Beardos and bears, waxed-up wonders and fantastical fakes, starter 'staches and full-on fur-bombs that would make a walrus proud: they were all present at the 4th Annual NYC Beard and Mustache Competition Saturday night at Irving Plaza.
The event, which drew a full house of competitors, supportive spectators and plenty of groupies and fetishists (leaving the facial hairless feeling unloved), was organized by the Gotham City Beard Alliance, which "aims to promote tolerance and acceptance of all facial hair," as well as supporting and contributing to numerous local organizations and charities. Last night's recipient of all proceeds from the raffle was Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue, whose volunteers save animals from shelters in the deep South—places where, according to the group's representative on stage, the kill rate is over 90%—and find them permanent, loving homes.
But back to the beards—and 'staches! Over the course of five hours dozens of the most outrageous, the most manliest, the most exuberant, stylish and sexiest sporters of facial hair strode across the stage to the delight of the crowd and discernment of the judges. Categories included the ever-popular Freestyle (read: beard insanity), Groomed Beard, Styled Mustache (heavily waxed and very 1800s bare-knuckle-boxer), Chops/Sideburns (very Civil War), Fake Realistic and Fake Creative (which let women into the action), with the whole thing bookended by the gentlemen of the Full Beard Under One Foot, and then the Full Beard Over One Foot persuasion. One contestant, dressed in a full bear suit and a Santa beard, gave his name as “Barry Bearenson.”
How were the beards actually judged? Contestants walked onstage, and then turned their backs to the audience so the judges could stroke each beard and mustache and assess its merit. Sadly, this was done without ever really letting the audience in on the process.
Prizes were Statue of Liberty trophies customized with facial hair from each category, as well as a goodie bag. The judges included Miss Coney Island, Cherry Delight; "2013 Beardsman of the Year" Travis Oliver; and the "bearded bitch of the five boroughs" Azraea. Judging started at 7:45 p.m. and the final competition was going strong at 11 p.m. So it was long, it was loud, it was happy, friendly, and fun... and then everyone went out and got even more drunk at the Bar None after party. So if you saw packs of staggering, strangely whiskered folks wandering around the East Village last night, now you know why.
At least “Barry” the bear suit guy, had fun, though he didn't go home with mustache gold. As he put it later: “If we are judging the quality of the competition on whether I won or not, it sucked. Otherwise it was excellent.”
—Reporting from Alexis Hauk and Scott Lynch