Shave the freak? Not at Coney Island.
On Sept. 10, excess facial hair is cause for praise (and even prizes) at the
fourth annual Coney Island Beard and Moustache Competition, as hirsute guys (and some gals) will compete in such categories as Best Mustache, Best Beard (natural and styled), Best Artificial and the coveted Best in Show.
And since this is Coney Island, where freaks and outcasts guard the proverbial henhouse, the worst beard of the night will also get a prize.
The competition, hosted by Donny Vomit, the Coney Island Sideshow king, is a celebration of unshaven faces, performance art and, above all, Coney Island.
“Facial hair is another form of physical expression,” said Vomit, who rocks an “old-fashioned” mustache and dresses like a saloon bartender. “It’s a great symbol of power or masculinity.”
What makes one beard better than another? Last year, it took an arm-wrestling match to settle a tie between two exceptionally gnarly sets of whiskers.
Myk O’Connor, a judge and two-time winner himself, said a contestant needs to own his look.
“Does it fit your personality? Does it enhance your features? Does it look good and healthy?” he pondered. “I also love when people dress the part.”
But facial hair is not just a man’s sport. Just ask Jennifer Miller, the “woman with the beard” at the Coney Island Sideshow.
“For too long, it’s been an exclusive male domain, so I love that they’re busting it open,” said Miller, a performer, Pratt professor and playwright who will a judge at the competition.
“Twenty years ago, my beard just started growing and being a person doing a lot of meaningful, adolescent thinking about feminism. I just didn’t shave it,” she said.
Miller makes a distinction between “bearded lady” and “woman with a beard,” which highlights her belief that any woman can reach out “and fulfill her fabulous potential.”
“There are not a lot of places where a woman is regaled for growing a beard,” she said.
For goatee devotees, beards and mustaches are more than just fashion — they are a way of life. As such, beard and mustache competitions are cropping up all over like, well, beards and mustaches. Williamsburg has one, Gowanus does, too, and more are on the way.
Vomit says the trend started with him.
“I don’t want to take all the credit,” he said, “but I’ll take some.”
Coney Island Beard and Moustache Competition [1208 Surf Ave. at W. 12th Street in Coney Island, (718) 372-5159], Sept. 10, 8 pm. Tickets, $15. For info, visit www.coneyisland.com.