This round of my beard interview series is an extra special one. This gentleman has been interviewed by and mentioned in major media outlets like Vice Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, and The San Francisco Chronicle. He also wrote a guest article for ESPN.com. Below you are going to read my interview with beard royalty – The King of Beards – Jack Passion.
For those of you who haven’t heard of Jack Passion, the first thing you should know is that he is the reigning champion of the Full Natural category at the World Beard and Moustache Championships. And for those of you that haven’t heard of the WBMC, you can read about it at the offical website. Very briefly, it’s a beard and moustache contest held every two years in a different host country. It’s like the Olympics for beards… and Jack Passion is a two-time champion in his “event,” winning in 2007 and 2009.
The second thing you should know about Mr. Passion is that he has published a book entitled The Facial Hair Handbook, and if any man is qualified to write a handbook for facial hair, it is he.
Onward, intrepid beard fans! To the interview!
The Beard Coach: Let’s start with a two-part question. When did you decide to grow an extreme beard and when did you realize that you and your beard could attain a certain level of fame?
Jack Passion: I started growing facial hair early, and big sideburns were my style for my formative years. Growing up, facial hair was definitely part of my identity. I actually began growing a beard with the intention of shaving/grooming it into another design, but the beard came in great, so I went with it. It wasn’t until I went to Berlin for the 2005 World Championships that I realized facial hair was something I should take seriously. Since then, it’s become my day job, and I love my job.
TBC: I would love your job too! I’d say Beard Ambassador is many a bearded man’s dream job… Tell us more about the World Beard and Moustache Championships. How did the feeling of winning your first championship compare to your second win?
JP: Both were, and still are, of equal standing. I have the most beautiful beard in the world, which I learned in Brighton, and confirmed in Anchorage. It feels really good.
TBC: Do you plan to defend your title in 2011?
JP: I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I would love to make the trip to Norway… We’ll see how it pans out. Are you going to make it?
TBC: If I could scrounge up enough money, I would love to go for the camaraderie, but I doubt I’d compete… certainly not in the Natural category. On the topic of competition, do you have any beard rivals at the WBMC?
JP: I love to win, but I treat beard competitions more like facial hair appreciation conventions than I do all out war. My name is Passion; I’ve got nothing but love! For beards, competition, my bearded brothers, and travel… However, politics and misunderstandings have definitely left me with a few rivals. It’s truly sad that even with something as fun and lighthearted like a beard competition, people can get upset and act like children. That said, I offer no apologies for my successes, nor should anyone else for theirs.
TBC: Bold words from a boldly bearded man. How do you feel about your category at the WBMC, the Full Natural? Some would argue that it is the purest category and thus the most important. What’s your take?
JP: I feel like it’s definitely a beard contest with Full Natural. With the styled categories, you’re accepting an award for the work of a stylist. Furthermore, I feel like those outlandish designs just perpetuate the unfair stereotypes that beards are for weirdos and freaks. I’m all about well-groomed, healthy beards, and Full Natural celebrates big healthy beards! I’m not going to be the one to say any category is more important than any others, but Natural Full Beard is always the biggest category (and therefore the most competitive), and it is “pure” in the sense that it’s just you and your beard. It definitely resonates with most of the reasons I wear a beard.
TBC: Moving on from the championships… you have your own damn page on Wikipedia. How does that feel?
JP: It feels great! If I didn’t love the attention, I would just shave my beard off!
TBC: Yes, I think we all enjoy the attention a fine beard attracts. And that is one attention-getting red beard, my friend. What’s your ancestry like? Any other bearded men?
JP: I wrote an addendum in my book about my personal journey and experiences with facial hair, so I won’t ramble the story here, but there is some extreme red facial hair in my ancestry that I never met, only hear about. Additionally, I’ve never seen my father without a mustache. That’s the way it should be.
TBC: Without giving away too much of the material from your book The Facial Hair Handbook, talk about the level of care that goes into your luxurious beard.
JP: That’s definitely one of the reasons one would want to pick up the book. Beard care extends far beyond application of product, or daily grooming routines. The book has five “laws” of facial hair, one of which being that beard care is a defensive game. Approach, mind state, diet, exercise… All of these are important to good beard care. Thanks for calling it luxurious! And that’s a GREAT point. Men, treat your beard like a fine fur.
I spend a great deal of time on my beard, as should any man with facial hair. The idea that a beard is a sign of laziness can only have been started by someone who never had a beard!
