Meet the Elite Athletes of the International Sport of Bearding

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There’s been a conspicuous absence in sporting media coverage recently, with the Rio Olympics and NFL sucking all the air out of the room. Where, you ask, are the athletes competing in the International Sport of Bearding? We wondered the same thing.

Turns out we just missed the Just for Men © National Beard and Moustache Championships © in Nashville earlier this month; but here are two photo series to help you get in the right frame of mind.

First up is Swiss photographer Sandro Baebler’s series Alpine Beards, which documents some of the competitors gathered for the Alpine Beard Festival in Chur, Switzerland. The contest has been running for over a quarter century, drawing Swiss, Bavarian, and Austrian athletes. The subjects of Baebler’s portraits compete in the Natural Beards category; there are 14 other categories, including Chinese and Freestyle Sideburns.

The Alpine Beards festival, which draws over 100,000 spectators, is itself a close competitor with the World Beard and Moustache Championships, a bi-annual event with rotating host countries. The WBMC has 16 categories (moustaches alone include Natural, Dali, English, Hungarian, Imperial, and Freestyle), with a 17th added in 2009 – the Alaskan Whaler – when the Championships were held in Anchorage. Rules may seem opaque to the uninitiated; for instance styling aids are allowed for Verdi full beard athletes, but not for Garibaldi full beards. ‘Nuff said.

Oh – and go Beard Team USA!

We can assume one three-time Freestyle Champion knows his way around styling aids – his winning whiskers have been made into the Brandenburg Gate, London’s Tower Bridge, and the Norwegian flag and a moose (one on either side). For proof, he shows up at the end of this video:

Athletic sanctioning bodies can be complicated, and Bearding is no exception. Sometime between this year and last the World Beard and Moustache Championships and the Just for Men © National Beard and Moustache Championships © got us confused. No matter. Here are some of the winners of the 2016 competition. See if you can tell which athlete competed in which category.

And see you next year in Los Angeles.


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