Regardless of what happens in Lancaster, Pa., this weekend, things are guaranteed to get pretty hairy.
The city is the site of the Second Annual National Beard And Moustache Championships and around 200 facially-follicked fellows will compete in five categories: Moustache; Partial Beards (such as sideburns, van dykes, goatees and soul patches); Full Beard, Groomed; Full Beard, Natural; and the ever-popular Freestyle category in which anything goes.
Event organizer Phil Olsen, who heads Beard Team USA, a loose-knit organization of bearders from all over the country, said the competition is meant to be inclusive, which is why he expects hairy-faced humans from Germany, New Zealand and Canada to also compete for the $5,000 worth of cash and prizes being offered at the event.
And while it might be assumed that most of the contestants will be male, Olsen is not one to split hairs where gender is concerned.
"Like I said, we're inclusive. We don't test for gender," he told HuffPost Weird News. "I have enough to do already."
Olsen first became America's biggest advocate of what he calls the sport of "bearding" back in 1999 when he attended a World Beard Championship in Yspad, Sweden, and saw that the U.S. was "sorely underrepresented."
This flew in the face of everything Olsen thought was great about America, and so he set forth to turn America into a "bearding" power. By 2003, this part-time judge from Lake Tahoe, Calif., was organizing tournaments using scoring criteria akin to ice skating or gymnastics.
Last year was the first year of the national tournament, and Olsen's quest to make America a facial hair powerhouse got a big boost when the Independent Film Channel aired "Whisker Wars," a seven-part documentary series about his efforts.
All along he's been a big advocate of beards, but also wants potential contestants to know that it's not exactly a cake walk.
"There's more to bearding than meets the eye," he said. "It takes a lot of skill to get the beard ready for competition. But, like with anything, people with good genes do have a better chance. Some people pick their parents well and can grow a good beard, just like basketball players who are tall have an advantage."
But it does take work, according to John Myatt, a competitive bearder in Los Angeles, who came in second earlier this year at the world championships in Trondheim, Norway, in the partial beard category for his "verdi," a short, rounded beard.
"I do a lot of grooming," he said. "I eat healthy, and shampoo and condition it daily. I believe if you have a healthy diet, you'll have healthy hair. My facial hair is a little oily, but it's holding up well."
SEE SOME BEARDS THAT ARE A CUT ABOVE THE REST (Story continues below):
Olsen said there has been a rise in beardage among American men in recent months and he believes Beard Team USA is responsible for the surge.
"Big beards have caught on as a direct result of us," he said. "People see growing a beard as something patriotic."
However, Olsen is quick to say that he disagrees with the phrase "growing a beard."
"I don't think about growing a beard," he said. "Mine just grew. It's not a statement, but I do wonder about people who shave their faces, and why they do it."
Jeffrey Moustache, 25, a Los Angeles photographer, has been growing his English moustache -- which grows out straight across his face like a ruler -- since he was 15 and has gotten it up to 13 inches long.
"The first time I shaved it, I immediately regretted it and saved it under glass as an art project," he confessed.
Moustache -- whose real name is actually Beard -- said that even though Olsen calls bearding a sport, he doesn't agree with that term.
"I wouldn't call it a sport," he said. "It's pageantry for men. Honestly, you have to laugh at yourself. On the other hand, it's brought me together with a bunch of people I'd never meet. Now I have friends all over the country. All over the world, really."
But while Moustache has lots of beard buddies, he admitted not everyone can take his 'stache.
"It's a love-hate thing," he said. "Some people are really appalled and will say, 'Your moustache offends and disgusts me.' It's a good judge of character."
Both Moustache and Myatt are looking forward to being around like-minded people in Lancaster this weekend, but Myatt is aware that it is a competition.
"It's all tongue-in-cheek, but I like to project an air of overconfidence," he said. "A lot of the judges aren't professional beard judges so if you project an air of confidence, they just might believe you."
If Myatt wins first prize, he will get $600. Although there is a tendency to want to blow it, he figures he will invest in his future.
"If I win, I will use the money probably for more beard contests," he said. "Flying around to these things can be expensive."
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