December 3rd, 2013 | MATTHEW KORFHAGE Arts & Books |

Not By The Hair On Our Chinny Chin Chins!

Portland's 2014 World Beard and Moustache Championships Not Approved by Germans (Among Others)

brandon&brandon_beardsWest Coast Beard & Mustache Championship contestants Brandon Biggins (PA) and Brandon Smith (OR). - Nikki Volpicelli

There's a hair fight a-growin'.

Depending on your own personal hair situation, you may already be aware that Portland is set to host an event called the World Beard and Moustache Championships in September 2014. As in similar competitions since the first World Beard and Moustache Championships in 1990, bearded wonders in categories from Partial Beard Freestyle to Full Beard with Styled Moustache will descend on the city to compete in general follicular excellence.

But the Germans at the World Beard and Moustache Association have declared the 2014 Portland championships invalid—an Avignon beardship!

The 2014 championships are being staged by Phil Olsen of northern California, owner of the facial-hair-positive organization Beard Team USA, and host of four different national beard and moustache championship competitions in the U.S. 

But on its Facebook page on September 8, the WBMA wrote: 

"Contrary to what has been announced by Phil Olsen, owner of Beard Team USA, there will not be an approved World Championship in 2014 in Oregon. The next approved championship is in November this year in Germany and the next is in 2015 and will be held in Austria."
The organization continued in its comments section:
"For those who are not aware, the long standing tradition has been that World Beard and Moustache Championships have been held in odd numbered years. Continental championships etc. have been held in the even numbered years. These championships have been organized by the WBMA and the VDB (Association of German Beard Clubs)."

The local hair community is split.

"Phil Olsen normally does nationals," says Brian Snoderly, a senior council member of the Portland Beardsmen. "He's essentially changed the name of his national competition to 'World.'" Snoderly says the Beardsmen are remaining neutral, but that some in the hair club intend to boycott the competition as invalid, and that the WBMA is the organization respected by the international beard community.

Olsen disagrees. "It’s absolutely false to say that that body has traditionally put this on," says Olsen of the WBMA. "The organization you’re talking about has no rights. They’ve never been involved in organizing the event." The WBMA-approved world championships have traditionally been organized by local beard groups in the cities where they are held.

Two World Beard and Moustache Championships have taken place in the United States in the past—in Carson City, Nev., in 2003 and in Anchorage, Alask., in 2009—and Olsen says he helped organize both. This year, Olsen issued a cease-and-desist against the planned 2017 World Beard and Moustache Championships in Austin, Texas, claiming legal rights to the name.

Some Facebook commenters on the WBMA page have grown a bit frayed. (All comments [sic].)

"You want a world title?" wrote one commenter. "Hold a world championship in your back yard. Thats as legitamite as phils world championship will be." 

"So much for a brotherhood of beards," wrote another.

The Dixie Beard & Mustache Society also chimed in: "This is really less about politics as it is about predatory capitalism."

Olsen says he isn't stirring up contention. "That dispute undermines the fun and the spirit of the event," he says. "I think this is going to be a great event for Portland." He says that while it might not reach this number, he hopes the event will bring millions of people to Portland next September.

Portland Beardsmen senior council member Jedediah Aaker, a mainstay on the Portlandia TV program on IFC, says he'll likely participate in next year's championships. "I just wanna have a good time and show people our great city," he says. The Beardsmen organization isn't officially taking part, but will hold concomitant events such as an all-female "Whiskerina" competition, in which women wear crafted beards.

Still, Aaker wonders whether the controversy will lead to a smaller turnout. "I like Phil," says Aaker. "Phil's a good dude. But man, why you making all these waves on a beard contest? All we do is grow beards and raise money for charities and get drunk."
 
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