You can call it single-mindedness – this group of guys primarily wants to convince everyone else to love big, bold beards and mustaches as much as they do.
Or you could call it camaraderie, because the Charlotte chapter of the Beard and Moustache Club of North Carolina has created a tight network of friends that didn’t exist a year ago.
You could even call it silliness, since some of these guys sculpt their whiskers into the wackiest of shapes, from a retro handlebar mustache to the “Electric Starfish,” a slightly worrying mix of spikes and Taser jolts.
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But don’t call it scary (Taser props aside). Although a gathering of BMC NC members is rife with broad shoulders, black Danzig T-shirts and gear worthy of “Sons of Anarchy,” these guys are smiling sweetly under all that facial hair.
The Charlotte chapter, which organized in January 2013 and now has at least 65 dues-paying members, will hold its first competition March 21-23 at The Chop Shop NoDa. Dozens of men (and women!) will vie for bragging rights in categories including goatee, groomed beard, Donegal (think Abe Lincoln), and Whiskerina, realistic and creative. That’s where the ladies prove what they can do with glue, hair extensions and just about anything else.
“That’s so everybody can be involved,” said Brian Quein, president of the Charlotte chapter. “I’ve been to competitions where they’ve even grown their own beards.”
At last year’s Southeastern Beard & Moustache Championships, hosted by the Holy City Beard & Moustache Society in Charleston, Quein saw a woman who crafted a beard out of Girl Scout cookies and then dressed like a Scout to show it off. She won.
His category usually is freestyle, where anything goes in terms of shape and theme. He’s the creator of the “Electric Starfish” and its Taser light show.
“It’s kind of like a performance art to me,” says Quein, a freelance videographer.
As president of the host chapter, he’ll only emcee at the competition. But plenty of the group’s other members plan to hop onstage.
For these guys, growing beards and moustaches is part social statement, part conversation piece. They’re pilots, bankers and construction site managers. They want to be able to wear their hair anywhere. They know that having a serious beard or mustache often means you have an instant bond with others of the hirsute variety.
“It really breaks down a lot of barriers or walls, having a beard and mustache club here in Charlotte,” Quein said.
His father sported a full white beard for many years – which meant he played Santa at more than one event. Quein still has his costumes, and hopes to follow his lead one day. (His beard’s still far too brown to go that route now.)
Quein said calling him Santa is OK – but “Duck Dynasty” and, before that, ZZ Top, are not. If you call him that, you might see him a get a little cranky.
Still, not scary.
Growing for good
Jared Yerg will be onstage Saturday, but he might have to trim his whiskers to compete in the 1-inch-and-under full beard category. He took 2 ½ inches off about two months ago, and it hasn’t grown back enough to make him a serious competitor in the 1- to 6-inch class.
But he’ll be there to raise money more than to compete. He’s founder of Beards BeCAUSE, a Charlotte charity that encourages men to grow beards to raise money for the group’s partner charities, which all focus on supporting survivors of domestic violence. With the tag line, “Follicly Fighting Domestic Violence,” Beards BeCAUSE has raised more than $250,000 since it started in 2007.
From the beginning, Quein allied Charlotte’s Beard and Moustache Club with Beards BeCAUSE, and the money raised by the chapter goes to Safe Alliance.
“It’s good to have the club backing us now, doing things for women’s causes,” Yerg said. “We’re working together as a community. It’s a good crew.”
In its first year, the club alone has raised about $3,500 for charity. (Members also hang out at the Beards BeCAUSE shaving events, trying to convince the participants to keep growing that facial hair.)
Matthew Peters’ first brush with facial hair competitions involved bacon.
A relative newbie to “bearding,” which is what beardsmen call it when you grow serious facial hair, he was talking to one of the female competitors at the Southeastern regionals last year. She had crafted a beard out of bacon strips, which she cured so they would hold their shape.
Best. Perfume. Ever.
“I had to stop her and say, you smell so good,” Peters said.
During the competition, he slid right into the College Beard category – he is studying mechanical engineering at Central Piedmont Community College – and ended up winning the gold.
Having surpassed his “yeard,” or one year of growth, Peters shaved his tight black curls in December. He hated it. “My face was the most uncomfortable it had been for quite some time.”
But the regrowth hasn’t gone smoothly. He’s looking at trimming it up to compete with the 1-inch-and-unders on Saturday. After that, he’s letting it go. “I’m really happy not to have to shave it for a really long time,” he said.
Welcome, hairy or no
Quein stresses that the club is not just for men with unbelievable beards and mustaches. It’s also for the women who love them and the friends who can’t grow facial hair – because of the job, their wives or girlfriends, or biology.
Facial hair can be fickle, and that’s definitely based on the genes. Simply put, puberty kicks off the growth of whiskers, and the level of hormones in the body determine where and how much it grows. All facial hair grows, goes dormant, sheds and regrows. But each person has a different “terminal growth” length. That’s why some guys can’t grow more than a scruff, and others end up looking like the cast of “Duck Dynasty.” Sorry.
Todd Hintzmann’s beard grows a little uneven, so he trims under his mustache, at the corners of his mouth. “I can’t be all lopsided,” he said.
He’ll probably compete in the Full Beard: Natural with Styled Moustache category. His reddish whiskers form a sort of short Yosemite Sam look. You almost can’t tell when he’s smiling.
His wife, Betsy, encouraged him to hook up with the club. He’s in the banking industry and works from home, and “I wondered what would happen if I stopped shaving,” Hintzmann said.
They both attend the monthly club meetings and help when the club cooks dinner for the women who live at the Safe Alliance shelter twice a month.
“They’re so genuine,” Betsy Hintzmann said of the club members.
See? Not scary.
Chris Wade works for a lawn care service that has a 1-inch rule for facial hair. Since this is the first time he’s tried growing a serious beard, he’s hoping he can slide that rule a little bit.
“Some people look at beards and think negative,” said Wade, who started growing his beard in January. “The culture has changed a little bit. Maybe it is ‘Duck Dynasty.’ ”