Tag: facial hair

Keep Austin Bearded

By: Nick Castillo, Sara Eunice Martinez, Kaylee Nemec

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Music blared, drinks flowed freely and hair filled the Mohawk on Feb. 20.

Nearly 1,000 people packed the downtown Austin venue for the 10th annual Come and Shave It beard competition.

The Come and Shave It event, which is organized by the Austin Facial Hair Club, is one of largest beard competitions in the country. The 2016 event attracted more than 220 competitors from all around the United States and the world.

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Kevin Becker, from East Haven, Connecticut, finished in third place in the beard under a foot category and said he came to the event because of its magnitude in the beard community.

“I just started competing last year and I heard this was a very big competition so me and a couple other guys from Connecticut, we all came down,” Becker said. “It’s been great.”

Both the Austin Facial Hair Club and the Come and Shave It event have grown in their first 10 years. The club started with four members and now has 50 dedicated members. The original event was started by Misprint magazine, a now defunct publication, and was held at Club de Ville, which is now Cheer Up Charlies. The event quickly outgrew its old venue and moved to the larger Mohawk. 

Bryan Nelson, president of the Austin club and one of the original four founders, said the event originally began as a spoof but grew in popularity. He said the city quickly embraced the event.

“I think Austin has always been a beardy place,” Nelson said. “It’s always been a more of relaxed lifestyle in Austin. You can go into a restaurant and see them in a T-shirt and jeans or something like that. The beard culture itself is pretty strong. Normally guys get pretty proud of their beard. It’s kind of fun to celebrate them.”Beards (1)

Brett Strauss, commissioner of the Facial Hair League, which helps clubs organize beard competitions, said the key to the Come and Shave It event is its dedication to philanthropy. Strauss said most of the beard clubs are set up around raising money for non-profit causes. “If it was just about the beards, I don’t think there would so much commitment and so many people traveling the way they do,” Strauss said.

Nelson said that both the club and the Come and Shave It event have helped multiple charities over the past 10 years. He said they’ve helped with Wounded Warriors, SXSW Cares and the Austin Animal Center, among others.

“We just try to help out community where we can,” Nelson said. “We try to keep it real in Austin. We’re not registered as non-profit but we operate like a non-profit … We just try to have fun and ‘Keep Austin Beard.’”

The charity aspect of the event is important, but the fun keeps the event going. Strauss said he enjoys going to the Austin event because it’s one of the biggest competitions of the year. He also said the time he spends at beard competitions remind him of his college days.

“For me it’s like going back to college for the weekend,” Strauss said. “My mother-in-law watches my kids. I take my wife. We head out of town. And we go and hang out with some wonderful people and drink beer and have fun. It’s just like going back to college. I really enjoy spending time with these people.”

The Austin club and event has helped the beard community grow and “Kept Austin Beard” for the past 10 years and they’re being rewarded for it.  Austin will host the World Beard and Mustache Championships in 2017, which Nelson is excited about.

“It’s been years in the making,” Nelson said.

 

Locations

Graphic Maps by: Kaylee Nemec

 

How Beards are Judged: A Q&A with Facial Hair League commissioner Brett Strauss

Understanding how a beard competition works is confusing. To help shave the nitty-gritty, Facial Hair League commissioner Brett Strauss discussed how competitions work.

Strauss, a former beard competition judge, discussed a variety of beard competition topics to help get a better understanding of how judging works, what judges look for and much more.

 

Q: How does judging work?

A: “It’s kind of like Olympic style judging, where each competitor is given a score between seven and 10 on the half-point: 7.5, 8, 8.5. You’re picking the first, second and third out of your final group for each category and you submit it and everything is calculated.”

 

Q: How does fan-voting work?

A: “The fan-voting is something we call ‘fantasy facial hair,’ which is like fantasy football where instead of picking players that’ll play the best, you’ll pick competitors. You’re going to pick the ones that you think are going to win first, second and third in each category. The closer you are to matching the judges themselves, the more points you get.”

 

Q: How many beard categories are there?

