Welcome to Beardmond: A behind-the-scenes look at beard competitions

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — On September 24, Denver, Colo. played host to the 2016 Great American Beard and Moustache Championship. Six of us from Richmond flew out to either compete or judge the event. Some of us have competed on a national or world stage, however, this event might be the proudest moment we have experience in competitive bearding.

Imagine the Westminster Dog Show, but with humans, and instead of breeds, it’s facial hair categories.

img_4841In short, we travel all over to compete in a variety of categories, most of the time in the name of a local charity. It’s a great way to experience new places while seeing old friends again and donating ticket sales and other money toward a good cause. This competition was the first time that an event this large had all the proceeds go towards charity.

The day of the competition was nerve-racking, to say the least. As part of the Pre-Jury, I had to be ready by about 10 a.m. so I could get to the venue soon after (the competition started at 3:30 p.m.).  During that time, we helped with set-up, and then ensured that competitors were in the correct category (ie. Does the moustache style meet the category? Is the beard within the acceptable length? Does the partial beard meet the requirements for the particular category?). So, with 225 competitors, it made for a few hours of cattle herding.

The event took place at the Summit Music Hall, which was an awesome venue for an event like this. Plenty of room for the silent auction, the photography, a well-stocked bar, as well as a big area for competitors to primp and preen. One thing to note about these events is that even though most attendees have a tough façade, you will see a bunch of us huddled around mirrors with hairspray or brushes making sure we look our best- national competition win was on the line!

In line with most competitions, the event started with the mustaches, then partial beards, then on to the full beards. The categories for crafted beards were sprinkled in there as well, since women and children were able to compete, another first for an event at this level (which was awesome!). My category was last, which meant watching the rest of the competitors while analyzing my competition for about four hours.

About 15 minutes before my category, they corral us to the green room, where lots of us subtly check out the mirrors, eyes darting around to the others, trying to act cool but at a competition at this level, it’s equally a battle of nerves and genetics. There were guys with beards a foot longer, so I was not expecting to place. A few friendly faces were there — people I consistently share the stage with, which makes it a bit more fun.

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Imagine the Westminster Dog Show, but with humans, and instead of breeds, it’s facial hair categories. Now, as fun as it would be to imagine someone guiding us in a circle at a slow trot, ultimately we go up and present ourselves to the crowd, jest with the MCs, and then face the judges for them to take notes and score us. The typical elements would be length, color, shape, density, overall look/presentation, etc. With about 20 people in my category, I didn’t think I had a chance, but there was only about 30 minutes between my category and the results, and I was then called back up on stage as part of the top three. At this point, I was the last person from RVA, and three of the four other competitors had already won/placed, so the pressure was on. Also, having placed 3rd in Worlds last fall, the pressure to succeed increased tenfold.

Having no idea what the order was, I was brought up with the longest beard there, which to me I had already planned a reserved tip-of-the-cap for second or third.  Third place was announced — not me. We shuffle closer together and wait for the second place announcement, which by default reveals the champion. They announce second, and I nearly drop, because I was just crowned the first Place for the Great American Beard and Mustache Championship. Holy ***.

I go back in the crowd to high-five and great everyone from RVA when they announced the Best in Show about five minutes later. It was me. I wish I had worn Depends. The spotlight was on when I jump back up, where I was greeted with a hefty metal trophy, a ring, and custom jacket like it was the Masters. I seriously had no idea and it felt so great, especially when it comes to something I had been working on for years. Going to 50 competitions in the last three years, seeing what people do and what judges like, and grooming more than my girlfriend (who is very tolerant of our bathroom timeshare).

We work very hard in the RVA Beard League to be an inclusive club that promotes a positive outlook on facial hair and the people behind it. It’s very rewarding to know that as a club, we were very successful and helped contribute to such a charitable event. It was great to see our President, Chad, who is also the President of the overseeing organization (The North American Competitive Beard and Mustache Alliance) help organize such a huge event. A big congrats to all who placed/won, especially the others from RVA who I am thankful to travel with all the time

Josh Black is the Vice President of RVA Beard League. at the World Beard & Moustache Championships, he placed third in the Full Beard w/ Styled Mustache category.

And now, he is the Great American Beard & Moustache Champion for Full Beard Natural +12” and Best in Show.

Stay tuned for more Beardmond from the RVA Beard League in #RVALife.

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