Sunday, May 22, 2022

How low can you grow: Facial hair competitors showcase their whiskers to support homeless vets

Beard and mustache competitor, Josh Black, has been growing and grooming his beard for a little over five years, ultimately earning him a national championship in 2016 at the Great American Beard & Mustache Championship. (Photo courtesy of James H Loving Photography)

VIRGINIA BEACH — Imagine devoting at least 30 minutes of your morning routine to your beard.

For Richmond resident, Josh Black that is a reality he welcomes willingly as a competitive beard and mustache champion.

He isn’t the only one, as groups and community organizations like the Hampton Roads Beard & Stache Society in Norfolk and the RVA Beard Leauge in Richmond have created an outlet for facial hair enthusiasts to come together for fun and charitable events.

For the last five years, Black has taken the stage of more than 50 competitions where participants are judged on the fullness, length, and style of their ‘stache, goatees, and beards.

“It’s definitely a unique thing to do,” he said. “When I first started I had pretty much what everyone had in terms of the corporate stubble. I started to grow it out to see what would happen.”

Now with a two-foot-long, light brown beard, Black has earned recognition among facial hair competitors and enthusiasts on a national level, winning several shows like the 2016 Great American Beard & Mustache Championship in Denver.

While his beard has taken him across the nation, Black also finds enjoyment in bringing things back home to Richmond and to other parts of the commonwealth.

Last year, Black competed in the third annual Whiskers of War, a beard and mustache competition in Virginia Beach that supports veteran-focused charities, where he took home the title of “Best in the Show.”

Developing a championship-style beard is no walk in the park, he added.

To properly care for his beard, Black goes through a combination of combing and moisturizing in order to keep it healthy and untangled.

On a normal day, he regularly applies beard balm and oils from his sponsor, Honest Amish. On some days, a shampoo and conditioning cycle before braiding it up.

For a show, he tries to make sure his beard is as full and fluffy as possible. The competitions are similar to dog shows, he says.

You never know what a competitor is going to bring to the stage when they style their beards for Whiskers of War as Johnathan Wakefield shows off his curly design to the audience. (Photo courtesy of Back Bay Photography)

“There will be a little bit of everything,” he said. “There will be people who have put a full can of hairspray into their beard to style into the most outlandish things you’ve ever seen. There will be other people dressed up as Civil War generals or things like that, going into more of a costumed style thing. There also be people who literally came right off the street, saw this, and wanted to compete.”

As vice president of the RVA Beard League, Black said his interest, along with other members and competitors, stems from a love for travel, bringing people together and donating to a good cause as charity.

“Whether it be a women’s shelter or whether it be paralyzed veterans, to have them come out and say ‘your competition allowed us to do X and Y,’ is mind-blowing,” Black said.

Competitions like Virginia Beach’s Whiskers of War competition, use their shows to raise money for different charities in the area like veterans to support groups.

The event is hosted by the Hampton Roads Beard & Stache Society, a facial-hair group in Norfolk that has used its events to support local businesses and charity groups.

Josh Kimm, president of the Beard & Stache Society, says Whiskers of War draws competitors and organizations from across the country.

“We decided that this being a very military-dominant area and a lot of guys in our club being veterans, that it would be a great idea to benefit a veteran charity and pay homage to them and pay homage to the area since that is so much of our identity,” Kimm said.

This year’s Whisker of War competition will be donating its proceeds to VetHouse Inc., a Virginia-Beach-based organization that supports homeless veterans in the area.

This will be the third year the event will benefit VetHouse. Kimm said they’ve raised $9,000 in the past.

There is something for everyone to get involved in, including women, if they want to join a competition. Sarah Holbach flexes her guns as she competes in the Whiskerina realistic category during the 2015 Whiskers of War show. (Photo courtesy of Back Bay Photography)

The competition, which will be held on Nov. 11 at Shaka’s Live in Virginia Beach, will feature 15 categories from creative styling and costumed themes to “full beard” divisions which showcase their natural facial hair.

According to Kimm, they also have two divisions for women competitors, called “Whiskerinas,” who make their beards from either theatrical hair or any creative objects they can find.

“I’ve seen people cut a wine barrel in half and attach it to their face and make it look like a working keg,” Kimm said.

After years of traveling to different shows and events, Black said mustache and beard competitions are a fun for everyone to participate in whether you are spectating are competing.

“When I talk about it to people now, they automatically think that they need to have a one- or two-foot beard to do well,” he said. “One thing that Hampton Roads [Beard & Stache Society] does well … is that it’s for everyone.”

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