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For Chad Roberts, being selected as an extra in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” last November was little surprise.
Roberts is the founder and “El Capitan” (a self-chosen title) of Richmond-based beard-growers’ association, Follicles of the James ‘Stache & Beard League – or “the League,” for short, to its almost 30 members.
The League is a founding member of the North American Competitive Beard and Moustache Alliance and the Richmond chapter of Beard Team USA, both of which promote facial hair appreciation both at home and abroad.
His facial hair, fittingly, is prodigious – dense – but exquisitely well-groomed.
At Gallery5 this past Friday, where members of the League appeared as featured guests with the Richmond Comedy Coalition, Roberts’ teeming mane was sculpted into two divergent halves – a styling he coined “The Fork in the Road” or, alternately, “The Robert Frost.”
But left to its natural state, Roberts’ beard could easily have felt right at home against a gray wool uniform.
“Mr. Spielberg saw that certain something in me,” Roberts said. Simon Leake, the League “Gentleman and Scholar” (his own self-chosen title), also represented the League in the ‘Lincoln’ cast, and was known on the set only as “Moustache.”
Though they do occasionally provide Hollywood directors with background manliness for their films, Follicles of the James’ main business lies in nationwide competitive bearding competitions – and starting this Saturday, they’ll be running their own.
The “1st ever Mid-Atlantic Beard & ‘Stache Competition” is currently open to registration for all categories – moustaches, beards full and partial, styled and unstyled, ladies’ division (imitation beards), etc. – and is set to take place at Strange Matter Saturday, March 3 at 8 p.m.
Proceeds will benefit the Central Virginia Food Bank.
“(Bearding competitions are) kind of like a dog show,” the League’s self-appointed “Master of Stache and Destruction,” Zack Pettrey said. “You go up and you prance around in front of the judges. They lift your tail, look at your butt, that sort of thing. … It’s awkward.”
Pettrey has grown his moustache for a year and eight months – “I got out of the army and decided ‘f— shaving’,” he said – and is expecting “a future bearding champion” with his partner in March. He said Saturday’s competition at Strange Matter has attracted competitive bearding teams from as far as Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
The panel of ajudicators will include lead singer of Gwar Dave Brockie, Richmond radio icon Melissa Chase, Legendary World Wrestling referee Dave Hebner, reigning ladies’ division champion Ashley Brown and others.
While most of the categories strictly prohibit the use of hair extensions, false beards or any form of hair pins, the Ladies category actively encourages facial hair substitutes of any variety, with sub-divisions for both realism and creativity. The Leagues’ sister group – the Bearded Beauties of the River City, or RVA Whiskerinas – caters to the fine art of female beard crafting specifically.
Gentleman and Scholar Leake said that the League not just welcomes members of genders in its ranks, but also males of all different beard coverages – up to and including none at all.
“There are a couple of guys in the group who are doing … their very best,” he said. “And that’s all you can ask.”
“Facial hair is one of those things that doesn’t exactly define who you are,” Pettrey said. “You define what it is. … He rocks a moustache, he rocks a beard, I rock a mustache and a beard. There’s guys with sweet mutton chops, there’s guys with Van Burens. … There’s people who break down those barriers.”
“It’s who you are,” he said. “Wear what you want.”
The Mid-Atlantic Beard & ‘Stache Competition will take place at Strange Matter on Grace Street this coming Saturday, March 3 at 8 p.m; Tickets $5. Registration for competitors additional $5; competitor check-in 7 p.m. Proceeds will benefit the Central Virginia Food Bank.
Photos courtesy of The Follicles of the James ‘Stache and Beard League unless otherwise stated