Oh, the places you’ll go … with a nice beard

by Dr. David Powell, Evansville, Beard Team USA 2007 and 2009

I first learned about the world beard and mustache competition when it was featured on the Internet news. The 2005 event was in Berlin and the Germans won 15 of the 16 categories.

Phil Olson, the Beard Team USA captain, told how he was miffed at the outcome and suspected a little “home cooking” on the part of the German judges. He made an appeal on the Beard Team USA blog calling for every hirsute red-blooded American male to rise to the occasion, stop shaving and mount an assault on the 2007 World Beard and Mustache contest with the goal of taking back the top honors and bring them home to the U.S.A. Having maintained a well-trimmed beard for the last seven years and a sporty handlebar mustache since high school, I felt it my patriotic duty to join Beard Team USA and support my fellow Americans at the Brighton, England, event.

Tossing my razor aside, I went in to beard-training mode. The category I chose to compete in was “partial beard freestyle,” which meant I could use styling aides like mousse and hair spray but no artificial coloring or non-hair augmentation.

The 2009 Beard Team USA. Dr. Powell is second from right and Bremen Groves is fourth from right in the brown cap.

I came up with a western style costume like one of the gunfighters in the O.K. Corral, sort of Wyatt Earp style. It was complete with a black frock, boots, spurs and badge but sans the guns as they would have not been amusing to the “bobbies” in the UK.

The city of Brighton treated those of us on the Beard Team like rock stars! It was a sell-out crowd and just as exciting as … well, a cross between Project Runway and Hoosier Hysteria. I had my picture taken with dozens of fans and I made the evening news on the BBC Southwest, along with TV news in Norway, Portugal, World TV cable news and blogs, some of which I am still finding out about.

The Germans gave up many of the titles they took at the Berlin contest. I came in fourth place. Officially that means I was not first, second or third. There was a sell-out crowd in Brighton and more than $20,000 raised for a testicular cancer charity and the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton.

Upon returning from the UK event, I met up with Bremen Groves, my friend since fifth grade, and suggested that he consider entering the next WBMC.

Bremen sported a reddish-blond goatee that had a natural wavy character to it that I thought would give the USA team a boost. Unknown to either of us at that time, Bremen just happened to be a spitting image of the host beard club’s mascot, a Gabby Hayes gold miner looking character. That along with his never-met-a-stranger personality launched him into a tie for first place, natural goatee category. He came in second in a run-off against a fellow Beard Team member from California; a German came in third.

We both continue to “train” for the next beard event and still get stopped by locals asking for their pictures to be taken with us, and we try to encourage men to join Beard Team USA.

Come to the Indiana State Museum for Curls, Cornrows and Comb-overs on Saturday, Jan. 29 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and meet both of these Hoosier members of Beard Team USA. You can also learn about the science and culture of hair from a wide array of hair experts and enjoy hands-on activities.