All The Rage

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Bearded & Tschorn: Getting a handle on that tonsorial totem pole

May 13, 2009 |  5:54 pm

In the process of researching the upcoming World Beard and Moustache Championships in Anchorage, Alaska, (kicking off in less than a week), I've run across some cool WBMC-related art. One thing is for sure: The pursuit of the hirsute seems to stir the creative juices (or maybe it's just all that testosterone talking.)Rage_poster

My favorite visual so far (and who knows what's in store once I yank the doors of Seward's Ice Box wide open) is the graphic at right, which I found posted at the website of this year's host organization, the South Central Alaska Beard and Moustache Club.

It manages to reflect the heritage of the host -- it's my understanding that totem poles served as a kind of signage (the billboards or light-post banners of yesteryear) among the native clans of southeastern* Alaska. At the same time it captures the lighthearted nature and sense of humor about the whole affair. (After all, this is a global gathering of men who face off over facial hair for nothing more than bragging rights and a trophy -- last year's was shaped like a huge beer stein).

So I was crestfallen to discover that a poster of said image (which  would be a perfect addition to my garage/man cave -- right between the stuffed bear and the beer fridge) didn't actually exist out here in "meat space." (And am I the only one who uses that phrase to mean "not cyberspace"?)

"There are only something like three digital prints," explained Young & Rubicam's Jason Nitti, who created what he described as a Tlingit-influenced design with Neel Williams, one of five done gratis for the host to mark the beardsmen's biennial conclave (see the rest here), so Y & R could submit them in advertising competitions (how meta is that?).

I couldn't help but ask how the ad men came to set their sights on the mustache men.

"First of all, we’re fans of gentlemanly things," he  said. " We enjoy beer and Scotch and things like that -- and we also enjoy a bit of irony. Especially living in New York, we've seen facial hair getting more popular. There's the whole Williamsburg thing, and the recession beard, and it just sort of all came together."

When I last checked, the organizers weren't sure if they were going to use the graphic on any kind of merchandise. But now I've got "merch fever" and won't be denied. If I don't come back from Alaska with one of those posters, under my arm, I'll be shipping back the real deal: a custom-carved, life-size version -- handlebars and all.

One way or another, it's going to look sweet in the man cave.

-- Adam Tschorn

Graphic: Jason Nitti and Neel Williams

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Read more Bearded & Tschorn: the Road to the World Beard and Moustache Championships

*Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly referred to the native clans of southwestern Alaska, instead of southeastern Alaska.