Things were getting hairy at the Balasco Theatre. It was the second annual Los Angeles Beard and Mustache Competition and before I pun again, I must say it was fascinating.
From the outside, it looks like part-Halloween, part-modern art exhibit. Case in point, not long after the doors opened did The Devil himself arrive on the red carpet, looking very devilish. This being Los Angeles, it didn’t surprise me one bit that he'd have a summer home here. "All my minions are here," he says.
But his work is not complete yet. "I need the gold first, then it's done," he says.
The "gold" refers to the top prize in his category -- styled mustache. The Devil, like many others there, are beardsmen, into what's called "bearding," fast becoming a popular pastime and a sport to be reckoned with. (Let's save the debate on whether or not it's a sport for another day. If building your body is a sport, then why not building your beard?) These gentlemen take it pretty seriously.
Phil Olsen is on hand, but not competing. He is the captain of Beard Team USA which represents the United States in the World Beard and Moustache Championships. It was in 1999 when Olsen first attended the event in Sweden and was surprised to see America was not there. "I said to myself, 'What's wrong with this picture?" Phil says.
And he's been promoting the sport in the U.S. ever since then. Now, the L.A. Beard Club is a couple of years old and there are many other local chapters throughout the country.
"Everywhere you look, people are growing beards for America," he says. "And that's our motto -- Growing Beards for America -- because look, someone has to. I mean, there are people who pole vault for America and swim the breast stroke for America, then there need to be people who grow beards and that's us."
(It won't be in London this year, but who knows about Rio de Janeiro in 2016?)
This particular competition is already growing. (OK, that pun slipped out. I do apologize.) The number of participants is up from the inaugural event the previous year.
Tim Allred (at left) is a competitor and also a member of the L.A. Beard Club. I inquired what members do in the club. Do they count the number of hairs on each other's chin to see who has the most lustrous facial forest? "We mostly drink beer. We hang out," he says.
Oh. Seems reasonable. Pretty basic, actually.
But for today, Tim has put together a special ensemble which he made himself. "I bought most all of [my outfit]," he says. "An old-timey look, like Charles Ingalls in 1880. 'Little House on the Prairie.' I'm dressed like a railroader."
On hand to help the organizers, Morgan Locke, though not the most prolific grower of facial hair, is impressed by the pageantry. "There are people that put passion into everything, especially in L.A.," he says. "It's definitely a city that has artistic passion and this is another outlet for people to express themselves, kind of the way tattoos or any kind of body art are."Full Story >>