Rebecca Adams’ beard keeps poking her brother in the eye.
The 13-year-old sits perched on top of one of the barstools inside the dimness of the Limelight night club in downtown Greensboro on a recent Saturday night, and the grass tendrils in her beard keep making their way into her brother Riley’s left eye as she talks.
“Ow, my eye!” Riley exclaims as he caresses the intrusion.
Rebecca ignores him and keeps describing her outfit. She’s got a bright-red ladybug shell — complete with large black dots — affixed to her back, a pair of thick, black antenna on her head and a beard made out of a variety of fake flowers upon which a handful of little ladybugs sit. As she talks, her beard moves slightly, following the movement of her mouth which is completely hidden under her new facial accoutrement.
Around the two kids stand hordes of bearded men, some with long, bushy beards while others wear wispy moustaches and whiskers. They’ve all gathered to compete in the 9th annual Carolina Beard and Moustache competition in which hundreds of people from all over the country, and sometimes beyond, coalesce to be judged on their facial hair for charity.
This year’s competition will mark the third time the brother and sister have competed in the event. While most of the categories focus on men with beards and moustaches, categories exist for kids and women to participate, too.
Riley’s beard is more two-dimensional compared to his sister’s.
Made up of thin Styrofoam sheets, the 10-year-old’s accessory depicts a hearty slice of pizza, complete with pepperoni, sausage, green onion and extra cheese. To top it off, he wears a full pizza onesie covered in pepperonis.
Their mother, Linda, walks in wearing a black hoodie and eyeliner to match. Her beard, which she’ll show off in the Whiskerina natural category — one of two categories for women — comes down past her belly button. At more than two feet long, her beard looks like it could rival many of the men’s real ones in the room.
“Everything is glued to my face,” Linda explains.
By the end of the night, the whole family will end up taking home three second place awards.
The competition includes 17 different categories ranging from natural moustaches to goatees to full beards to sideburns and whalers. A panel of three judges scores each contestant on things like styling, color of the beard and overall appearance.
“At first it was guys getting together to give a better view towards facial hair,” says Craig Grant, the president of the Greensboro chapter of the Beard and Moustache Club of North Carolina. “Ten or 15 years ago, having a beard was like having tattoos. Like if you had a beard you were a biker or something. So, we just wanted to show like, No, we’re not like that. We’re just trying to give a positive outlook.”
Grant says that the Greensboro chapter, founded 13 years ago, is one of the oldest in the country, second only to one in Alaska. It and other chapters in the state host competitions throughout the year as a way to keep the community alive and to raise money for charity. Even people without beards are encouraged to participate.
Adrienne Burnham from Charlotte has competed in the competition for the last two years. This year, she’ll win the Whiskerina creatives category for the first time.
“I thought it was really amazing that they have two categories for women,” she says.
Burnham, who also ends up placing second in Best in Show, created this year’s beard out of intricately rolled-up pieces of colorful paper made out of a technique called quilling. The bright strips become spirals in her fixture and create an ocean-themed scene with starfish, matching her fish-themed skirt.
In all, Burnham says her beard probably took her about 20 hours to complete.
Others like Eddie Kimmerling have been cultivating their facial hair for years. He walks around the club in a top hat and a jacket with a fur-lined lapel and a cane in his right hand. Still, the most eye-catching part of the macaroni man is probably the 14-inch moustache that sits upon his upper lip. Specifically known as an English-style moustache, Kimmerling’s rendition grows straight out from his face and ends in two points that curve ever so slightly upwards. Tonight, he’ll win first place in the styled moustache category, an honor he’s received more than once. The Long Islander has even traveled overseas to compete in international tournaments. Last year, he placed second in the English Moustache category. To keep up appearances, Kimmerling says he keeps his moustache waxed all week and washes once a week with Pantene.
He says he started growing his moustache in 2014 after he met another guy who had one. Since then, he’s become kind of famous for his facial hair.
“Sometimes people recognize me from social media,” Kimmerling says. “Random people will stop me on the street.”
Kimmerling expresses how many in attendance feel about their beards and moustaches. He explains that it’s not just a form of style, but a proud piece of who they are.
“It’s become a part of me,” Kimmerling says. “It’s given me a new identity.”