POSTED ON FEBRUARY 18, 2009:
Furry friends join together in the spirit of brotherhood
Burnt Kernels. Younger (pictured), manager at Circle Cinema, also shared that, beyond the loss of physical contact with his wife, he'd noticed an inverse relationship between food sales at the theater and the length of his facial hair. "I think the popcorn sales are down."
"You did what this weekend?" a friend asked me on Monday morning in disbelief.
"You heard me correctly," I responded, "It was a beard growing competition. Like, face hair."
Ladies and boys, for those of you who are unaware, we men love our facial hair. Be it sideburn, beard, goatee or pencil-thin mustache. We grow. We admire. We love our facial tufts.
For pubescent males, the transition to manhood occurs between the lips and nose as much as it does anywhere else. During eighth grade, I remember being deeply jealous of a classmate who had the fullest mustache. Trey, I have not forgotten you. All the other guys in the class would have gladly swapped philtrums with you.
Facial hair infatuation isn't limited to male adolescents. Look around. Open a history book. Some of the world's most famous men - Fredrick Douglass, Jesus Christ, Charles Darwin, John Lennon and Papa Smurf - have worn a beard. That's no coincidence. There are two reasons Al Gore abandoned the razor after the 2000 election: beards are cool; and beards are therapeutic.
It's that cherished quality of male facial hair that led Joshua Peck and Greg Younger to resuscitate Tulsa's own beard growing brotherhood after Peck, of the Tulsa Historical Society, stumbled upon archives from Tulsa's first competition in 1957. 50 years later, Josh and Greg, 2007's "co-fuzzers" (term used for people who organize beard competitions), were joined by nearly 40 other interested men at the Circle Cinema. Tulsa's "Brothers of the Brush" event was re-born.
Oath of Growth
2007's event, judged solely by Jeff Martin, crowned winners in four growth categories: fullest (Tony Clyde), best trimmed (Sam Anderson), most unique (James Sherrod) and best effort (Daniel Franklin). Because of the competition's popularity, Josh and Greg decided to repeat the event in 2009 (there was no competition in 2008). They added a fifth category ('olde' growth), for those committed beyond the competition, and a third co-fuzzer, Bart Ford. Jeff Martin was invited to emcee, three outsiders (Tim Spindle, Mary Beth Babcock and Daron Mecher) adjudicated, and the awards ceremony was moved to a bigger locale -- The Collective, 3148 E. 11th St.
Unfortunately, for the Brothers of Brush, I didn't learn of the preliminary meeting on December 1st, 2008 held at Circle Cinema, where 40 growers took the competition's oath, until after the swearing-in. Fortunately, for my sex life, I missed the sign-up.
"That oath was, like, four minutes long...it was a bond. It was spiritual," said UTW's own, and Brothers of the Brush contestant, Daniel Hickman.
Competitors agreed to grow "in accordance of the laws laid out...." I cannot do the oath justice, so I've decided to quote some of the more interesting components of the nearly 40-page oath below.
During sanctioned contest, I will never attempt to forcibly shave another man.
Should a spouse become critical of my beard they will be answered with a sharp word and a long look.
Criticism from an employer shall be answered with no fewer than three lashes to the head or neck with a mulberry switch.
I will not artificially apply a hair-like substitute to my face lest it be for a good laugh.
After initiation into the sacred brotherhood, the men dispersed throughout Green Country to grow. Unsuspecting male peers were filled with a mixture of envy and respect upon meetings about town. Comparatively, partners had a slightly different reaction.
"My wife won't come within two feet of me," co-fuzzer Younger admitted. Younger, manager at Circle Cinema, also shared that, beyond the loss of physical contact with his wife, he'd noticed an inverse relationship between food sales at the theater and the length of his facial hair. "I think the popcorn sales are down."
The beard growing challenge was scheduled for Sunday, February 8 - 70 days after its commencement in late fall of '08. As entrants signed in, they were to have their photo taken for comparison purposes.
The three judges were asked to consider varying standards for each of the five categories. For most unique, the possibility of a casual observer doing a double-take was the only criterion to be considered. For olde growth, the judges were to decide based on the simple question: Does this man come from the city or the mountains? The more "mountainous" the man, the better. Best effort was to be measured with "overall crapness" in mind. The three were finally asked to consider hair connectivity from the face to neck to chest and even the back for the "pinnacle of the competition" -- fullest beard.
Celebrity judge Mary Beth Babcock waited until the apex of the beard battle to make full use of all her measurement tools. Throughout the event, the judges used rulers, measuring tape and a fork. The fork had previously been spotted by several in attendance; and thus by the time of its actual use there was considerable conjecture on the topic. Would overall taste also be evaluated? Sadly not. Only density. Maybe next time.
During the evening, emcee Jeff Martin reminded the audience that ZZ Top was the "inspiration for us all." He added, while we awaited the scores to be tallied, that we were all missing the Grammy's. No one seemed to mind. Instead we had another beer and enjoyed the tunes by local band Cairde na Gael.
The winners received prizes, thanks to sponsors ranging from Dwelling Spaces to the Tulsa Historical Society to EP Waxing Studio. Congratulations to all of 2009's winners: Bart Ford (best effort), Sam Anderson (best trimmed -- repeat winner), Lucas Hoover (olde growth), Jon Palmer (most unique) and Jay Ross (fullest).
After the results were announced and as the crowd of people began to file out of The Collective, my eyes kept returning to the Latin motto hanging above the stage. I hadn't studied Latin since ninth grade. I scanned the text for the one Latin word I recalled, but this event had nothing to do with farmers, so instead of translating I asked.
It read: Forsake not your beard, without it there is only darkness.
As it currently stands, the Brothers of Brush challenge will be repeated every other year. With each successive competition, the growth period will lengthen by one week. All those interested in future battles or for more beard-related information should contact co-fuzzer Joshua Peck at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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