Battle of the Facial Hair Eccentrics Gather For German Beard Competition

Forget the World Cup. For a group of 100 hairy men, the year's real competition is already over -- Saturday's German Beard World Championship gave them the chance to show off their spectacular whiskers.  

About 100 bearded men have been preening, waxing, curling, washing, varnishing, brushing and combing their copious facial hair in a bid for glory at the International German Beard World Championship in the northern town of Hesel.

The competition allows 16 categories of beards, the most popular one being freestyle because it sets no limits on creativity. One contestant came with a bushy beard shaped like a windmill. Contestants sporting Chinese-style beards -- two long strands drooping down far below the chin, were virtually assured of an award because only a few men showed up with that particular style.

The weekend event was hosted by Hesel's proud "Beard and Mustache Club," which claims on its Web site: "The beard used to be a sign of strength, power and masculinity. These days the beard is a symbol of male beauty similar to the makeup of a woman." The daily amount of time -- and pints of hair gel -- required to tend a great beard "is more than offset by the recognition one gets in public," according to the club.

A beard can also be dangerous, though. One of this year's winners, Willi Chevalier, injured himself a few years ago when his beard caught in a rotating drill. It could have been the end of his beard competition career but the insurance salesman and dance instructor had a lucky escape.

Master hairdresser Elmar Weisser, 41, had his sister help him form his beard into a windmill. It took four hours and 400 grams of gel.

Britain's Rod Littlewood, president of the Handlebar Club, founded in 1947 and believed to be the oldest beard wearers' club in the world, said he once made it into the Guinness Book of Records with the longest beard in England, 1.60 metres. Since then, his ambition has waned. "I'm only here for the beer," he said.

His friend Steve Parsons entered the competition sporting a cricketing outfit and an "English" mustache -- thin with fine, long points, sported by Victorian army officers and possibly Jack the Ripper. Asked why the beard style was called "English", he said: "No idea, you don't see them a lot in England."

Chevalier won in the freestyle category. The winners in the various categories got wooden lighthouses with golden mustaches attached to them. The jury included four hairdressers, the local harvest queen and a night porter from the Jever brewery.



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