TBC: Very true. Or at least someone who has never worked toward a longer beard style. For guys that are interested in growing a beard, there’s a lot of free beard care info floating around out there. What sets The Facial Hair Handbook apart?
JP: I’ve been doing this full-time for a while now, and even with all the advice available for free on the Internet, we’ve still got a lot of bad beards, itchy beards, and men quitting their facial hair experiments and returning to shaving. My book recognizes the efforts we’ve made so far as a community of men who wear and promote personal style that includes facial hair, but it provides the necessary focus and voice that men have been missing.
Part motivational speech, part philosophical treatise, and part how-to guide, the thing I’m most proud about The Facial Hair Handbook is that it’s truly informational while still being fun and easy to read. Any man can read this book, but like you, I really focus on guys who have been shaving and know in their hearts they should have hair on their face. When they read the Facial Hair Handbook, they’ll have the knowledge to grow good facial hair and groom it such that it takes them up a notch style-wise.
I know facial hair, and over the last few years, I’ve come to know a lot about shaving as well. My research and my accomplishments are proven; just look at my face!
TBC: It really leaves no doubt about your expertise. So, obviously, you’ve already accomplished a lot in the beard realm. Any world record aspirations?
JP: None actually, and c’mon, Hans Langseth set the bar REALLY high!
TBC: Or really low for that matter… Lastly, I like to ask everyone a general set of questions. It’s entertaining to see the various views of people in the beard world. First, what is your take on the state of the beard today?
JP: This is one of the catalyzing reasons behind authoring the book: The beard is at a critical point in history. A lot of people are claiming that beards have made a comeback, but we’re not quite there. The last 100 years have been an awful, media-induced, facial hair failure. But the beard grows back, in all of us. That’s a sign, and I think efforts like yours and mine are a huge step in the right direction!
TBC: Name your 3 favorite bearded people.
JP: All three spots would be filled with my bearded friends. It’s great when famous people and historical figures have beards, but for me, knowing that I have friends that have the balls to be their own man is just so clutch.
TBC: Name the top 3 people you wish had a beard.
JP: 1. President Obama. A clean, close, well-groomed beard on the president would do wonders for the bearded climate. I side with the Beard Coach on this one!!! (coach’s note – go sign the petition!)
2. Brad Pitt. He has had great beards in the past, and continues to experiment with facial hair. One thing about Pitt’s beards is that they’re always well-groomed such that you don’t even think “Oh my God, look at his beard!” you still just think, “There’s a handsome man doing well in the world.” Same for George Clooney, Spencer Pratt, and almost any NHL player. Both these guys can grow such great beards, it’s just a shame that they don’t always wear them. Same for all men: If you got it, flaunt it!
3. Every man who wants to grow one!
TBC: Why do you think people enjoy beards?
JP: Beards are honest and authentic. They set us apart, just like markings on animals. The time required to grow one precludes it from ever being a gimmick, but it definitely becomes a fun conversation piece. It’s part of becoming a man, a ritualistic passage once revered, now oft ignored. Why do people enjoy boobs? I think people enjoy beards for many of the same or similar reasons.
TBC: Much of my site is devoted to beard-growing motivation. What is your best advice for guys who are currently growing a beard?
JP: Get my book. Shameless plug, or killer advice? I wrote my book for the legions of men who want to grow and wear facial hair but don’t know how to, or end up shaving when a girlfriend or boss tells them to shave, or give in when it starts to itch. Facial hair used to be a way of life, but as a culture, we’ve collectively “forgotten” the good techniques, if you will. Remind yourself what it means to look like a man with The Facial Hair Handbook. I promise it will change your life as a man, with or without facial hair.
I should note that we’re doing a promotion for Movember. (Even though it’s for mustaches, it’s still a great cause). Any Facial Hair Handbook you buy donates $1 to Movember!
TBC: Well, that wraps up the interview. Huge thanks to Jack Passion for contributing his thoughts and story to The Beard Coach. It’s cool to see how closely our attitudes toward beardedness and our methods for promoting it align. If his beard doesn’t inspire you, then I’m afraid you have completely lost touch with your inner man.
If I were looking for help growing a beard, there are two things I would do immediately. Buy the World Beard Champion’s Facial Hair Handbook and sign up for the motivational beard growing e-course right here at The Beard Coach. Just enter your info below and get growing!