Initially, it seemed to be a German thing. In the 90’s, competition beards and moustaches battled it out in Höfen and Pforzheim and twice forayed into Denmark and Sweden. Then in Carson City, USA in 2003. And the competition got fiercer. Since then, planned and unplanned meetings between facial hair enthusiasts have been taking place all around the world, but the champions are almost always German or American.
There are 16 categories divided into three groups: moustache, partial beard and full beard. The rules are strict. One millimetre over or under, and you are disqualified. From the natural beard — which can protrude from the corners of the wearer’s mouth by up to 1.5cm and can be combed, but not styled — to the freestyle category in which popular long beards and devilish goatees feature in hundreds of different styles.
It is often down to interpretation: add a few centimetres to an Imperial moustache and it becomes a Hungarian, similar in style to the Kaiser beard, which is in turn framed with Sideburns. The World Beard and Moustache Championship is the Mr World of facial hair. If you want to follow the rules, this is where you need to look.
As I said, the champions are usually German or American (and it was the Americans who suggested the seventeenth category at Anchorage in 2009: the Whaler Beard, which is open to interpretation as long as there is no moustache involved), but two of the competition’s most desirable categories are truly Italian: the Verdi and the Garibaldi. These highly technical and undisputedly stylish beards are classic, but difficult to replicate precisely: perfecting the Verdi and the Garibaldi requires years of practice and study. Some say that the beard era is over. As far as I can judge, it seems to be in full swing.