INTERVIEW: Ryan Gore talks about Competitive Bearding & explains what WHISKERMANIA is all about!

I’ve always considered myself to be a prettay, prettay good beard grower. At full strength it’s thick and full with no legitimate gaps or patchy spots. While I have no shortage of confidence in my facial hair, I don’t think I’d hold up in an actual beard competition like WhiskerMania, which is set to happen this Saturday (1/27) at Diamond Pub Concert Hall on Barret Avenue. Registration starts at 5PM, and the competition will get underway at 7PM. The event will cost $15 (spectators and competitors) with all proceeds to be donated to Active Heroes. Visit the Facebook Event Page here for more details on the event.

Check out a promo video that was put together for WhiskerMania below:

To get a better understanding on what goes on at an eccentric event like WhiskerMania, I reached out to WM organizer and Derby City Whisker Club President Ryan Gore for an interview. Read on as we talk about beards, beards, and more beards…

Never Nervous: What was the motivation behind starting a contest that revolves around facial hair?

Ryan Gore: I’m not super clear on the how and why, but I know facial hair competitions have been going on for well over 20 years now. It started over in Europe, and in the past decade or so it’s really blown up over here. It’s now to the point where there’s almost a competition going on somewhere in the country every weekend. For us though, we had been going to competitions around the country for years and we wanted to finally do one that brought people here to Louisville.

NN: What constitutes a “good beard”? On the flipside, could you give an example of what you’d consider to be a shitty beard?

RG: You know we really try not to look at people on the quality of their facial hair. A famous saying we have around the bearding community is “all facial hair is valid.” Even in the club, there are no requirements in terms of facial hair to hang out. We’ve kind of looked more at someone’s ‘inner beard’ (their capacity to have a good time and hang out).

“A famous saying we have around the bearding community is ‘all facial hair is valid.'”

NN: Where’d the classic wrestling theme for WM come from? Are you a big wrasslin’ fan?

RG: Haha yeah, i’ve been a wrestling nerd for quite a while and in our first planning meeting for WM1, I initially wanted to call it the Louisville Beard Rumble and have a poster that looked like the 1992 Royal Rumble poster, but I think I randomly said WhiskerMania after that and it just stuck from there.

NN - WM2 Full Beard 6-8

NN: How has WhiskerMania evolved since it’s inception a few years ago? What’s different?

RG: The main thing is we’ve tried to incorporate more is the wrestling theme. With WhiskerMania 1 being the largest thing a lot of us had ever organized, we were really just focused on getting it off the ground and it being a good facial hair competition. In the past couple of years we’ve been able to add more wrestling themed artwork to the posters, added a wrestling ring that competitors can walk on while on stage, and new for this year, a tag team category where people can wear themed costumes.

Also with our competition being in the winter where there’s not a lot of other comps going on and us in the club networking with other beard clubs at their comps more, we’ve have a lot of people outside of Louisville who are traveling in for it.

NN: How many beard categories will be judged this year at WhiskerMania?

RG: We have 16 different facial categories that include just mustache (natural and styled), partial beard (goatee, chops, whaler/amish, etc), full beard natural( separated by length), freestyle, and fake beard categories (realistic and creative). We also have the tag team category that was mentioned above.

NN - WM1 Realistic by Blake Ulmer

NN: Is WhiskerMania a men only competition, or can women compete as well?

RG: Yes, we do have categories for men and women. There are two fake beard categories that women can compete in. One is fake realistic and this is where competitors put on beards that look like ones that could compete in the normal facial hair categories. The other is fake fantastic, and this is where you have a beard made with whatever your heart desires and can hang off your face like a beard. I’ve seen ones made of hot peppers to beef jerky to the front of Prince’s motorcycle from Purple Rain.

“We do have categories for men and women. There are two fake beard categories that women can compete in. “

NN: What do you attribute the growth of beard culture to? Was the a catalyst?

RG: I’m not sure of the one thing that started it, but I know there have been people who initially grew a beard either to look more “manly” or handsome (my reason haha), or just got tired of having to fit into a ‘professional’ look. With those who became more involved in things like beards clubs and competitive bearding, it started to go beyond that initial reason and they keep doing it, because the community means so much to them.

NN: Was there a personal reason behind your decision to donate to the Active Heroes charity?

RG: We have several members in the club who are veterans and after talking to Troy Yocum (founder and president of Active Heroes) and seeing how passionate he was, it just felt like they’d be a great partner (which they truly have been). We actually first heard about Active Heroes at a OVW event where there was a wrestler selling their shirts, so again there’s that wrestling connection.

NN - WM1 Chops By Blake Ulmer

NN: Do you partake in beard enhancing products? Are there gels or sprays that you use?

RG: You know, a couple of years ago there were companies out there trying to sell vitamins that were suppose to speed up beard growth, but I think a lot of people saw through that pretty quickly. Keeping your beard healthy is always good, so I try to use beard oil regularly to keep it from drying out and use beard balms every so often to let it look a little extra nice. Both of those items are also totally ok to use in natural categories at WM and we’ll even have people use everything from mustache wax to hair spray for the styled and freestyled categories.

“Keeping your beard healthy is always good so I try to use beard oil regularly to keep it from drying out .”

NN: What can someone (like me) that has never been to a bearding competition expect at WhiskerMania? What’s in store for us innocent bystanders?

RG: Honestly, I expect you will A.) see a bunch of facial hair from both men and women that you’ve never seen in your life and B.) a bunch of people from all walks of life ready to have a real good time and raise a lot of money for a good charity. Not only will there be the competition, but we’ll have music from Samuel St. Samuel at Diamonds before the comp gets started and music from Hoot Von Woot down in Mile Wide Beer Co. before the doors open. Also there will be vendors on hand and a raffle table to raise even more for Active Heroes.

NN: Before you go, tell us about a song that you feel really helps your beard growing experience.

RG: So the one thing I’ve always told people that will help your beard grow was listening to Crowbar, so I guess I’ll go with “Existence is Punishment”. It’s heavy af and helps weigh the beard down.