If you've been living under a rock, let us be the first to inform you that Bend will host the first National Beard and Moustache Championships on Saturday, June 5. Thousands of awesome facial-haired dudes (and perhaps some gals - there will be no gender testing) will converge at Les Schwab Amphitheater for the competition where they'll compete for $5,000 in prize money and eternal glory.
Beard Team USA and Lay it Out Events are partnering to produce the National Championships, which Beard Team USA founder Phil Olsen decided to start after attending the World Beard and Moustache Championships in Sweden in 2003.
"It was one of the most picturesque and entertaining events I've been to," says Olsen, "but I noticed America was underrepresented."
Beard Team USA now has over 2,000 members and expects between 200 and 400 contestants. Competitors will vie for titles in a range of categories including the Full Beard, Partial Beard, Moustache and Freestyle where contestants can get as creative as they want with their facial hair.
Some of those contestants have been cultivating their beards right here in Bend. COMBS, or the Central Oregon Moustache and Beard Society, is a local group of men (and some women) who are passionate about facial hair. Each week, around 20 members meet to discuss their beards, the upcoming competition and share beardy stories. While Bend is a pretty beard-friendly place, some members have had to overcome prejudices with regard to their beards.
"I've been tagged as the bearded broker of Bend," says Brian Kahl, one of the founding members of COMBS and a local real estate broker who has a 'virgin beard' - one that has never been violated with scissors.
"People automatically have their thoughts of what a real estate agent looks like," Kahl says. "When you're out there with a full beard, they're kind of like, 'huh.'"
However, there's no doubt that beards are becoming more acceptable. It's a very beardy time in America. Hipsters are growing beards with reckless abandon and men who've never had more than stubble are growing muttonchops and ZZ Top-style facial topiaries. Is 2010 the Year of the Beard?
"Oh, definitely," says Olsen. "We've been working so hard to get people to grow beards for America. The trend has caught on."
The question remains: what types of people grow beards? Not just a little stubble, and not the unkempt face, but the truly Awesome beard? "It's impossible to generalize," says Olsen, "But they're fun seekers. They're willing to be men and unwilling to respond to the pressure to shave their faces and look more like women."
Whether you're a pressure-thwarting non-woman man, a hipster or a beardy broker, it's apparent: there's something hairy - and awesome - in the air.