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Tickle your fancy at the World Beard and Moustache Championships

By Nick Thompson, for CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The biannual World Beard and Moustache championships will be held in Norway on Saturday
  • Contestants from 15 countries will compete in 17 official categories
  • Beard Team USA captain Phil Olsen predicts the U.S. will win eight out of 17 gold medals

(CNN) -- While many people think of bold facial hair as the traditional preserve of cowboys and comedians, the World Beard and Moustache Championships proves that good whiskers can tickle your fancy whoever you are.

One hundred and fifty contestants from 15 countries will descend on the Prinsen Hotell in Trondheim, Norway this weekend to get down to the hairy business of who exactly has the world's best facial furniture.

The World Beard and Moustache Championships is a biennial contest pitting competitors against one another in 17 different official categories ranging from Dali and Fu Manchu moustaches to Garibaldi and Imperial style beards -- not to mention the much-coveted prize for the world's best facial hair.

Ole Skibnes, the president of the host Norwegian Moustache Club, says judging the myriad different hirsute appendages that will appear on stage Sunday is no easy task.

This is not a circus. You have to judge if the moustache makes the person look good.
--Ole Skibnes, Norwegian Moustache Club president

"This is not a circus," says Skibnes, whose club has hosted the world championships twice.

"You can't just judge the size of the moustache -- you have to see if the hair is well-groomed, see if it suits the person, see if it makes them look good."

What exactly constitutes "good-looking" facial hair is, naturally, a hotly contested subject at the world championships.

The competition, which has its roots in a 1990 event organized by a facial hair club in Höfen, Germany, has been held every two years since 1995 in locations ranging from Sweden to Alaska.

Germans are traditionally known as the most competitive group on the world facial hair scene, says Michael "Atters" Attree, an editor of The Chap magazine and self-proclaimed "moustache maverick." His Handlebar Club (the oldest moustache club in the world) hosted the 2007 championships in Brighton, England.

"The Germans are known for odd clubs and for not having a huge sense of humor, so belonging to some sort of moustache club is a way of being sociable," says Attree.

"The championships are a way for the competitors to bond and make friends, and every other year they sort of return and stick together like a huge ball of Velcro. It's like a big hairy love-in."

However, the world of facial hair is not without its rifts.

It's like a big hairy love-in.
--Michael Attree, editor of The Chap
RELATED TOPICS
  • Facial Hair
  • Norway
  • Germany
  • United States
  • Sweden

The German contingent at the 2009 championships in Anchorage, Alaska was reportedly unhappy when their own Karl-Heinz Hille placed second in the overall title to American David Traver, who also organized the event and handpicked the judges.

It was at the Anchorage games that the United States emerged as the "premier power in world bearding," according to Beard Team USA captain Phil Olsen, who predicts that America will net a staggering eight out of 17 possible gold medals at the games.

"The U.S. has the best chance to win the most medals by far," says Olsen, who sports a Garibaldi-style beard and helped organize the 2003 Carson City and 2009 Anchorage world championships.

Michael Attree was quick to dismiss Olsen's claim as little more than "a rattling of the saber" to garner attention ahead of the contest.

"Beards are hideous things if you ask me," says Attree, who sports a traditional English moustache. "Phil Olsen's interest is beyond moustaches and beards ... it's pure world domination, I think."

While Attree acknowledges the creative, "pure psychedelia" of the Freestyle facial hair categories, he believes the real beauty lies in the classic moustache styles.

"I have my moustache because I bloody well can," says Attree. "Plus, the ladies do love a good old smasher stuck on them."

Bruce Roe, who says he has been in more world competitions and taken more trophies (five) than any other American, believes that designating one category as superior to another misses the point of the competition.

"It's all in fun in the end really," says Roe, the president of the Washington-based Whisker Club who competes in the Hungarian-style moustache category.

"The championships are an excuse for us to get together with our friends -- I have some trophies, but the best part is the friends I've made through the years."

 
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