A bar filled with hair, facial hair, some long and some short, but all of it styled with precision, cured with butters and balms and waxes.
This is the South Carolina Beard Club’s 3rd Annual Beard and Mustache Competition at Rockin’ Hard Saloon in Murrells Inlet. The event collected the finest facial hair on the Grand Strand and displayed it on Saturday.
“This competition brings people from all over,” said Wayne Mincey, founder of the South Carolina Beard Club (SCBC) and proud wearer of a Whaler/Donegal beard. “It’s an excuse for a lot of friends to hang out, compete, drink beer and raise money for charity, the charity being the most important part.”
The proceeds from the event go to the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association (CVMA), which not only looks out for veterans, but also active-duty members of all branches of the military, and relatives of the members of the armed forces.
“We can do anything from assisting with rent and utilities to providing service dogs to caring for the homeless and raising awareness,” said Chris Trinemeyer, CVMA’s public relations officer for the last two years. “ECHO (Extended Care Health Option) helps vets, but it’s federally-funded and only goes so far. We take special care to look out for our community.”
SCBC has only about five official members and about five unofficial members to arrange events like this. “But we do have a list of bylaws, and we take them seriously,” said Bill “Pops” Best, president of the South Carolina Beard Club whose face hosts a full natural beard.
SCBC’s website touts eight rules: Your facial hair must be valid and real hair, even though you don’t have to have a beard to join. The second rule is golden: You must not be an A-hole because you represent the club in the community. The third rule sets up the makeup of the board. Four – pay the $20 annual membership fee. The next rule requires you to get out and contribute in some way to the community. All new members must be voted in. Rule changes are subject to a board vote. The final rule explains voting on proposals, and the rules end with a motto – “Beard on, beard long and beard strong.”
The beards were strong and long as they swooped and swayed through the doors of Rockin’ Hard Saloon. The beards were from all over South Carolina, but also Alabama, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and Texas (they like their beards big in Texas).
All types of facial extremes were on display.
“All that really needs to be said is sexy beards,” says Michelle Snyder, who’s been at all three South Carolina Beard and mustache competitions. “It doesn’t get much better than bringing this many beautiful beards to one place at one time.”
Matt Bogart sat beside Snyder sporting a freestyle mustache.
“Normally, I do a Fancy French mustache,” he says, showing a couple different styles of mustaches he has tattooed on his fingers. “I wanted to do something different tonight.”
In Rockin’ Hard Saloon, laughs erupted from all the face fur. People wrapped their arms around each other’s shoulders. A lot of men who grow fantastic beards are bald. Heads were topped with bowlers, cowboy hats, top hats and trucker caps. A set of ram horns adorned a wizard. They wore costumes and flamboyant garb, building their outfits around their facial accoutrements.
“These people are like family,” Mincey said. “It’s all about spreading some love and raising money for our community.”
This family has gotten bigger over the past three years. Mincey started the South Carolina Beard Club in 2013 after watching and getting obsessed with “Whisker Wars,” a reality show on IFC. He consulted with other beard clubs in the state.
The club raised $800 at its first event, a pool tournament benefiting Sea Haven, a center dedicated to runaway and homeless youth. Last year, the club raised $1,700 for Sea Haven. “This year we want to up the ante.” Mincey said.
Mincey reached out to several national charities. “They blew me off, so I went to local charities, and they embraced what we’re doing,” he said. “A lot of people chuckle whenever I tell them I’m a member of a beard club, but when we all get together and raise money, it makes it all worthwhile.”
“So far we have over 50 competitors. That surpasses last year,” Best said. He knows how these events should run. He’s been integral to SCBC’s operations since before he was voted president. Plus, he travels for competitions and has competed in 24 events since 2014.
Among this year’s competitors were professional barbers and bartenders and business owners and all points in between, from homegrown follicles to fly-aways. All of them posed for pictures from the professional photographer set up in the back of the bar.
