| The New York City Championships, which attracted some two-dozen competitors and a capacity crowd of 400, came about as a way to publicize "Splitting Hairs," a documentary in the works about the World Beard and Moustache Championship (WBMC), a biennial event to determine the best in 17 categories.
These include the Dali mustache (a thin wisp with an upward tilt); the Wild West mustache (Wyatt Earp's your guy); the Imperial chin and cheek beard (think Kaiser Wilhelm I); the full beard natural (contestants in this group must forswear styling aids like gel or wax); and full beard freestyle (the most recent winner at the international level had whiskers shaped like the Brandenburg Gate). Costumes are welcomed -- in fact, encouraged.
The New York event held at the Knitting Factory, a music club in lower Manhattan, was a far more modest affair than the WBMC, with a mere four categories. These included "patchy," apparently for those who lack the hair-withal for a full beard. "We were going to have a category for people who resemble Kenny Rogers, but no one signed up," said the competition's organizer, Jon Friedman, referring to the pop-country star.
"People want to find a way to be seen and to be known for something, and not everyone is athletic," continued Mr. Friedman, explaining the contestants' collective psyche. "These people have found a way through facial hair to compete."
Those dissatisfied with this explanation may want to direct further questions to Phil Olsen, the founder of the World Beard and Moustache Association, a two-year-old organization designed to encourage friendship through friendly international competition. "Why the competition? Maybe it's because men are competitive about everything," said Mr. Olsen, 57, who sports a foot-long beard and who was in town both to judge the event (his day job is settlement conference judge for the Nevada Supreme Court) and to do some recruiting for beard and mustache team U.S.A.
"It changes your personality," added Jay Della Valle, a filmmaker who's been working on his handlebar mustache since the fall of 2004. "You start acting and doing things in ways you would never do without a mustache. I started wearing cowboy boots. And," he added, "I live in New Jersey."|