A: “I would say there are probably around 24 standard categories and there a probably just as many unique categories. The standard categories can include mustache, natural mustache, freestyle mustache, chops, beards, many different categories. Then you have the unique categories, which are things like some clubs will do world’s worst beard. Some people will do Texas red beard, salt-and-pepper for the gray and white beards. So there are some fun ones out there.”

 

Q: Which categories have the most competitors?

A: “Most competitions, you’re going to get 50 percent of your competitors competing in two categories. It really depends on how the clubs set them up. Usually, it’s, if you’ve got an under-12 inch full beard natural – that’s a very large group of people that have 12-inch or shorter beards. That’s probably going to be your largest group. Then, I’d say the second largest would be the 12-inch or over 12-inch full beard.”

 

Q: What do judges look for when judging?

A: “It depends. If you’re going for a full-beard natural then basically what you’re saying is it’s someone that does not do any type of cutting, shaving, cleaning up. It’s kind of an unruly set of people. These are people that don’t shave the cheek. They don’t shave under their neck. They just kind of let it absolutely go. So in that case, you’re actually looking for people that are more unkempt. You’re looking for length. Obviously, you want the beard to healthy. Volume helps as well. If you’re looking at another category like styled, or best-groomed beard, then you’re doing the exact opposite. You’re actually looking for people that have perfect beard shapes and have cleaned the cheek up. They have perfect straight lines that are matching.”

 

Photos by: Kaylee Nemec

Moovly created By: Sara Eunice Martinez

Film By: Sara Eunice Martinez

Austin’s Facial Hair Culture Grows Thick

 by Jane Claire Hervey, Olivia Starich, Alex Vickery & Elizabeth Williams

For many American men, the onset of “No Shave November” marks a time of facial hair freedom. The annual cultural trend, which began as a cancer awareness movement by the American Cancer Society, calls for a divorce from the razor in acknowledgement of one’s hairiest self. But for Austin’s habitually bearded citizenry, “No Shave November” is just another month. For these men, facial hair is perennial — and it means business.

In September of this year, a study conducted by men’s grooming company Wahl Home Products found that Austin is the seventh most facial hair-friendly city in America. Using online tools, the company’s market research determined that Austin generally has a positive sentiment toward and a general interest in facial hair. But this love for all things bearded and mustached extends far beyond Internet facial hair forums, to local beard-oriented businesses and organizations that have been active for over a decade.

 Dylan Powell of the Austin Facial Hair Club. Photo by Olivia Starich

Dylan Powell of the Austin Facial Hair Club has been growing a beard for a couple of years. He maintains his mane with beard oils and a customized comb. Photo by Olivia Starich

One such organization, the Austin Facial Hair Club, was founded in 2007 by bearded Austinite Bryan Nelson and three friends. The hairy organization first served as a means to gather a team for that year’s World Beard and Moustache Championships in Alaska. Later the club gained its own reality TV show, “Whisker Wars,” which ran for two seasons on one of AMC’s networks, IFC. Although the club’s stint on national television has since ended, Nelson still regularly hosts and participates in local and national beard and mustache competitions: in 2011, his full-bodied face-mane placed second at the U.S. Nationals for the “Full Beard Natural” category.

“I haven’t shaved in about nine years,” Nelson said.

And it’s obvious. Nelson’s beard extends down to his belt loops. Braided by his wife, the club leader’s facial hair is usually one of the longest at group gatherings. This past weekend at the Hi-Hat bar in East Austin, Nelson and other local beard enthusiasts met over smoked salmon bagels and beer for an Austin Facial Hair Club “Meat and Greet” over roasted salmon bagels and beer. Between bites, they brushed crumbs away from their whiskery mouths and exchanged stories and secrets of their trade — the conversation ranged from debating over the best mustache wax, their recent facial hair growth discoveries and their plans for the future.

“Austin’s going to host the World Beard and Mustache Championship in 2017 so, we’re getting geared up for that,” Nelson said. “Most of [the championships] have about 300 competitors and 1,000 spectators, and ours is going to be about 1,000 competitors and 3,000 spectators or more.”

