculous in
this scenario, but these gentlemen in various states of grizzle are intensely
focused on the honor and privilege of bringing home the gold.


(Go HERE to see
our Gallery of Beards. Watch out – some of those things are alive! 3D, even.)


Beard Team USA is jubilant
and more than a little patriotic as the Parade of Beards winds its way through
downtown. It’s all about pomp and good-natured bragging rights amongst the 250
contestants representing 13 countries and 32 states. Many of these furry-faced
enthusiasts have no doubt spent some time in the many brewpubs and dive bars
that line the Anchorage streets, giving a yeasty cheer to the proceedings. The
sunshine, balmy 60-degree temperatures, and breathtaking mountain vistas, no
doubt, contribute to the ebullition as well.


Some locals,
however, aren’t as enthusiastic. I’m sitting in a den of drunk, lost souls
called Darwin’s Theory before the judging begins at the Dena’ina Convention
Center. As the barmaid coaxes me into buying another beer, some guys sitting
across from me are commenting on the Cavs-Magic game we’re watching. Even after
finding out I’m a Lakers fan, they’re willing to chat about the beard buzz.
“The last thing I want to see is a bunch of bearded men,” barks Terrence,
himself no stranger to face bristles. His goatee/beard hybrid quivers as he
chuckles at his cantankerousness. When I press him further, he proceeds to tell
me a random, macabre story about a local schizophrenic named Christopher Rogers
who went on a murder spree a few years ago and is now facing almost 300 years
in prison. “Now he had a beautiful beard,” he says, in conclusion.


The actual
competition is, to be honest, less than titillating. There are three categories
– mustache, partial beard, and full beard. Within these are sub-divisions like
Dali, English, Verdi, and the Alaskan Whaler (full beard with no mustache). It
takes ages to get through each division because of the large number of
competitors. But when the winners are announced, their clumsy exuberance on the
catwalk makes it all worth it. This year, America bests Germany, traditionally
the largest title-holder in the world of competitive facial hair growing, in a
surprise upset. The red, white, and blue takes home 29 medals overall,
justifying the “U.S.A.!” chants that have punctuated the clean Alaska air all


The next
morning, I ponder Terrence’s grumpy words as I wander the Anchorage Weekend
Market, looking for souvenir antlers and reindeer sausage. All these beard
fetishists bombarding your city has got to be a little irritating when your own
visage shag is based on function, not fashion. Maybe he also wanted to fuck
with a facial-hair-challenged writer asking stupid questions, and who can blame
him? Still, I’m inspired by the heartbreak and triumph of this jovial
competition, and I’m looking forward to the next installment in 2011. I figure
that’s enough time to grow a Hungarian/Wild West mustache bushy enough to get
through the pre-judging.



[Photo Credit:
Jonah Flicker]


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