Not far from North Pole a group of men gather for the ultimate face-off. May the best beard win. The World Beard & Mustache Championships brings together the biggest growers from around the world. Santa wouldn't make it to the semi-finals.
From waxed mustaches to chin manes, competitors from the around the world flaunt male facial fashions from bygone eras. One reason is to get a little cash (selected winners earn $1000), but mostly it's just cause… "Not all of us can grow a mean 'stache or beard," says photographer Dave Mead. "It's a definite sign of manliness and strength."
Last year, Mead traveled to Anchorage, Alaska, where the competition was held, to take portraits of some of the hairiest contenders dressed in period costumes to match their beards. "They're artists, doctors, musicians, professors, misfits," explains Mead. "Each grows his beard or mustache for a different reason, but mostly it's an expression of individuality." For some of his subjects, it's a year round look, while others have grown out their tips just for the contest.
The kind of beard a man selects--any man, in fact--depends on his culture. "I think nationality, region and climate all help mold facial hair," says Mead, who just released a 2011 calendar of his bearded subjects. "You probably won't find many 'whaler beards' in a metropolitan area or any 'imperial beards' in the mountains," he says.
What you may find, however, is a resurgence of the handlebar mustache. "It's definitely making a comeback," says Mead. "It's a real crowd-pleaser." Ladies, care to weigh in?
Related stories on Shine