Austin Facial Hair Club from Elizabeth Williams on Vimeo.

While this won’t be Austin’s first foray into facial hair competition, it will be the largest. The club has been hosting annual beard and mustache competitions for several years, and local businesses have started to take part in the fun. In August of this year, downtown bar Cheer Up Charlie’s hosted its first Wet Beard Contest, which offered a spotlight for Austin beardos to flaunt their damp whiskers. On Saturday, Oct. 22, mustache-themed establishment The Handlebar plans to host its 3rd Annual Mustache Competition. Despite the competitive element, Austin Facial Hair Club member Jeff Raye said that the community supports a friendly environment for its bearded and mustached members.

“When you walk down the street, and you see a guy with a bigger beard you just kind of give that nod and that wink to him,” Raye said. “The bigger beard gets the right of way.”

Austin’s thriving beard culture has also provided a way for beard-geared business. The Bearded Bastard, the grooming product brainchild of mustached Austinite Jeremiah Newton, began with homemade mustache waxes and beard oils in 2011. Brought on by demand from his bearded friends and local facial hair cultivators, Newton’s home project quickly grew into an online store, and he began marketing his products to a national audience. Now a facial hair authority for publications like The New York Times and Esquire, Newton travels the globe to spread his facial hair gospel.

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The shelves at Shed Barber Shop feature a variety of grooming products. The “Woodsman” collection of mustache waxes and oils comes from the Austin company The Bearded Bastard. Photo by Jane Claire Hervey. Edited by Alex Vickery.

“I created my company because friends wanted to buy it, [and it] just kind of bloomed from there,” Newton said. “I am just a geeky kid who likes to make beautiful things.”

When it comes to Newton and members of the Austin Facial Hair Club, beards are more than just a facial feature — they’re a full-time hobby (or in Newton’s case, a profession). But for other local beardos, growing a beard is simply a part of everyday life. Matty Reininger, bartender at The Mohawk Austin, Crow Bar and previously at mustache-themed Handlebar, said he sports a beard because his job does not require him to shave and he likes the look.

“I think most guys, especially when it comes to the Austin Facial Hair Club guys, are just so dedicated. I don’t have that kind of dedication,” Reininger said.

Matty Reininger, cartoonist and bartender with a beard. Photo by Alex Vickery

Matty Reininger, cartoonist and bartender with a beard. Photo by Alex Vickery

And Reininger is right: Growing a competition-ready beard, or even a “nice beard” by beard experts’ standards, takes some effort. To prepare for his beard battles, Austin Facial Hair Club member Dylan Powell said he has purchased special oils and customized beard combs to maintain his beard hair. As a seasoned competition judge beard expert himself, Newton said that he judges others’ facial hair by its cleanliness and shape. Websites like BeardBoard.com, a forum for facial hair diehards, provide how-to guides for beard-growing best practices. In Austin, barber shops like Shed on South First Street offer trims and cuts specifically for bearded men. One of Shed’s managers, Joseph Bellows, said that many bearded and mustached men come into the shop regularly for trims.

“Sometimes, it’s a lot easier for them to come here than to trim it themselves at home,” Bellows said. “If you cut the beard the wrong way, you could ruin the entire style.”

Although Austin has developed a niche culture around facial hair over the last decade, Austin Facial Hair Club member and former East Coast native Jared Stotz said that the city is unique for other reasons. He has found that the non-bearded community’s acceptance of facial hair makes Austin’s culture all the more special.

“Whereas in some cities where someone might kind of look down their noses at a guy who is not clean-shaven, that’s far less considered here. I go back East, I look like a freak,” Stotz said. “Going to central Maryland, either they think you’re on ‘Duck Dynasty’ or they think you’re some kind of degenerate.”

With beard competitions, clubs and businesses, Austin’s facial hair community has surely carved out its own cultural space — but it is by no means restricted to those who take it seriously.

“I support all facial hair,” Nelson said. “All facial hair is valid.”