When you live in a town of Reykjavík’s size, any change in the surroundings is instantly noticeable. So when an increasing number of men with long and sometimes extravagant beards began to appear downtown, it got our attention. Sure, there are plenty of young dudes with beards in Reykjavík, but seldom are they navel-length, or parted in the middle and then curled upwards on both sides. When the curiosity became too much to bear, we approached two guys sporting ZZ Top-tier beards and asked, “Is there some beard-related event happening in Iceland or something?”
“Yes and no,” he said with a smile. As it turned out, he and dozens of other bearded gentlemen were on their way to the World Beard and Moustache Championship in Trondheim, Norway. The festival, which is held every two years since 1995, attracts competitors from around the world, most of who are from Europe and North America.
Our visitors, who were stopping over to do a little sightseeing before heading to Norway, hailed from the US and Canada. As it turned out, the timing of running into these two guys could not have been better—other competitors were at that moment just blocks away at the bar Dillon, enjoying happy hour.
When we arrived, there were already close to a dozen bearded guys sipping beer and chatting. While most of these guys had the long, bushy variety of beard, Bill Mitchell’s stood out (as his photograph can attest)Sy. We spoke with him briefly about competitive bearding.
The first question on our mind was, what categories of competitive bearding are there? “Well, Full Beard Natural is the most popular. But altogether there are 17 categories and three subcategories. It’s an expensive hobby.”
Mitchell’s beard preparation is a labour of love, and requires a regime that would put many to shame. “There’s the constant shampooing, for one, then I blow-dry it”, he explains. “When it’s dry, I use a curling iron on the sides. Then I curl them around a pair of cans and hairspray them. Once that’s set, it’s done.”
His experience in Iceland, he said, has been very pleasant. “They really put out the welcome mat for us,” he said. “We went on a walking tour, saw the national museum and the national library. Tomorrow we’ re going on the Golden Circle tour. I wish every day could be like this”.
Mitchell was confident that he would do well, and in fact, the official website of the World Beard and Moustache Championship announced that he won in the category of Partial Beard Freestyle. In fact, America walked away with six gold medals in the competition, but Germany’s Elmar Weisser—better known on the internet as “the guy with the windmill beard”—came out on top, as the site reports his “reindeer beard couldn’t be stopped.”
The BBC reports that while Europeans have traditionally been the reigning champions of competitive bearding, the US is “fast becoming the world’s new facial hair super power”.