World Beard and Mustache Championships -- Anchorage, Alaska

The World Beard and Moustache Championships is a biennial competition hosted by the World Beard and Moustache Association (WBMA) in which men with beards and moustaches display lengthy, highly styled facial hair.

Jack Passion, 26, gleamed with pride on the brightly lit stage of the 2009 World Beard and Mustache Competition. He had just became the two-time world champion for the natural full beard competition. His lengthy beard,“Big Red,” defeated beards older than him self. Passion is just one of 300 competitors who came for the championships from around the world. And I truly mean from around the world: France, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, South Africa, India, and South America were represented. I clarify that because many of the so-called “world championships” that the AFP has attended hardly attract world participation or world attention.

After Passion won, I looked over at the table of Germans, who have long dominated the sport of competitive beard and mustache growing, and nobody looked very happy. Their natural full beard hopeful from team Germany took third place. I sensed that they don’t like this Jack Passion. Besides, with a name like that, it’s hard not to be jealous.

It turns out that the competition is not just about who has the most or longest hair. There are all kinds of beards and mustaches out there. The mustaches include the Hungarian-Wild West, the Dali, Imperial, Musketeer, Fu Manchu, and Alaskan Whaler. The beards include the Verdi, Geribaldi, natural full beard, and freestyle. I saw many creative beards in the freestyle category. Costumes are another way to ensure a spot on the winner’s podium. Some contestants had some elaborate costumes, while others stuck to impressing the judges with fancy threads, tails, and bow ties. There was a mixture of fancy and funky. This year, the Americans swept the field, winning more titles than the long-victorious Germans. An Alaskan native even took the “Best in Show” award with his full-length, braided beard. It was a wonderful weekend of beards, mustaches, and music.