With a four-inch gray handlebar beard extending from his face, Chris Kriskovic — known as Xtopher Grey in facial hair competitions — gathered with his (also bearded) friends at the High Noon Saloon Friday night. They each sipped their craft beers, collectively representing the four-year-old elite Madison Beard Wearers Union.
In reverence of this purpose, hipsters, bikers and microbrewers alike came together Friday night for the much anticipated 2015 Wisconsin Beard-Off. This competition is put on by novelty event coordinators from the organization Modern Antics.
Art Allen is the creative mastermind behind this Midwest competition. The idea was cultivated in 2009 when Allen discovered that beard and mustache competitions were rising in popularity, but noticed that there were none near his hometown of Minneapolis. He started collaborating with his friends and ended up expanding these competitions to Madison and Des Moines.
The majority of the audience, surprisingly, are women looking for bearded men. When it comes to choosing judges, he likes to choose men with expertise, such as Kriskovic, and always aims to select one woman who is particularly fond of beards. Allen explained that the judges critique the overall quality of a beard including its length, thickness and originality. It’s serious business.
“We’ve got a guy tonight who’s wearing a fake beard in the freestyle category and I don’t think the judges will look too kindly on that,” Allen said.