Brain Pickings

Celebrating the Art of Competitive Beard and Mustache Grooming

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A lament for patience by way of Garibaldi, or what partial beards have to do with instant gratification.

We’ve previously celebrated the power and glory of the mustache and have marveled at championship chickens, but what about championship ‘staches? A living testament to the ethos that everything is a canvas for creativity, the World Beard and Mustache Championships have been celebrating the art of competitive facial hair grooming since 1990. Beard is Austin-based photographer Matthew Rainwaters’ quest to document the finest of these hairy specimens and the curious characters who tend them in a stunning series of stark, visually articulate portraits. Alongside the formidable chops, bristles and whiskers, ranging from the classics to freestyle fare, are essays by prominent competitors that crack ajar the door to a fascinating subculture.

In many ways, these magnificent creations are a charming homage to a fast-fading era, a time when patience was indeed a virtue and slow, meticulous growth — be it literal or metaphorical — was valued more highly than the instant gratification that fuels today’s aspirations.

Jack Passion, San Francisco, CA

Natural Full Beard 1st place winner, 3rd place overall winner

John Price, Atlanta, GA

Garibaldi Full Beard, 3rd place winner

Stuart Wilf, Colorado Springs, CO

Freestyle Partial Beard, 1st place winner

Playful and poetic in a delightfully offbeat way, Beard is at once a portal to a weird and wonderful alternate reality and an invitation to revisit, with a smile and a wink, our relationship with patience, character, and nonconformity.

Images courtesy of Matthew Rainwaters / Chronicle Books

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