CINCINNATI - He's the guy whose beard grooming goes far beyond the usual trim and comb. Garey Faulker uses his beard as a living work of art dedicated to the things he holds dear: all things Cincinnati.
Will grow beard for bets
A little more than three years ago, Faulkner was a clean-shaven man working in an orthopedic office. That changed when a friend made a bet that he would not go one year without shaving his face. If he succeeded by growing his facial hair for the entire year, his friend said she would give $1,000 to the philanthropic shoe and clothing company TOMS.
“I would’ve taken the same bet for $1,” Faulkner said.
Faulkner won the bet, although the friend never coughed up the donation to TOMS.
The start of the bet happened to be St. Patrick's Day in 2011, so it was appropriate that his first themed beard marked the occasion one year later: Dyed green and complemented by shamrocks painted on his head for Cincinnati’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in 2012. (Pictured below: The 2014 parade)
A growing trend
Facial hair has gone in and out of fashion over the centuries. Call it part of the circle of life.
According to Beard Team USA Captain Phil Olsen, it was popular around Europe during the middle ages. That popularity waned in the 1600s, when the clean-shaved look was big. In fact, Emperor Peter I of Russia instituted a beard tax in the 1700s.
Beards again came back into style during the mid-1800s, particularly around the time of the American Civil War. With the invention of the safety razor in 1880, the clean-shaven look made a comeback. Facial hair made a brief resurgence in the 1970s before passing out of style again. It came back in style in the 1990s, and many believe that its popularity has continued to increase since.
“Men of all ages are growing out their beards and experimenting with different styles," Olsen said.
Remember Movember? Men around the Tri-State (and, in fact, around the world) grew facial hair in "No-shave November" as a way to raise awareness about men's health issues . You may know a man who decided to keep going--and growing.
Are beards in or out? Opinions vary: On April 15, none other than The Guardian warned that beards may have peaked in popularity . Closer to home, a January 13 Columbus Dispatch headline proclaimed, "Beards growing in popularity among men."
- What do you think about beards: In or out? See what our Facebook fans have to say
A beard for every occasion
In October 2011, about six months after the bet began, Faulkner traveled to Pennsylvania for the National Beard and Moustache Championships. He competed against about 60 men in the “full beard groomed” category and came in as one of the top finalists.
Between the competition and the compliments he received, he was hooked--happy to be a part of what he believes is a growing trend of men growing out their facial hair.
“Facial hair is more popular now than it’s been probably since the ‘60s or ‘70s,” he said.
After styling his beard for the 2012 St. Patrick’s Day parade, Faulkner began customizing his beard for a variety of events and causes.
During the World Choir Games in 2012, he was “Mr. USA,” with his beard painted red, white and blue and the World Choir Games logo on his face.
He has customized his beard for four University of Kentucky basketball games; Reds Opening Day parades; Reds games; and every Bengals game (see above, courtesy of G. Faulkner). His team spirit and unique beard even got him a contract with sports cap company New Era.
“It’s a look that a lot of people can’t reproduce,” he said.
There is, however, one upcoming occasion for which he will not customize his beard: his wedding. He and his fiancée, Miranda Christman, plan to marry in September. Although Faulkner plans to keep the beard, on their wedding day his only theme will be that of a “groomed groom.”
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“I’ve had a lot of people be like, ‘What are you going to do for your wedding?’ And I’m like, ‘Nothing. I want all the attention to be on her,” Faulkner said. (Pictured below, Faulkner and Christman. Photo by R. Swift)
A creative outlet
Christman, who has been dating Faulkner for 10 years, said her favorite facial hair style is short or non-existent.
“I don’t mind facial hair, but I’m not the craziest about all of this going on. But, you know, what can you do? I like, typically, shorter beards. And shorter moustaches, too. That’s the biggie with his. He doesn’t trim it, really,” she said.
While she might wish her fiancé
had less facial hair at times, there is a positive side to Faulkner’s long beard.
“The nice thing about him having the beard that he has is that it is a creative outlet for me. I’m very artsy, but I don’t get to do a lot of artsy things.”
Although it can be stressful trying to perfect a look exactly how Faulkner envisions it, helping paint his head and beard can be fun, she added. (Pictured below: Left, Faulkner's everyday look. Right, St. Patrick's Day 2014. Photos by R. Swift, courtesy G. Faulker)
Maintaining a healthy beard, Faulker style
Customizing a beard can require varying lengths of time, depending on the theme. Christman and Faulkner usually spend about 30 minutes to an hour on most styles. However, some take longer. When he competed in the “freestyle” beard category at the 2012 National Beard and Moustache Championships, it took four hours to perfectly style his facial hair.
When he opts to add color, he uses water-based paints. Therefore, many styles can be easily washed out within about 30 minutes.
Because styling his beard can require blow drying it and colored hair sprays, Faulkner regularly moisturizes it with Moroccan argan oil .
While Faulkner’s competitive nature spurred him to begin growing his beard, he has found that it can be a way to help others as well.
He has sported a breast cancer ribbon beard style multiple times. He has been asked to represent various charities, including CancerFree KIDS, which he actively supports.
He also is “a huge pit bull lover” and supports pet adoption programs whenever possible. He uses his Facebook page, My Bearded Life , to inform people about these causes and encourage others to support them as well.
“For me, it’s an honor because I’m a people person, but since it’s given me credibility and a little bit of fame, it’s nice for me to be able to host events, fundraisers, charities, donations, to give back," Faulker said. "I feel like if you have an image, you should use it.”
Remember: WCPO decided to explore the issue of beards. We hereby declare April 20 through April 27, "Beard Week." The hashtag is #beardweek
TUESDAY: Erlanger native Patrick Fette is the champion of the English moustache
Connect with WCPO Contributor Roxanna Swift on Twitter: @r0xiehart