I love my beard. It is full, evenly distributed across my face and pretty ladies (and some handsome gentlemen) come up and touch it all the time, mostly without permission. The only real downside is that it keeps me extra warm in the summer and sometimes children under 5 burst into tears when they see me but I think they would do that even without the beard.
But no matter how much I love my beard and put effort into making it look delightful, it will never be half as glorious as the hirsute perfection of the Central Oregon Mustache and Beard Society. These mustaches and beards are not cultivated as some hipster artifice, but grown with patience and care by men who know that a beautiful dash of facial landscaping is a way of life and not something to ironically talk about in between PBR's—and this coming weekend, they will take that facial growth to a national championship in Portland.
Ethan Barrons and Peter Aune met at Silver Moon in January 2010 to discuss the creation of Central Oregon's first mustache and beard society. Peter came up with C.O.M.B.S. and Ethan designed the shirts. The rest, as us beardos like to say, is beardstory.
Ethan's 'stache is a thing of beauty and when I asked when he knew he had a beard to be reckoned with, the teacher by trade said, "The fact that I can grow a 'stache my students can see 70 yards away has more to do with my maternal grandfather and the Lord. I certainly shape it well...but without good genes I'd look really foolish. People mistook me for a college professor when I was an undergrad. Not sure if that says anything about my beard, maybe I just looked old and tired."
Bearded God among men, Isaiah Thompson, initially started a Facebook page called "Beards Not Dead" and was trying to start his own society when he noticed Peter and Ethan's C.O.M.B.S. existed. Now, "Beards Not Dead" is the women's group/fan page for all who respect and admire the beard.
Ethan, Peter, Isaiah and several other Central Oregon men will be competing in the World Beard and Mustache Championships on October 25 in Portland. There are 17 categories including Full Beard Natural, Freestyle Full Beard and the Garibaldi (Broad, full and round with a length not to exceed 20 centimeters). The grand prize winner receives and all-expenses paid trip to Leogang, Austria for the 2015 World Championships.
Beard and Mustache competitor Ed Endsley has a beard that Gandolf would envy and an outlook on the competition that his fellow C.O.M.B.S. members seem to share.
"We grow facial hair! It's natural, it's testosterone, it's manly...Gillette made fashion, not style. The competition is just for fun and to display what a man can look like as God intended."
When I asked Isaiah about the best aspects of having an awesome beard, he put it better than I ever imagined.
"Society has pushed away facial hair like ours for so long. It's always been if you were shaven you had a higher chance at being successful. Well, it's our goal to squash that ridiculous idealism. It's not necessary to be so judgmental against us bearded men. Also, a lot of women for years wanted a man who is completely shaved from head to toe. That's dumb. I'm a man, damn it! I'm proud to show it!"