Competitors at the Great American Beard and Moustache Championship have a deep bond, a bond forged from beards

Think beards are all about style? Think again.

The Great American Beard and Moustache Championship. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)
The Great American Beard and Moustache Championship. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)
The Great American Beard and Moustache Championship. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

Think beards are all about style? Think again.

The Great American Beard and Moustache Championship came to Denver for the first time Saturday to bring jokes, charity and lots and lots of zany beards.

Summit Music Hall hosted more than 300 attendees who traveled from all across the United States to show off their fierce facial hair, or, let’s be honest, just to watch.

A little girl gets in the spirit at Mr. Jock Strap at the Great American Beard and Moustache Championship. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)
A little girl gets in the spirit at the Great American Beard and Moustache Championship. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

Proceeds from the event go to Fisher House Foundation and the Rocky Mountain Cancer Association, making it the largest charity beard competition in the nation.

The approximately 250 participants competed across 21 categories, including natural moustache, Alaskan Whaler, partial beard imperial and artistic realistic, depending on the persuasion of their peach fuzz.

MJ Johnson at A little girl gets in the spirit at Mr. Jock Strap at the Great American Beard and Moustache Championship. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)
MJ Johnson, right, at the Great American Beard and Moustache Championship. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

“Every time you come here there is some moustache or beard you haven’t seen before,” said MJ Johnson, a competitor and Remington spokesperson.

Matthew McGregor, president of the Boise Beardsmen, competed in the Great American Beard and Moustache Championship at Summit Music Hall Saturday. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)
Matthew McGregor, president of the Boise Beardsmen, competed in the Great American Beard and Moustache Championship at Summit Music Hall Saturday. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

And Johnson said Denver was an obvious choice of location this year. The beard community grows year-to-year and the two regional facial hair clubs, the Boulder Facial Hair Club and the Rocky Mountain Beard and Moustache Club, are especially active in the scene. They host their own events and competitions and were more than willing to assist with event organization.

And this year was special. It marked the first year ladies had their own categories.

Ladies competed in the artistic realistic category. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)
Ladies competed in the artistic realistic category. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

Approximately 35 of the 250 competitors were female. They could compete in the artistic realistic category — using their own hair or a hair-like material to recreate a beard — or in the artistic creative category, in which they were permitted to use any types of materials to mimic facial hair.

And aside from the immaculate grooming of competitors’ beards and moustaches, they took pains to dress as dapper as their face’s dos. Some came as dandies, others as whalers; one horseshoe competitor even came dressed in a jock strap — and not much else.

But more than beards, bravado and showmanship, the championship was really about community.

Al Underwood and fellow competitor and friend, James McMahon at A little girl gets in the spirit at Mr. Jock Strap at the Great American Beard and Moustache Championship. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)
Al Underwood and fellow competitor and friend, James McMahon at the Great American Beard and Moustache Championship. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

Al Underwood, a Los Angeles-based beardsman who placed second in the world in 2013 for his “musketeer” styling, said that the beards were what drew him to participate in his first competition, but it was the family he found there that kept him coming back.

“For me it’s the sense of community that you wouldn’t find in any other form,” Underwood said. “When you come to these, you learn something new about yourself every time.”

Johnson agreed.

“You start going and you make friends. It’s honestly one of my favorite things about life,” he said. “We call [these weekends] adult recess. You can take the time to see an area and get a sense of its flavor.”

As the evening progressed and the beard grew more eccentric, you got the sense these people were honest to goodness friends. And very hairy friends.

Mr. Jock Strap at the Great American Beard and Moustache Championship. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)
This gent competed in the freestyle moustache category at the Great American Beard and Moustache Championship. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

So what do all these facial hair lovers have in common? Underwood thinks he knows.

“All men have a need to be loved, a need to feel important,” he said. “This is a very healthy, safe, economical and social way to look for admiration friendship, acceptance and love.”

Multimedia business & healthcare reporter Chloe Aiello can be reached via email at caiello@denverite.com or twitter.com/chlobo_ilo.

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