Long Beach Beard Advocate founders Kevin Woody (right) and Kay Wantuch (left). Photos by Brian Addison.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Whaler or a Napoleon III Imperial. Come all ye Hungarians, Hulihees and Handlebars, there’s a place for you, too. Actually, it doesn’t even matter if you’re a man or a woman; if you have a beard or you’re just a supporter of wooly-faced men, the Beard Advocates of Long Beach will take you in with open arms.
The club, which was formed by Kevin Woody and Kay Wantuch about four years ago, was inspired by the dearth of places for facial hair-toting men in Long Beach to congregate. When it was determined that the Los Angeles Facial Hair Society and Orange County’s The Gentlemen’s Beard and Mustache Coalition were too inconvenient to frequent, the Long Beach Beard Advocates were born.
They now meet the last Thursday of every month at Beachwood BBQ, where they revel in beers and beards, something that one member joked is the intersecting point of the venn diagram of their group’s interests.
“I thought to myself, how come there’s no Long Beach club?” Woody said. “There’s one in LA and there’s one in Orange County and both of those are awkwardly difficult to drive to. Just barely too far that it’s kind of annoying.”
What Long Beach was also lacking prior to last year was its very own beard and mustache competition. But when the Folk Revival Festival invited Woody and his hirsute hoard to host the first annual beard and mustache competition, they were all over it.
This year’s Folk Revival Festival marks the group’s second year as hosts of the competition. Three new categories have been added, doubling last year’s count (natural, full beard styled stash, partial beard, natural stache, styled stache and Whiskerina) with the inclusion of a kids beard and mustache competition. Judges will also have a lot more time to analyze beards and mustaches for symmetry, fullness, style and a variety of other parameters to determine who is the owner of the best beard in each category. Judges will hand out scores from 5 to 10 points with the winner from each division taking home prizes including beard grooming products, gift certificates to local businesses and even a trip to Catalina.
As one previous judge put it, some beards are kind of like a Monet, “good from far, but far from good.” The expansion of the competition to a full hour (last year’s was squeezed into a 20 minute window) will be important to give each competitor a fair shake. Besides, serious questions need to be answered about some very serious facial hair.
“Last year we had to move real fast,” Woody said. “Get them off stage, collect the judges votes and do something in between. With as many people as we had, we just squeezed it in. Now we’ll be able to take a little bit more time. We’ll be able to introduce people by names instead of just numbers and be able to give everyone a little bit more credence. So you can strut your stuff.”
Woody hasn’t been clean shaven in nearly a decade. In fact, this will mark his eighth “beardiversary”, a milestone that he celebrates annually with a themed party at his home. The yearly shindig is an open invitation to all his friends, bearded or not, to celebrate another year of being part of the facial-hair fraternity.
But unlike the Gentlemen of Orange County, which strictly prohibits women from attending beardly functions, the Advocates foster a more family-friendly atmosphere. Girlfriends, wives and even children are part of their bewhiskered crew, sometimes even dawning the most impressive beards.
The Whiskerinas attend functions and even enter into competitions with home-crafted beards made up from anything ranging from candy to picnic baskets to beer cans. Woody recounted a Little Red Riding Hood-themed Whiskerina who had a full wolf’s head with glowing red eyes sewn into her beard. It wasn’t just ridiculous, it was ridiculously impressive. Wantuch explained that a Whiskerina is essentially a woman who loves crafting almost as much she loves beards, which is essential, because the elaborate designs that are rolled out by some Whiskerinas require a skilled hand.
“We wanted to make sure that it was inclusive to ladies and families because that’s important to us,” Wantuch said about the decision to make the Advocates a female and child-friendly club.
The newest member of the Advocates, Nathan Rosales, sat around the conversation pit outside Beachwood with his wife and child. He discovered the club after he decided to get serious about his own facial hair. He’d originally posted an inquiry to join the Los Angeles club but received a more expedient response from the Whiskerinas that run the Long Beach club.
“I was over here thinking I was gonna get no love or acceptance from the beard community but luckily they were very welcoming toward me and my little family,” Rosales said. “And sure enough I’ve met some great people and had some beers along the way.”
The group is casual and homey, or put more simply, it’s Long Beach. The diversity of the club is reflected by all the shapes and sizes of facial hair hanging from members’ faces. The collection of facial fur ranges from the standard business beard, to Woody’s "friendly" mutton chops (meaning the chops are connected by a mustache), all the way up to the more Duck Dyansty-esque full beard of Advocate Scott Casey, whose beard extends down to his sternum when not styled.
They don’t actively recruit, but there is the casual public acknowledgements doled out by one bearded man to the next. Woody described it as a sort of awkward dance, almost a Fight Club-type silence where both men know their part of the bearded fraternity but don’t want to be the first to broach the topic. As an employee at a bank (and a cartoonist [picture left]), it’s not uncommon for Woody to have encounters with other beard toting and mustachioed men, which usually ends with a kind of a tip of the hat to their well-manicured masterpieces.
“I work at a bank so I see a lot of customers and every now and then somebody will come up with a cool mustache or a beard or something like that and it’s sort of like this weird silent bond for a second until one of us goes ‘nice mustache’ and the other is like ‘nice chops’,” Woody said.
However your facial hair grows—or if you’re like the author, and have been relegated to a life of patchy, botched beard attempts—the Advocates just want to have fun, and beers. Woody and Wantuch say they’d like to grow the group, but for now, the laid-back nature of the Advocates is just fine and they’re proud to call the Folk Festival home.
“I really like the Folk Festival because they’re so friendly and since we’re so casual they take a lot of the stress out of it for us having to put it on,” Wantuch said about the fest while pointing out how other city’s clubs have to secure their own venues and permits. “It would be great if we could put our own on, but I don’t think we’re there yet.”
The 2nd annual beard and mustache competition sponsored by the Long Beach Beard Advocates is free to enter and starts at 4:30 PM in the dance pavilion at the Folk Revival September 27 at Rainbow Lagoon Park from 11AM to 10PM. Applications for the competition can be submitted here.