International Beard Competition

7 years ago

I retired in 2013 and as soon as I signed out I stopped shaving and haven’t shaved since. It wasn’t an infantile response to authority as much as it was an “I’m just tired of shaving every morning” type thing. Everyone that knows me also knew that I don’t like hair and shaved my head of hair since 2003 in Iraq. Sure there were a few times that I grew some hair out but that was quickly removed because I couldn’t stand it. Everyone, including my wife, thought this was just the typical retiree phase and that it would soon end. So, a few months pass and we were watching the news about the “World Beard and Mustache Championships” which happened the weekend prior in Bavaria, Germany. Both the wife and I thought it was cool and she said, “If you still have your beard when the next round happens, you should do that”.

I was like, “Right on!” Then there was my comment “you know this is just a weekend for drinking lots of beer right” to which she responded, “I know, but I doubt you’ll have the beard past next summer when it gets hot”. Long story short, two years later I registered and competed in the 2015 World Beard and Mustache Championships in Leogang, Austria.

A group of friends went along with me and the family, and we had a great time. Everyone was so nice, much more so than I’m used to in Europe and we met people from all over the world. Friday night was a meet and greet and there was a great atmosphere, and not just because of the dinner and beer.

Saturday morning was the registration at 0800. There were the few people who maybe stayed up too late, maybe drank too much, or maybe both but that wasn’t me because I was focused! Lots of chatting and getting to know people over the next 2 hours (registration wasn’t a short process). You had to provide your name, they gave you your registration paperwork, and then you had to be prejudged on what categories you wanted to compete in. I had originally wanted to compete in Garibaldi, Verdi, Natural Beard/Styled Mustache and then All Natural. When prejudged, I was placed in the Natural Beard and Mustache category which is probably better for a first timer.

Afterwards, I grabbed a breakfast beer and then headed back to the apartment to get ready and bring the family. We returned a few hours later and participated in the Opening Ceremony. The Opening Ceremony was a short Parade of Beards down to a field next to the Fest Tent. Here the organizers gathered all the competitors in a large circle and made the opening comments about the World Beard and Mustache Championships 2015. Of course in order to start the festival, a mandatory “Tapping of the Keg” had to happen (You just have to love the Germanic folks).

There were news agencies from all over the world that covered this opening ceremony. Afterwards I headed to the Fest Hall to have official photos taken and then watch the various categories, 17 categories in total. I met some fellow Americans: Texans (Thanks Alex and the Austin Facial Hair Club!) that were as fun as they were crazy; Ohioans (though they were Cincinnati fans); and some Virginians. Of course there were Europeans from all over but had a lot of fun with the Italiani!!!!!

Competition judging is based on the individual judges preferences and not clinical and “cut and dry" as you might think. There were 7 judges from all walks of life, but mostly female. Each judge gave you a score from 1 to 10 in half point increments. Highest score and lowest score was dropped and the rest averaged.

The Competition starts with the mustaches and graduates to the beards with Natural Beard / Mustache being second to last, with Freestyle rounding out the competition. Freestyle is the category that gets the most attention since these guys have some seriously crazy designs that are huge and take hours to create.

I was in a class with 64 competitors from around the world. I was contestant number 46 (or so) and headed on stage to do my thing. What a cool experience! There is no booing and everyone cheers everyone on. It was very cool to have my family and friends there and even from the back of the room, they made enough noise for me to hear on stage. It takes a few hours to compile the scores. When you finally receive your certificate with your placement, it’s very anticlimactic since the day was so long and all you can think about is sleep.

Anyways, around 1 in the morning, I got my certificate. I placed 10th in the WORLD!!! I actually had to ask if this was a mistake and I was told it wasn’t. The reason I asked was that I thought there were some better beards than mine in my category. Later I found out that it’s not just the beard, but also it’s the presentation, how you conduct yourself and judge’s preferences. I would’ve been happy to just not come into 64th place so this was awesome!

Most of my friends and family followed the event on Facebook and of course cheered me on. I have friends that now refer to me as “Number 10” and others that say, “I thought you were going to shave it off after the Competition?” to the latter group of folks all I say is, “World Beard and Mustache Championships - Austin, Texas in 2017!!!!” See you there!

- SGM (Retired) Frank Lauer (1991-93)

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