This year’s National Beard and Moustache Championships took place here in New Orleans at the House of Blues. Contestants competed in numerous categories of facial hair arrangement, ranging from natural moustaches to creatively styled full beards. Each category has its own set of specific criteria. Beard Team USA organized the event, and judges included local figures such as Nola.com | The Times-Picayune art critic Doug MacCash and barber Aidan Gill.
To kick things off, the hirsute crowd second-lined through the French Quarter before heading into the House of Blues for an afternoon of competitive bearding. Once inside, event organizer and host Phil Olsen led the judges in a solemn oath:
“I do solemnly swear that I will judge the National Beard and Moustache Championships fairly, and without bias or prejudice.”
So how exactly does one become involved in this... sport?
“By accident. You just start growing facial hair and next thing you know, you’re starting to compete,” says James McMahon of Milwaukee, a member of Beard Team USA and this year’s gold medalist in the Hungarian moustache category. That’s a bushy moustache that curls up at the ends and extends no longer than 1.5 centimeters past the end of the upper lip.
Novices may wonder what the judges look for in a championship beard or moustache. The English style moustache, for example, is all waxed together, is long and slender, and doesn’t grow past the lip. The Garibaldi is a short beard: no longer than 20 centimeters. Amish beard competitors must show the top of the chin and not have a moustache.
Louisiana native Derek Nehrbass competed in the sideburns category. But these are not your grandpa’s muttonchops.
“I would say they are sculpted into wings flying off the sides of my jawbone,” Nehrbass says.
It takes a village to raise sideburns like that. Derek had some help from local stylist and salon owner Jo Starnes.
“I started with a Redken root lifter, and then put in an anti-humidity gel, blew-dry it and then put in spirit gum glue,” says Starnes.
Tonya Farmer was there to support her husband Joshua in the Amish beard category. She says that the best part about beard competitions is traveling and socializing.
“The people here are just amazing," she says. "All the competitors and the friends and wives.”
New Orleans may not have the beard reputation of, say, Portland or Brooklyn. But with its emphasis on spectacle and off-kilter crowd, the National Beard and Moustache Championships seemed to be a perfect match for our notoriously festive city.