Each year as summer draws to a close, facial hair enthusiasts from across the country descend upon Coney Island to compete in the annual Coney Island Beard and Moustache Competition.
In categories such as “Moustachio Marvel” and “Ballyhoo Beard,” competitors are judged by their hair’s creativity, size, and unique personality. For this year’s 12th iteration of the hairy event, photographer B.A. Van Sise was in attendance to capture the bizarre, humorous, and entertaining styles competing in the Coney Island Beard and Moustache Competition.
Here, Van Sise shares a gallery of portraits from the event and his testimony on how this competition goes down:
We wanted to begin this article with a facial hair pun, but we’ll shave it for later.
For the 12th year, people from far and wide came to Brooklyn to participate in the Coney Island Beard and Mustache Competition, held at the site of the seaside resort’s famous sideshow.
Many were first-timers who fell into the competition by accident: One was a Sikh man who’d won a Walt Whitman lookalike competition earlier in the year. Another had spent the afternoon at a pig-roasting festival, where another attendee told him he should hightail it to Coney Island. Mark Burdick of Westbrook, Connecticut, styled his beard for the first time just that morning, transforming his red brush of facial hair into a shape not unlike an octopus with the help of his wife, a pile of rollers, and a whole lot of wax. He ended up winning the award for Best Styled Beard.
Most show up in their street clothes; a few arrive in costumes to complement their majestic looks, like Christian Fattorusso, who resembled a 19th-century train conductor and won the overall Best in Show, and Danny Kampman of Brooklyn, who arrived in a 1920s-style striped bathing suit, complete with boater hat, picnic basket, and bravado to match.
“I’ve never won,” he said. “This year will be the first.”
If you absolutely mustache, we can tell you that competitors come in all styles: big bushy beards, elaborate sideburns, Snidely Whiplash handlebars, and even one fellow whose mustache had a mustache — and his mustache’s mustache was on fire.
Winners don’t get much: bragging rights, mostly, and an ornamental red fez to show one and all that they had the (mutton) chops to take home the prize.
There is, however, one other benefit: Winners are often brought back in following years to act as judges, like “sideshow preacher” Xander Lovecraft of St. Louis, who encouraged participants to BYBB: bring your biggest bribe. When asked how he came to have his imperial bristles, Lovecraft was philosophical. “I just started growing mine for a while,” he said while adjusting his eyeglasses, “and after a while, it grew on me.”