VOORHEES Jeff Langum's beard is a natural wonder.
Like a waterfall, it cascades from his face, a magnificent, meticulously groomed gush of curly salt-and-copper rivulets.
So extraordinary is Langum's long, lush, and bushy creation - it recently won a world championship - that I simply must ask to touch it.
"Go ahead," says the married father of two, who frequently, and graciously, grants such requests.
Frequent as well are reactions like mine: I'm surprised by his majestic mane's almost delicate softness.
"It's a baby beard," Langum says, grinning.
A freelance graphic designer who grew up in Pine Hill and grew his first face fur as an Overbrook High School student, Langum decided to let his beard grow after watching an episode of IFC's reality series Whisker Wars in 2011.
"It was a curiosity thing. I wondered what would happen if I didn't shave," he recalls. "After a while, it started evolving and became . . . spiritual. It's creative, letting the true nature of my being come out."
Two years after he stopped shaving, Langum outshone more than 54 competitors from 20 countries to win the "full beard natural" category in the World Beard and Moustache Championship in Germany.
Langum's trophy gleams from dead center on the fireplace mantel at his home in Voorhees, along with beard-related awards.
Competitions punctuate the national and international calendar of the beard community, where hirsute men gather regularly, along with their spouses, friends and fans, to socialize and raise money for charity.
"We're men, we grow facial hair, and we let it grow. We embrace it," says Brandon Biggins, 30, who was among the founders of the Philadelphia Beard and Mustache Club in 2010. The organization has about 25 members and meets monthly at Tattooed Mom, on South Street.
Biggins, a retail manager who lives in Phoenixville, notes that while beards may be back in fashion, facial hair has carried stigmas.
"Some people think you're a biker or homeless, but we've got all sorts of people in our club," he says. "We have professionals, gay guys, people who just want to express who they are."
Being part of the community "is like having a family reunion on a regular basis," says Oana Langum, 40, a physician who describes herself as her husband's number-one fan.
"The community is very welcoming and accepting," she says. "There's a very positive vibe. It's soulful."
It's also becoming a new career for Langum. He's a spokesman for the Exton company Bluebeards Original ("products for the bearded man"), and has an agent, Jodi lutz of Blackwood.
"Jeff got inundated when he came back from [the world competition], so I basically do his schedule," lutz says. "People want him to judge competitions, and he did a couple of reality TV pilots."
An easygoing fellow who enjoys playing golf, Langum doesn't seem the type to let celebrity go to his head. Having the world's best beard "is a great icebreaker," he says.
Strangers stop him in the supermarket, and most of the reaction is positive - although in an elevator recently, a woman got on, looked at him, laughed, and got off.
"I don't take it too seriously," Langum says. "It's amazing how many people I've met, just because I've grown facial hair."
And the growing isn't over: Even at 18 inches, his beard has yet to reach "terminal" length.
"No scissors are in my near future," he says. "I'm going to let it keep growing. And if I ever did cut it, it would be to grow another one."