‘People and adventure’: A peek into the world of beard and moustache competitions

Bewhiskered celebrities include Lansing in promotional tour

by Jamilyn Hiskes

LANSING, Ill. (October 23, 2019) – Walking down Ridge Road on a Monday morning isn’t usually a grand affair. But when you’re accompanied by a man with a curled, pointed, foot-wide moustache, heads are bound to turn.

The owner of the moustache is MJ Johnson, a husband, father, and World Beard and Moustache Champion. He is preparing to compete in the 2019 National Beard and Moustache Championships in Tinley Park in November, and was joined by three other competitors: Natali Johnston, Garey Faulkner and Andrew Mattson. While Mattson and Faulkner had their glossy goatee and beard on display, respectively, Johnston was wheeling hers behind her in a cube-shaped suitcase.

MJ Johnson’s moustache lit up the room at Classy Cuts on Ridge Rd. (Photo: Jamilyn Hiskes)
Natali Johnston is one of the most decorated “whiskerinas” around. (Photo: Jamilyn Hiskes)
Garey Faulkner’s ginger beard can be—and has been—transformed into many fascinating freestyle shapes and colors. (Photo: Jamilyn Hiskes)
Andrew Mattson has been competing for only two years, but he said he’s already 40 competitions in and can’t see an end in sight yet. (Photo: Jamilyn Hiskes)

“My beard is manufactured, so it can take anywhere from a couple hours to a couple days to style,” Johnston said. “Depending. The styles just pop in my head.”

Even though they had interviews lined up with the likes of WGN News Radio and ABC-7 News the next day, the four competitors visited Troost Coffee and Tea (18155 Roy St. #2) to talk with The Lansing Journal about their work and the upcoming competition. They even had an informal photo shoot at Classy Cuts (3365 Ridge Rd. #4), which thoroughly entertained owner Kris O’Connor.

Johnson, Faulkner, Mattson, and Johnston took time out of their busy schedules to chat with The Lansing Journal about the world of beard and moustache competitions. (Photo: Jamilyn Hiskes)
Johnson’s beard-stache turned heads in Troost and along Ridge Road. (Photo by Jamilyn Hiskes)

Getting competitive

Johnson said he entered the world of competitive facial hair after seeing photos online and immediately “connecting with it.”

“The goal at the beginning was just to compete in one contest, one time,” he said. “But then I went there, and it was awesome. The people are awesome, and you always see something you’ve never seen before. From that point, I was hooked.”

Johnson, Faulkner, Mattson, and Johnston, have all traveled across the country—and in some cases, the world—to compete in almost every beard contest they can get to.

“The beard became kind of a passport for meeting new people and going to new destinations,” Johnson said.

Women, whiskers, and wars

Johnston said she started competing after coming upon a TV show called “Whisker Wars” with her husband in the early 2010s. When they visited a local competition in Charleston, SC, and she saw women competing there, the idea sparked.

“When I saw that women could do it, I was like, ‘I can do this,’” Johnston said. “So I started competing. And once you start, you get a bug, and you just want to keep doing it.”

Mattson also watched “Whisker Wars” and was curious about it from the start. He checked out a beard and moustache club in Minneapolis, went to a competition, and got the bug himself.

“The community and the family aspect is so huge that I’m 40 competitions in now after just 2 years,” Mattson said. “It’s become kind of an obsession for me. Now it’s almost every other weekend that I’m somewhere [to compete].”

A combination of beard oil and lots of hairspray is what keeps these whiskers looking fabulous. (Photo: Jamilyn Hiskes)

Faulkner said he started growing his long auburn beard, which can be curled, painted and styled in whatever fashion he comes up with, to win a bet. He didn’t shave for a year, and when he was introduced to beard competitions by his friend Matt Bischoff—a well-known figure in the facial hair world—he was hooked. But he doesn’t travel as much as he used to.

“For a while, it was like I was in a new city every week,” Faulkner said. “I had to remember I had a life back home.”

A growing community

As strange a career as competitive beard and moustache styling may seem, it hasn’t been without its successes. Johnston is one of the most decorated “whiskerinas”—as the female competitors are called—of all time, with three best in shows, 31 first places, 30 second places, 15 third places, and 2 titles. Faulkner has been in commercials and films and was interviewed by talk show host Jimmy Fallon after a past victory at the National Beard and Moustache Championships. As for Johnson, he’s been on countless talk shows and is a beard model for Remington Beard Boss shaving appliances. In addition, all the competitors have been able to raise money for charities with their stylized scruffs, as the National Beard and Moustache Championships donate to local charities.

With Mattson’s luxuriously long goatee, Johnston’s curled and coiffed gray glue-on whiskers, Johnson’s unmistakable beard-stache, and Faulkner’s long ginger beard, it’s easy to see how fascinating the world of beard and moustache competitions can be. But the best part, according to Johnson, is the community aspect.

“When you grow out your beard, it’s very personal at first,” he said. “But then you go to a beard contest, and it flips over. All of a sudden you’re part of a big group. I like to say it’s about people and adventure.”

Mattson echoed that sentiment.

“When I’m around the small town that I’m from, I’m ‘the bearded guy,’” he said. “I stand out…. But when I go to a competition, I’m just a part of a group of people. We’re all there for a common purpose. I’m not an outsider. We’re all the same.”

“You can literally be a stranger and be accepted in this community,” Faulkner added.

About the 2019 National Beard and Moustache Championships

The 2019 National Beard and Moustache Championships will be held at the 350 Brewery’s Insanity Factory (7144 W. 183rd St.) in Tinley Park November 8-9. A portion of proceeds will go toward three charities: Oscar Mike, PAWS Tinley Park and Together We Cope, Tinley Park. The competition will be streamed live.

For more information, visit www.nationalbeardchampionships.com.

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