Men strut fancy whiskers in world championships

Posted: Sunday, May 17, 2009

ANCHORAGE - The world's fanciest whiskers are coming to Alaska so their owners can strut their manly stuff in the land that has long appreciated furry faces.

David J. Sheakley / The Juneau Empire
David J. Sheakley / The Juneau Empire

The 2009 World Beard and Moustache Championships comes to Anchorage on Friday (May 22). The South Central Alaska Beard and Moustache Club is hosting the event, where more than 200 competitors from 12 countries - including powerhouses Germany and Austria - will compete in facial hair ranging from delicate Salvador Dali-style mustaches to bushy full beards, a favorite among Alaska men.

"It is the Westminster of beards," said David Traver, founder of the local club who three times has won at the world championships, referencing the world-famous Westminster Kennel Club dog show.

The festivities get kicked off with a parade. Then, there will be a party where the newly formed Australian beard team, the Australian Bushrangers, will introduce their band, The Beards.

What songs will they play? About beards, of course.

"This is going to be competitive and it is going to be fun," said Traver. "If you can't laugh about it, you don't belong there."

The Germans are the ones to beat.

"They take it very seriously. It is an age-old tradition there to have beards," said Bob Gengler, a 44-year-old physical therapist with a big bushy beard who is president of the local club.

The Germans are sending a 20-person contingent. Missing, however, will be Elmar Weisser in the freestyle full-beard category. When it comes to outlandish styling of facial hair, Weisser has the touch. In 2005 in Berlin, Weisser styled his beard into the shape of the Brandenburg Gate. Two years later in Brighton, England, it was London's Tower Bridge.

Traver, 43, who competes in the full-beard category, hopes to capitalize on Weisser's absence. He also is entering the freestyle competition and has something special in mind. He won't divulge what it is but says it is very Alaskan. Mount McKinley, perhaps? The Northern Lights?

At the world championships, contestants compete in three main categories: mustaches, full beards and partial beards. The competition is divided into 18 categories.

"In freestyle, you can do anything except you can't use wires and pins. It is anything goes. The only drawback is your lack of imagination," said Traver, divulging nothing.

"We, the local guys, are in it for fun," said contestant Robert Crawford.

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