Florida Times Union: “The ‘Stache is Back”

On March 18, 2009, by AMI Staff

The 'Stache is back: Club celebrates facial hair

Jacksonville Beardsmith Society members want to start a statewide facial hair competition.

By Adam Aasen, Wednesday, Mar. 18, 2009

Some men let their scratchy whiskers grow because they are too lazy
to shave. Others see celebrities with little hairs scattered on their
visages and follow like sheep. But for a select few, a big fluffy beard
isn't a passing fad. It's a way of life.

These 'stachenistas have made a commitment to their facial hair.
They buy special conditioners, use hot combs and enter local
competitions. Some have even picked follicles over females.

"There was one girlfriend who had a problem with my beard," said
Nick Fresh, a local DJ sporting some short scruff. "That's why I'm not
with her now."

Now these beard aficionados have a place to meet. The Jacksonville
Beardsmith Society, a casual club for facial hair fans meets the last
Tuesday of every month, about 8 p.m., at Steamworks, a pub in Five
Points. Last month, about 40 people attended the club's second meeting.

Men with handlebar mustaches, long Santa Claus beards, cop 'staches
and Vandykes mingled, complimenting one another. There's even a pair of
twins with long upturned waxed mustaches like painter Salvador Dali.
They're traveling to Alaska to compete in the World Beard and Mustache
Competition.

A 'growing' trend

A few years ago, a fluffy beard was only for freaks and outcasts:
terrorists, bikers and college professors. Now you can look around most
bars in Jacksonville, and you'll find plenty of people under 30
stroking their beards.

Some think the trend is celebrity-driven. One humorous Web site, the
American Mustache Institute, claims that, "2008 was a banner year for
celebrities growing mustaches, including Brad Pitt, George Clooney and
Betty White."

Another theory is that it's backlash from the years of "prettying up" men during the metrosexual trend.

"I like to see guys be guys," said Jesse Bibbee, a 30-year-old sales
rep. "The metro thing kind of bothered me a little bit, but what are
you going to do?"

Others balk at the suggestion that facial hair is just a trend. To them, it's a part of our history.

These facial hair activists point to "great men" like Chuck Norris, Tom Selleck and Teddy Roosevelt.

(To be fair, on the other side, you have The Unabomber and Spencer Pratt of "The Hills.")

William Shakespeare said, "He that hath a beard is more than a
youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man." The Bard digs
beards.

Some Biblical scholars even think Leviticus forbids shaving: "Ye
shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the
corners of thy beard."

See? Even God is pro-facial hair.

Facing reality

The bearded path is not to be traveled lightly. It can be a life-altering decision.

For some, like Edmund Dansart, it's a sign of rebellion.

Dansart, 31, said he grew up "kind of repressed," attending private
schools that forbade facial hair. His first few jobs had the same
strict rules, so when he started working as a guitar salesman, he
leaped at the opportunity to grow it out.

"That's how I'm able to keep this burly beard here," he said as he unravels his beard to at least 6 inches long.

Jack Twatchman, 24, just got out of the Navy, so he immediately grew a beard because he was finally allowed.

But facial hair has its downsides.

It can be time-consuming to groom. Girlfriends can suffer from razor burn after nuzzling. And of course, there's the itching.

Eating can be another problem. Dansart said he experiences "soggy
beard" when he orders soup. Bibbee said ordering eggs over easy is a
no-no.

Some clean-shaven people can also judge you harshly because of your facial hair.

Doug Henning, 26, just graduated from the University of North
Florida. While on job interviews, he said potential employers shoot him
daggers if his long red beard is scraggly and unruly at the time.

Wild about hairy

At the first meeting of the Jacksonville Beardsmith Society on Jan.
26, founder Sean Collins stood on a booth and gave an impassioned
speech about the merits of facial hair. Scruffy friends clapped and
raised their beers.

Some women in attendance wore fluffy fake mustaches or drew a
colorful beard on a paper mask. There were facial hair contests with
the winners getting $15 toward their bar tabs.

Collins, a 26-year-old graphic designer, wants to start a statewide
facial hair competition and eventually send some members to
competitions across the country.

Devon and Sam Holcombe, 26-year-old twins, will represent the club
at the national championships in May. They are spending their own money
to fly to Anchorage because, according to Sam, "it'll be crazy and
something we'll remember forever."

Looking around the meeting, you'd find all types of bearded people: hipsters, hippies, masculine models and rock stars.

"I think it enhances the characteristics of a person and puts it on
the outside," Collins said. "Having a gentle, creative, strong or even
creepy personality, all of those characteristics can be enhanced by
facial hair."

To these fanatics, facial hair is part of who they are. And shaving
it off would be like putting a razor blade to one's identity. It just
wouldn't feel right.