Jack Passion gleamed with pride on the brightly lit stage of the World Beard and Mustache Competition in Anchorage, AK. At only 26, he just became the two-time world champion for the natural full beard competition. His lengthy beard, which he’s coined “Big Red,” defeated beards older than himself. I looked over at the table of Germans, who have long dominated the sport of competitive beard and mustache growing, and nobody looked very happy. Their natural full beard hopeful from team Germany took third place. I sensed that they don’t like this Jack Passion. Besides, with a name like that, it’s hard not to be jealous.
Jack Passion is just one of over three hundred competitors at the 2009 championships. Contestants came from all over the world–and I truly mean from all over the world. France, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, South Africa, India, and South America. I clarify that because many of the so-called “world championships” that the AFP has attended over the past eight months hardly attract world participation or world attention.
Upon arriving at the Anchorage tourism office, where an official parade would kick-off the weekend, I was met by hairy men from all over the world standing about a grassy lawn looking just as lost as I felt. After I took a few photos, it was apparent that some of the men spoke no English whatsoever. But my were they friendly! The big smiles and friendly handshakes set the tone for the weekend.
As the competitors paraded around the city, people came out of their shops to watch these funny looking men, striding by pridefully with silly costumes . There was a certain bond between the beard competitors, spectators, media, and the city of Anchorage. It seemed like everywhere one looked, there were beards and mustaches! As it turned out, this event went in the books as one of my favorites.
It turns out that the competition is not just about who has the most or longest hair. There are all kinds of beards and mustaches out there. The mustaches include the Hungarian-Wild West, the Dali, Imperial, Musketeer, Fu Manchu, and Alaskan Whaler. The beards include the Verdi, Geribaldi, natural full beard, and freestyle. I saw some pretty creative beards amongst the Freestyle category. Costumes are another way to ensure a spot on the winner’s podium. Some contestants had some elaborate costumes, while others stuck to impressing the judges with fancy threads, tails, and bow ties. There was a mixture of fancy and funky.
This year, the Americans swept the field, winning more titles than the long-victorious Germans. An Alaskan native even took the “Best in show” award with his full-length, braided beard. It was a wonderful weekend of beards, mustaches, and music. After all the festivities were over, a large crowd headed down to the local bar and celebrated, beard and all. The tables were filled with newly found friends, while different nationalities drank beers and toasted in the name of beards.
Perhaps my favorite moment from the weekend occurred on Sunday morning. I was just walking away from a favorite breakfast place I found in Anchorage, when I heard a loud whistle behind me. I turned around, and half a block away there was a guy crossing the street. We had seen each other throughout the weekend, and I think he noticed I had been taking pictures. The guy was far enough away that he couldn’t have said anything loud enough for me to hear. Instead, he held up a peace sign, and then grabbed his mustache with his thumb and index finger. It was as if with that one signal, I had understood that he was saying. “Goodbye friend, and long live the facial hair.” Along with the other people who attended the 2009 World Beard and Mustache Competition, we now had a bond–and a special one at that.
Be sure to check out the movie and slide show posted below..