For the third year in a row Saturday night, the nation's beardos descended upon Philadelphia for an evening filled with stunning follicular displays of unmatched prowess. But if host and organizer Brandon Biggins gets his wish, we'll be seeing a lot more of that in the future—especially seven years from now when he hopes we'll host a World Beard and Moustache Championship.
"Just give us some time to stop partying and mature," he said Saturday from behind a Macho Man Randy Savage getup. "Who are we kidding? That'll never happen. We party."
And, indeed, they do. In fact, the motto of the Philadelphia Beard and Mustache Club—of which Biggins counts himself a founder—is "We aren't here for a long time, we're here for a good time." Judging by Saturday's competition, the club's motto seems to have liberally crossed over to their little corner of the bearding circuit. The results, perhaps not surprisingly, have been an exercise in drunken, over-the-top fun.
The 467 attendees that showed up to Saturday's competition can attest to that, having viewed everything from weird beards to finely tuned manes from some 130 competitors. Broken down across 14 categories, the competition gave everyone a chance to compete, whether they wore their beard long, short, or even only part of the time.
The ladies' categories, Fake Beard Natural and Fake Beard Creative, emerged as crowd favorites thanks to themed costumes like Gozer the Gozarian, a beard made of beer cans, and a particularly sparkly light up disco ball beard. That approach, however, crossed over to other more "serious" categories, too, with Jim Daly's fog-spewing, loopy beard earning him a perfect 10 and the Partial Beard Freestyle title.
Judges—which included World Beard Champion Jeff Langum, former WWE star Gene Snisky, and former Animalhaus bassist Ryan Ziegler—seemed to respond strongest to those efforts. But while intricate, creative presentations like those had overwhelming support, it was clear that the night's crown jewel was, as always, the Full Beard 12" and Over category.
That round's pool was much smaller than the 50-person Full Beard 6" and Under category, but nonetheless just as tenacious in competition. Though many beards made a proud showing, it was ultimately the Austin Facial Hair Club's Myk O'Connor that took home the gold. Gold that, by the way, came in the form of a championship belt, owing that charm to the night's wrestling theme.
"We had a big wrestling thing and no one did anything with it," Biggins said at one point. "Well, except for me and I look like a sweaty asshole." Which is only partially true, with the late additions of a luchador and 80s Rowdy Roddy Piper into the competition.
Oddly enough, however, the competition seemed to be the least important element of the entire night. In fact, every entrant into the WTF Beard category left before the awards were announced, and most of the crowd cleared out before Biggins finished his announcements. At one point before the Chops round, the judges were late to the table due to an argument over a hoagie. Which, to be fair, is probably as attributable to the alcohol as anything else.
For competitor Nick Jock, that's pretty much par for the course. Knocked out early of what Biggins calls the "baby beard" category, Jock said it was the community that made him want to compete in the first place. This year's ECBMC was his first competition, ever.
"The competition is really just an excuse to get together," he said. "A lot of people don't even care about it—they come just to cheer on friends and have a good time."
Glancing around the TLA at any point during Saturday, that much appeared to be true. There weren't so many people staring at the stage intently as there were milling around, navigating through a huge sea of chest-length facial hair and PBR hats to grab to make that next connection or check out that cool new beard oil over in the corner. Also, drinking.
With the East Coast Beard and Mustache Championship, though, it always seems to come back to that. But, then, who could fault a group of people for loving fine domestic brews and ridiculous, ridiculous facial hair? After all, in combination, they just make for the best party.
And partying is what these people do.