BeardCon Is Growing
“He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man.”
~ William Shakespeare
A beard. It is an enigma that is constantly being defined and redefined. At times throughout man’s history, it was viewed as a badge of sexual virility, a symbol of wisdom and then, paradoxically, as a follicle folly ascribed to the slovenly and the shiftless. Biologically, it is described as a secondary sexual characteristic brought upon by an influx of dihydrotestosterone during puberty and is defined as a signal that a man is ready to sire offspring. It is sometimes viewed with fear and, in a wild pendulum swing of rhetorical reactions, a leisure left only to the vain fool.
Whatever one’s perception may be, there is one thing that can be said about facial hair for certain: There is no one that does not have an immediate, transcendent and wholly personal reaction to someone with a beard. Perhaps this is why, within recent years, clubs and competitions have been sprouting up here and there giving a focus and forum to those that celebrate the manliness of the beard.
Locally, that group would be The Gem City Gentlemen of the Gilded Beard, who created the upcoming follicle fest that has come to be known as BeardCon. BeardCon will take place on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center located at400 North High St., Columbus,Ohio. The event features competitions in such diverse categories as Natural Full Beard, Styled Moustache, Fantastic Beards and even Best Costume and Best Team awards, plus seven more categories. There will be a variety of vendors aimed at those who are captivated by facial coiffing as well as discussion groups, demonstrations and the history and social significance of facial hair. This event is drawing groups from all around the country as well as a representative group from Canada and has all the earmarks of being not only fun and entertaining, but an event that stems out of a sense of community as well.
Recently, I was able to speak with several members of The Gem City Gentlemen of the Gilded Beard. Nate Stevens, Stephen Arthur Alexander Jr. and Thomas Smith are the integral persons responsible for creating BeardCon. As with the growing of facial hair, what started out as a shadow of a discussion grew in length and complexity as time wore on.
Thomas: The BeardCon is in its third iteration of our personal competition. The first one we did was in Dayton and it ended up being a bigger success than we had imagined. We repeated that in Columbus the next year at COSI (Center of Science & Industry). It’s the whole Dayton club (The Gem City Gentlemen of the Gilded Beard) that heads the statewide chapter and of the Beard-Con planning committee.
Nate: Yeah, so we have a annual competition every year and this year we decided to expand it and alter it so that BeardCon would be more of a convention rather than something like The Ohio Beard Championships, or whatever people were kind of seeing it as in the past. Like last year, we had a ton of vendors and combined with the space we had at COSI, people were saying, ‘Oh! It kind of feels like a convention!’ So, we have decided to go with that momentum and kind of embrace that this year and we will see how that goes. As far as the relationship is concerned, the core of us who started The Gem City Gentlemen of the Gilded Beard are the same people behind Beard Team Ohio and the same core people behind Beard-Con.
J.T.: How did you get all the other clubs and vendors from other states involved? Was Facebook an integral part of connecting with everybody and getting the word out to them?
Stephen: Oh yeah. I did most of that. I got a lot of the teams from around the country to come…not all of them, but a majority of them…just through Facebook. Actually, that’s all I used. I mean, Facebook is a huge part of our promotion.
Nate: The three of us all have different roles and we kind of have titles that we have dubbed ourselves with at the beginning of the club. Stephen is the Ambassador and that is his role is to constantly be extending these olive branches and making relationships with other clubs so that we are welcomed wherever we go and so people think fondly of us all around the country. I am the Speaker, so I write a lot of the stuff on our Facebook page, write press, manage our web site and stuff like that. Thomas is kind of the Doer. He makes things happen behind the scenes as far as logistics, contracts and organizing and scheduling things.
J.T.: If you all could do me a personal favor and get The Gem City Fake Mustache Society to quit, that would be great. It’s confusing to see hot women with moustaches. It really is.
Nate: (Laughing) Confuses you in your nether regions?
Thomas: Well, the women are huge part of what we do. They are probably one of the better parts of the competition, honestly. They are just so creative. I don’t think we would want to get rid of them.
Nate: The ladies of The Gem City Fake Mustache Society are members of our club as well. I wouldn’t say that we have absorbed them because they still go out and do their own thing, but we are definitely linked. Knowing their personalities, they wouldn’t take it if we just told them to stop so that we could prosper and so that you wouldn’t be sexually confused. (Laughter)
J.T.: Is there an equivalent in beardom of a ‘bad hair day’?
Thomas: Absolutely! Actually, I compete pretty frequently and I make it a point to travel to a lot of the competitions and there are just days that I cannot get my beard to do what I want it to do. That just honestly has a lot to do with climate and what you have done to your face.
Nate: Yeah! Everything from diet to humidity to sleep deprivation and all that kind of stuff can effect you in minor ways and they stack up on you.
J.T.: I can grow a beard quickly, but I can’t seem to get past that point when you want to claw your own face off because of the relentless itching. Is there a point when it gets better?
Thomas: There are stages of beard growth. It’s weird, but it’s kind of like having a child and you have to coddle it and nurture it as such. In the beginning, it is itchy and it whines a lot and you just want to tear your face apart and then you get to the point where it reaches its terrible twos and your beard makes you look like the most wretchedly disgusting hobo bastard. But then, it becomes and adolescent and you start to see some maturity in your beard and a little bit of wisdom and it starts to make its own decisions and defines its own pattern, and then when you get like a four inch beard, that’s a young man right there! That’s a hunter, a warrior…that’s a solid beard! That beard travels with you everywhere you go.
Nate: Then you have to hope that you raised it right, that it goes to college, gets a good job and that it makes you proud out there in the world! But seriously, we get that question a lot. Of course it’s going to itch for eight days and if you can’t take it, then I guess that’s your destiny. It takes a little bit of fortitude. You have to really want it.
J.T.: Do people with beards have derogatory names for those who are clean shaven?
Thomas: Baby face. It’s like, a clean shaven person is one of two things, and when you first meet them, if they are excited about the beards, then they are a prospect; they are future beardsmen. But if someone is being really rude to you, then they are a baby-faced ninny, and that’s the end of that friendship.
Nate: It’s like with anything; we don’t judge people because they don’t choose to have beards. Now, if they are an asshole, the fact that they don’t have a beard will become part of the ammunition you can use against them. Hate and love are born from who you are.
J.T.: Here’s a loaded question; Darwin and other anthropologists have equated the profusion of facial hair with virility and that the beard is indicative of the sexual prowess of the wearer. Thoughts?
Thomas: It’s challenging because, for European descendant males, it is definitely a defining attribute of manhood. You do not grow a beard until you are literally capable of sexually reproducing offspring. The two other aspects of a beard is that, as far as sexual prowess goes, when you can grow a big beard, it shows that you are mature in the aspect that you can foster a working relationship with something that takes a large amount of care and the other aspect is that you have the balls enough to grow a massive beard and no one can tear it off your face because you’re a badass. Have you ever had an instance where you can’t tell if someone really far away is a man or a woman? When a guy is coming towards you with a sizable amount of facial hair, you can tell it’s a dude from like a mile away.