Where Facial Hair Is a Serious, or at Least Competitive, Subject

The singer flirted loudly, blond hair bobbing behind her head, asking attendees to pose for photographs with her.

Across the room, a bargoer stood quietly, preparing, with long red locks dangling from his chin. He indulged a few autograph seekers, shook a few hands, smiled for a few cameras, even stomached the occasional scowls from envious passers-by.

“I don’t know if it’s celebrity anymore,” the man said, smiling. “I think I’ve become notorious.”

Indeed, a pop star and a bearding champion had walked into a bar. And, at least on Saturday night, the stage belonged to the beards.

Inside a rented nightclub in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, facial hair enthusiasts, their agreeable friends, and a captive audience of club staff members gathered for the New York City Beard Competition, hosted by the Gotham City Beard Alliance. The event also attracted the singer Kesha, who spent the evening “getting inventory,” she said, for a forthcoming Web site that will prominently feature beards, possibly in a suggestive manner.

But the most polarizing figure in the room was a man who goes by Jack Passion, a two-time winner in the full beard category of the World Beard and Moustache Championships. Through a popular book and a starring role on IFC’s “Whisker Wars,” a seven-episode documentary series, Jack Passion, 28, has become the bushy face of the bearding game. He has made some enemies, though, for his braggadocio onscreen, most notably his calling himself “the Muhammad Ali of beards.”

“Yup,” said one competitor, eyeing Jack Passion from across the bar. “Big guns showed up for this one.”

Many first-timers came as well. Stephanie Coffee, 25, from Greenwood Heights, Brooklyn, took top honors in the fake beard category, affixing her own hair to her chin using bobby pins and pantyhose.

Kevin Tuomey, 54, traveled from Asheville, N.C., to compete in the natural mustache competition. Wearing his grandfather’s old fedora, a maroon bowtie and a white silk scarf from his high school prom, Mr. Tuomey placed second for his “classic handlebar.” He said he had not shaved it since Sept. 11, 2001, when he worked as a commodities trader in Lower Manhattan. “It just seemed to be something to keep me going,” he said. “My remembrance.”

For each of the seven categories, which included, in a nod to Occupy Wall Street, a “99 percent beard” group, contestants walked across the stage as a master of ceremonies read answers from their entry forms. Participants were asked to name the worst part about having facial hair. Answers included: “drunk people tugging on it,” “babies,” “teenagers laughing at me on the G train,” “employment restrictions” and “there is no downside to having facial hair.”

Bribery of judges, in the form of free drinks, was encouraged. The panel featured a former competitor, a YouTube cooking sensation known as the Vegan Black Metal Chef, and a representative from the Keep a Breast Foundation, the breast cancer charity to which the evening’s proceeds were dedicated.

John Buckler, 31, from Lansing, Mich., likened the bearding community to a social club. “Like the Masons,” he said.

But Mr. Buckler made clear this was no passing hobby. His beard, styled into four closed loops beneath his chin, won the freestyle category, earning Mr. Buckler a plaque, a T-shirt, a framed certificate, shampoo, and beard lotion.

Like a pitcher icing his throwing arm, the most serious beardsmen follow a strict regimen. Jack Passion said he slept with his beard in braids. He often performs hot oil treatments on his beard, he added, before showering, air drying the locks, brushing them, then trimming his mustache and any split ends.

“It’s like a gated community,” Jack Passion said. “They have gardeners come every day, so it always looks good.”

But on this night, it seemed, the beard did not look quite good enough. When the four finalists in the full beard category were announced, Jack Passion’s number was not called.

He had seen friends, greeted fans, and allowed Kesha to chomp into his mane. But as club personnel shooed the bearded masses from the premises at 11 p.m. — with a line of well-primped 20-somethings standing behind a velvet rope out front, waiting for the club to reopen as normal — Jack Passion struggled to make sense of the snub. It was the first time, he noted, that he had failed to place in a beard competition.

“Whatever,” he said, laughing loudly, then quieting down. “It reflects worse on the competition than it does on me.”

Powered By WizardRSS.com | Full Text RSS Feed | Amazon Affiliate | Settlement Statement
Go to Source