Like many things having to do with the sport of international bearding, the history of the sport is shrouded in controversy. One Italian group claims that it held the first championships in Northern Italy in the early 1970′s, it seems more likely that modern competitive bearding an event began with a 1990 event organized and hosted by the First Höfener Beard Club (1. Höfener Bartclub) in its hometown Höfen/Enz, Germany, a small village in the Black Forest. In 1995, the same club hosted the second World Beard and Moustache Championships in the nearby city of Pforzheim.
After 1995, local beard clubs in Northern Europe began organizing international competitions every two years. In 1997, the Norwegian Moustache Club (Den Norske Mustaschklubben), headquartered in Trondheim held the competition in its hometown of Trondheim. Two years later the Swedish Moustache Club (Svenska Mustaschklubben) organized the championships in Ystad, at the extreme southern end of Sweden. In 2001, the Swabian Beard and Moustache Club (Schwäbische Bart- und Schnauzerclub) celebrated its tenth anniversary by hosting the championships in its hometown of Schömberg.
Carson City 2003
Bearding came to American in 2003 with the World Beard and Moustache Championships® held in Carson City, Nevada as part of the annual Nevada Day Celebration. Approximately 85 European beardsmen showed their stuff to a crowd of enthused and amazed Americans along with the worldwide press. Berlin’s Karl-Heinz Hille was crowned grand champion and representatives of German beard clubs won 36 of the 57 trophies awarded. Unlike their European counterparts who were organized into local beard clubs, American beardsman were not affiliated with local clubs, but competed as Beard Team USA®.
The First Berliner Beard Club (1. Berliner Bartclub) hosted the 2005 World Beard and Moustache Championships. Germany continued its domination, taking fourteen of the seventeen first-place awards. German Elmar Weisser took first place in the full beard freestyle division with a hirsute rendition of the host city’s historic Brandenburg Gate. Beard Team USA fielded a strong squad but was not match to the host team in the German capital.
In 2007 London’s Handlebar Club, which ironically prohibits its members from having beards (moustaches only!) played host to the championships in the seaside town of Brighton. The championships drew a sellout crowd while hundreds of facial-hair fans stood outside begging for tickets. This time Weisser’s beard commemorated London’s Tower Bridge. Upstart Beard Team USA took five first-place trophies but Germany continued its domination with nine golds in all.
The United States became the world’s new facial hair super power, capturing twelve world championship titles out of eighteen categories plus overall at the World Beard and Moustache Championships in Anchorage, Alaska on May 23, 2009. Possessing home field advantage, the USA was able to dethrone Germany which had dominated this competition since its inception.
Hometown favorite and Beard Team USA member David Traver was crowned overall champ, having styled his beard to resemble an Alaska snowshoe which earned him top honors in the freestyle full beard category. Meanwhile Germany’s Karl-Heinz Hille’s elaborate moustache earned him second. San Franciscan Jack Passion placed third with his long, red natural beard. The winners took home engraved gold pans.
The competition returned to Norway on May 15, 2011. This time, Germany beat out the USA by a single gold medal. The contestants helped celebrate the Seventeenth of May, Norway’s national holiday with a festive parade through the streets of Trondheim.
In 2013, Belle-Moustache hosted the world championships in its hometown, Leinfelden-Echterdingen, near Stuttgart, Germany. Beard Team USA fielded a strong squad including Patrick Fette who achieved a perfect score in the English Moustache category.
The 2014 World Beard and Moustache Championships® will take place in Portland, Oregon on October 25. The Portland event marks a break from the tradition of holding a world championship only biennially. The event will give Americans unable to travel to Europe an opportunity to compete on the world stage for the first time since 2009 and is the first time the event has been held in an even-numbered year. The event reflect the explosion of interest in bearding, where beard competitions are now held nearly every week and beard clubs are cropping up all across the country.
In 2015 the WBMC returns to Europe, when the Alpine village of Leogang, Austria plays host. The East Bavarian Beard Club will organize the event. Beard Team USA plans to attend after stopping over in Munich at Oktoberfest (the real thing).