Over the last couple of years, these types of contests have gotten very high-tech, utilizing a phone application called “Facial Hair League.” The sleek app keeps real-time scores and tracks contestants like a fantasy sports league. The competitors upload their pictures and they look like trading cars.
“We decided to not use the app this year because of the fees involved,” Mincey said.
Most of the attendees were willing to give their beard history.
“I work construction and do rope rescue,” said Daniel D.C. Cunningham, a vendor of Wild Hare Soak beard-care products who sports a full beard with a styled mustache. “I’ve singed my beard off. Once, during a rope rescue, I got it caught in an eight-ring device and hung from it.” He then pointed at his table of beard products. “I have the only weight-tested beard oils.”
The competition judges in 13 categories and a holds a 50/50 drawing at the finale for prizes. The categories range in different styles of beard, goatee and mustache. They also include two “Whiskering” categories.
“Those are female categories. We want to get everyone involved,” Mincey said.
The first “Whiskering” round involves homemade wig or weave-type beards. Mincey said the “Whiskering Creative” round can get a little crazy. “I’ve seen beards made of candy canes or peacock feathers. I’ve seen workable volcano beards, “Skarknado” beards, Cereal Killer beards, made up of tiny cereal boxes,” he said. “That category is really cool.”
“It’s an unspoken rule that we change our beards every competition,” said Justine Green from Charleston. She waited by the bathroom to prepare her Mutton Chops for the Realistic Whiskering round. This was her third competition, and first time competing in this event. “I’m a makeup and hair stylist. After I came to the first competition with my husband and saw the Whiskering category, I knew right away I wanted to do it.”
Jaesen Moore, lead singer of The Izm, served as the M.C. He kicked off the event with a rousing rendition of the national anthem. He corralled the contestants on stage and announced the beard societies they’re associated with.
The participants whipped their hands through their beards. They flapped it like a hairy chin wing.
“That’s called the Jack Passion Sweep,” said Damon Moody, owner of The Bearded Rooster beard-care products. “Jack Passion would sweep his hand through his beard to show the density.”
Moody’s beard was silky and soft.
“The longer a beard grows, the more you learn about how to take care of it.” Moody holds up a bottle and a small tin and shakes the bottle. “You should work the beard oil all the way down to the skin. It coats the hair.” He then shows the wax in the tin. “The balms protect the beard from the elements. After a couple of weeks, it helps fix the split ends and the fly-aways.”
On stage, the contestants played up to the crowd as they strutted to the judges’ table. They leaned over the table and wagged their beards or presented their facial hair with waves.
This was Jason Yarina’s seventh beard and mustache contest, and his handlebar mustache has won six first place trophies. He’s a member of Ohio’s Beards of the Old Northwest. “I’m going for seven in a row,” he said, giving a twist to the swirly curve of his mustache
Ed Heffington has a love for any event involving celebration of facial bushes. “I’m from Richmond, Virginia, and I’m a member of the RVA Beard League,” he said, brushing his long partial beard with his hand as he talks. “We’re the most active league in the country … at least that’s what they tell me. Either way, we donate a lot of money to our community.
“We make our town better than it was yesterday, that’s what’s important,” he added, fingerings his long whiskers.
“I’ve been to about 20 of these. I like drinking beer, going to new places and growing a beard, so it works for me,” said Aaron Johnston from Aiken, sporting a freestyle beard that loops like a rollercoaster beside his cheeks. “It’s like a big family. I saw a lot of these people in a competition in Cleveland last July, and I bet I’ll see a lot of them at the competition in Denver next week.”
The crowd’s enthusiasm seemed to swell after every round. “We don’t announce the winners until everyone has competed,” Mincey said. “We want to keep everyone together for as long as we can.”
On Sunday morning, the members of SCBC and some of the competition’s attendees were to meet at Big Beaver Bar for “Beards & Breakfast.”
Then this December, Best and Mincey will arrange SCBC’s annual “Heads, Hands and Feet” clothing drive for Sea Haven.
“We also take coats or anything that will keep homeless teens warm,” Mincey said.