The best of the bearded

A statewide beard competition is coming soon to Southwest

At the end of this month, the finest facial hair in the state will be on display in Lyn-Lake at the first ever Minnesota Beard-Off competition.   

Smooth-skinned baby faces will take a backseat to grizzled man-cheeks. The shaven will stand aside as the bearded are celebrated, revered and judged. Only one will earn the top honor of being named the 2010 Minnesota Beardsman.

“I think everyone is just going to go wild and scream for beards,” said bearded organizer and Uptown resident Art Allen, 25, who has sported facial hair since he was about 14.

Beard-Off participants will compete in four categories: full beard, partial beard, moustache and freestyle. The latter is open to fake beards such as drawn-on hair or knit beards. Allen selected a panel of three judges to choose the best beard in each category and a fourth judge will pick the 2010 Beardsman from the category winners.

Allen said he came up with the event, set for March 31 at Sauce Spirits and Soundbar, last fall.

“A couple friends of mine got married and the groom had everyone in the wedding grow solidarity beards and everyone was sort of commenting on how my beard was the best one and it deserved a prize and I thought, well, there really isn’t anywhere I can go to get a prize for my beard,” Allen said.

Not anywhere local, anyway. The World Beard and Moustache Championships take place each year in different cities throughout the globe, but Allen wanted to organize something solely for bearded Minnesotans. He didn’t have any trouble finding support.

“We definitely have the weather that calls for a face scarf,” said Beard-Off judge Dustin Black, 32, of St. Paul. “And in our DNA, the Vikings were some of the original bearded bad asses.”

Black runs thebeardly.com, a website devoted to beards that features facial-hair photos with captions such as “Friends don’t let friends shave,” and “Some fathers teach their sons to shave. Others teach them to be men.”

The judges each came up with their own criteria. Black’s includes length, density, age, back-story, style and general manliness. He said he plans to stick to that last criterion in the freestyle category, which women are welcome to participate in.

“Did you make a beard of daisies? That might not get you as many points as if you made a beard out of lasers or tigers or something,” Black said. “That’s bad ass.”

Judge Jon Friedman, 22, of Eagan, was the youngest competitor in the World Beard and Mustache Championships in 2007. He traveled to England alone to participate and ended up with fourth place in the Verdi, or short full-beard category, out of roughly 25 participants.

Friedman, who now has a beard down to the middle of his chest, said all the men in his family had facial hair and he aspired to grow his own from the moment he could. He had a beard in middle school and high school, where a friend gave him the endearing nickname Monster.

He said every guy should try growing a beard at some point, simply because it’s one of the things a man can do with the Y chromosome. The beard community is also close-knit, he said.

“You can be walking somewhere and you see somebody with a beard and you have this mind-meld moment where you see each other and its just like, whoa, that guy knows what’s up,” Friedman said. “And I’ve had a few experiences like that.”

His Beard-Off judging criteria includes manliness, presentation, beardlihood (commitment to the beard) and for freestyle, creativity and imagination.

Local comedian, actress, musician and Writer Courtney McClean is the only judge without facial hair, selected to provide an outside-the-beard perspective. She said she’d be looking for commitment, grooming, kissability (no food in the beard), attractiveness and how the beard relates to hair and clothing style, among other factors.

“I’m hoping to see and feel some really thick and crazy facial hair,” she said.

The judge who will pick the overall winner is metro-area professional Santa Claus, Santa Carlucci, who has a real beard of white hair. Carlucci said his beard is his signature accessory and he’ll be looking to make sure the winner of the competition has a beard that is truly a part of the individual’s identity.

A week before the March 15 deadline, more than 30 people were registered to participate in the Beard-Off. Among them was Ed Shimek, 28, of Zimmerman, who has a full beard down to mid-chest. Shimek recently started the Minnesota Beard Grower’s Society and is hopeful that group along with events such as the Beard-Off with help alleviate the beard’s stigma as the mark of a rebel, a biker or an outlaw.   

“And they’re not gross, they’re not dirty,” Shimek said. “My wife picks on me because it takes me longer to get ready to go out than her.”

Aaron Gerhardt, 29, of Robbinsdale, is participating in the partial beard category with a giant, Civil War-style chinstrap.

“I figured a full beard would be more socially acceptable, but why not do something a little more fun,” Gerhardt said.

But he said there’s a serious reason for those who are capable to grow facial hair.

“There are so many people who grow just god awful beards,” Gerhardt said. “It’s kind
of a duty for those of us who can to grow decent beards to do it, to embrace it.”

Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or [email protected]

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Minnesota Beard-Off Competition
Where: Sauce Spirits and Soundbar, Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue
When: March 31, 8 p.m.
Cost: Free
Website: mnbeardoff.com