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The faces of facial hair

Charlie Owen
Vail, CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily/Trec Rental
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A stranger walked through the front door of our New Jersey farmhouse one day when I was 12. My mother gave him a big hug and showered him with kisses while I stood frightened in the hallway wondering who the man was, and why she was being so nice to him. Then he spoke to me and I realized it was my father returning home from a three-month voyage with the Navy. I didn’t recognize him because he had shaved his beard and mustache for the first time in my life and no longer resembled the man I played catch with in the backyard on weekends.

If anybody tells you that facial hair has no impact on society, don’t believe them. If by shaving his beard my dad could fool me into thinking he was another person, then you can be sure a potential employer is taking your five ‘o clock shadow into consideration during the interview.

“I think we want to be for the most part reflective of the look of our consumers and that consumer’s expectations,” said John Garth, general manager of the Ritz Carlton, which has a no-beard policy but says yes to mustaches.

Even in Biblical times the beard was a big deal.

“Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard,” God said to Moses in Leviticus 19:27 (The Bible, King James Version). So what gives today? Has the beard fallen from grace? Is it because of werewolves, Bigfoot or Jerry Garcia?

Living in a resort town where a free spirit and frolicking follicles are generally accepted by a public more concerned with days on the mountain than days in the office, it’s not at all uncommon to see young and old men alike sporting beards and ‘staches. Journey to any major city and you might find them a little less common, especially in the work-place, but with movie stars and musicians like George Clooney, Russell Crowe, Eddie Vedder and Ryan Adams (just to name a few) going all caveman from time to time, could the trend of big beards and bushy mustaches be making a comeback all over America?

If not the entire country, Eagle Valley is going through a bit of a facial hair renaissance. Loaded Joe’s in Avon is hosting their own mustache-growing competition this month with proceeds going to the Eagle Valley Humane Society.

“We’re still rockin’ ’em hard over here man. We’ve collected probably about $100 to go to the Humane Society and we’re about half way through the month,” said Curt Austin, manager of Loaded Joe’s who is also growing a mustache for the challenge.

If Phil Olsen, founder and self-appointed captain of Beard Team USA, has anything to say about it, we would all look like Santa Claus.

“Why would anyone shave, it’s a waste of time,” said Olsen, who hasn’t shaved in nearly 10 years.

Olsen founded Beard Team USA to compete in the prestigious World Beard and Mustache Championships, a biennial event that draws teams from all over the world.

They compete for titles in 17 categories ranging from Partial Beard Freestyle to Natural Goatee.

“A beard is supposed to be there, you know, it’s a natural decoration of mans face and I say celebrate it,” Olsen said.

His beard style is known as a Garibaldi, or a broad, full, rounded beard not exceeding 20 centimeters in length. It is part of his personality and identity, he said.

Facial hair is one of man’s only natural accessories. Even guys who can’t grow hair on their head anymore can still muster up some form of face growth that can be trimmed or sculpted to reflect the individual’s style.

Avon resident Andy Dennis prefers the typical style of a full beard and mustache. He grew his beard for winter warmth, saying he might keep it even after the snow melts. His job with the Beaver Creek Ski Patrol requires him to keep it trimmed and neat but does not prohibit him from having one.

“My woman likes a man with a beard, yeah, makes me look grizzled and like a mountain man,” Dennis said jokingly.

So while mustaches may always be a little more accepted, and beards may never be the norm, why the stigma attached to such a natural rite-of-manhood? After all, you don’t see too many high-level execs who look like Grizzly Adams.

“Yes, there is a certain stigma. It makes absolutely no sense and we’re working to overcome it,” Olsen said.

Part of his mission for Beard Team USA is to cast beards and mustaches in a more respectable light. “Stereotype, prejudice, call it what you want. (It’s) just the idea that a professional is supposed to look a certain way. I mean it kind of goes along with how you’re supposed to wear a suit and tie, you know, and who says that in order to be professional you have to have a tie wrapped around your neck? It’s just an old way of thinking that makes no sense,” Olsen continued.

Many great figures throughout history had beards ” Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, even Ghandi wore a thin mustache. Just the same, many notorious men like Charles Manson and Anton LaVey are recognized partly because of their beards. Is it because facial hair resembles a mask, something to hide behind, that makes them so unpopular with many spheres of our culture? Regardless, until we see the clean-shaven go to the dark side, the champions of facial hair will have to be content being the minority. For now.

High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 748-2939 or cowen@vaildaily.com.


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