Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Beard Battles

Forget Whisker Wars, the world of competitive bearding has erupted into a legal battlezone.

In one of the sadder moves I've seen, Phil Olson has confirmed through his recent actions that my previously voiced concerns about his intentions with his 2014 "WBMC" were largely accurate. He has evidently got a copyright on the "World Beard and Moustache Championship" name (despite the fact that the event had been taking place for years before his first involvement). With the announcement that the WBMC would make its return to the USA in 2017, hosted by the Austin Facial Hair Club (with whom Mr. Olsen has had a decidedly rocky history), he has begun to send cease and desist letters with threats of serious legal action.

Of course, many people within the community are outraged that this man would try to shut down a community-run, non-profit competition held in a spirit of charity and camaraderie in an attempt to replace it with his own for-profit championship. Further, the fact that he's claiming ownership of an event which he did not start and does not run is in and of itself a major sticking point.

It may seem absurd to have such drastic disputes over something as fun and essentially pointless as beard competitions, and it is. However, this is a situation where everybody just wants to get along and raise money for charity and enjoy each others company, but one guy insists on creating a problem for everyone. So now the community is banding together in a rapidly expanding wave of backlash that is the central focus of activity in the bearding world at the moment. Hopefully the scale of this reaction will shut down Phil's profiteering attempts to hijack a community event, as hundreds of people have already agreed to boycott all events associated with him and his organization. In their place, competitors have been encouraged to attend any of the numerous bearding competitions which focus on raising money for charities.

And that leads me to my most recent valuable bearding find, the North American Competitive Beard and Moustache Alliance. The NACBMA has its own website here which conveniently provides a very good calendar of upcoming bearding events, making it the single best resource I've encountered for finding out about competitions. Additionally, it provides a set of guidelines for events including categories, judging methods, and the impetus that there be "No cash prize awards, and clubs are strongly encouraged to use profits for charity."

Overall I find the NACBMA site extremely helpful, and I would advise anybody looking into beard competitions in the United States to go there as your primary resource for information of the topic. With any luck, this other ugliness will pass in short order, and we can all get back to making friends, drinking beer, and having a good time at our silly contests.

Final Note: Thanks to the site, I have learned that the 3rd Annual Northern California Beard and Moustache Competition will take place on my birthday this spring, so I plan to make that my own first entry into competitive bearding as a participant.

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