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“Whisker Wars”: Meet Miletus

“Whisker Wars”: Meet Miletus (photo)

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Before the new episode of “Whisker Wars” kicks off tonight at 11 p.m. ET, we want to introduce you to one of the cast members, Miletus Callahan-Barile. Perhaps you recognize him from TV? Or perhaps from the Whisker Wars premiere party where he graciously (and loudly) emceed our beard and mustache competition? When not emceeing, Miletus and his beard, The Donegal, are proud members of the Austin Facial Hair Club and compete in the partial beard category of the international beard competition circuit. Although, he has a few things to say about that:

What bearding category do you compete in?

Well, my beard, The Donegal, isn’t recognized in most competitions. It doesn’t get its own category in most competitions. I have to compete in partial beard, even though The Donegal is the original beard.

You’re a river boat captain. Do you have to have that job because of your beard? Or do you have your beard because of your job?

Neither. It’s one of those synchronous moments they just came together kind of randomly. I had The Donegal before with other jobs, but other jobs don’t appreciate facial hair and I don’t appreciate those jobs.

How long does it take you to grow a beard?

It takes me a really long time. I have super dense really curly hair. I’ve been growing it for a long time.

Could you compete in the other categories, like full beard natural?

I could compete, but it’s not me. It doesn’t work with me. Every beard is unique to their personality, like a snowflake. I need a beard that represents that. I like a more difficult road. The Donegal doesn’t get a lot of respect.
It’s the original beard. I have to fight for it to get any respect.

Do you appreciate that fight?

Yeah, it’s a lot more fun and it makes me unique It takes a real punk rocker to rock The Donegal.

Do you always call your beard “The Donegal”?
Yes. It deserves the respect. People don’t respect it, but it really is the original beard. People call it a chin strap or neck beard or Abraham Lincoln or an Alaskan whaler. That was a category in the World Competition and also up at the Mr. Fur Face competition up in Alaska. Interestingly enough Shamrock, Texas has been throwing a competition since 1938 and their competition is just for The Donegal. Every man in Shamrock, from New Years to St. Patty’s Day has to grow a beard. The Donegal. If you don’t want to grow a beard, you have to get a “clean shaven” permit. There’s a great documentary on the town called “To Grow a Beard”

Have you gone to Shamrock?

Not yet. It’s a small town out in the panhandle of Texas.

How did you get into the world of competitive facial hair growing?

I used to be part of a satirical magazine called Misprint and we would throw events every time the magazine released a new issue. As we got bigger one of the editors wanted to throw a beard and moustache competition so we had one. A few hundred people showed up and there was a ZZ Top cover band and it was a success so we did it again and the next year and the next year. But we didn’t have that many people to compete and I was one of the few guys in Austin with facial hair at the time, so I jumped in. Then we heard about the other competitions and we went and had a lot of fun, drinking and partying. We met Phil Olsen and went to Bend, Oregon and that was where we realized we were really solid competitors. That was where we knew we wanted to bring beard diplomacy to the world.

Beard diplomacy?

Yeah, letting people know about competitive bearding, about growing facial hair, letting people know we’re out here. I usually giving people an earful about The Donagal, too.

Give me the rant on The Donegal.

Oh I usually need a few drinks to do that, but, well …everyone’s beard should really be an outward appearance of their internal beard. My name is Miletus. The Donegal just works for me. The Donegal goes all the way back to the Phoenicians. It has a style, it has a shape. Anyone can grow facial hair and just let it go, but to maintain it and give it definition that takes work and attitude. The Donegal just seems to suit me and my character and my character likes to be on the outskirts. I need more drinks …

But The Donegal isn’t a recognized category in most competitions, right?
No, and that’s so frustrating. The competitions have 17 categories. A lot of famous people had Donegals. The Amish, Abraham Lincoln. The playwright Ibsen had a Donegal. It has just as much validity as most of the other categories, but it always falls into these hodge-podge categories. It’s my mission to get The Donegal the respect it deserves. It’s a bad-ass beard. Some people do recognize it. The Alaskans do. That’s a start. I want to get it into the World Championships. It was until 4 years ago and then they took it out. They left the Fu Manchu or the Chinese, which …yeah, is kind of weird. Only four people compete in that category! Now The Donegal has to compete in partial beard, which is bullshit. We’re not mutton chops. The Donegal is different. The last time I was at the competition in TX people started chanting
…okay I stormed my way onto the stage during the Freestyle awards and I stormed the stage when they were announcing third place and the guy didn’t show up. And I kept coming up and I gave a speech about The Donegal and got the crowd chanting “Donegal! Donegal!” The Donegal is not a beard. I have the ammo to take this all the way to the top and …In “Jeremiah Johnson” the Native Americans would say that — this isn’t real history, it was just in the movie — they would say that the more enemies you have the stronger you are. People are scared of my beard, basically.

What is your care routine for The Donegal?

I condition it and shampoo it and brush it.

What do you use?

I love products from Lush. They have some good stuff, but I don’t really care. I haven’t used that stuff in forever. [Laughing] I ran out and just use whatever. However I do admit that a good shampoo and a good conditioner makes a difference. If you just go buy the 99 cent two-in-one stuff from Walgreen’s you have to brace yourself for some crappy results. So I guess I do have a touch of the metrosexual. Dammit! I do shave my upper lip. I do my shave where my soul patch would be. And I do shave part of my cheeks

Do you have a special razor for that?

I have a theory about that: I saw a magazine called Rockpile with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion on the cover and he had a huge mutton chops and a sweet sweet suit and I thought that’s the look. That’s it. So then I started playing around with facial hair. But, I like to shave in a manly way. So right now I use a double bladed razor blade, which is kind of old school. I don’t use those seven fucking bladed Schick disposable razors. I think it’s kinda pansy and metrosexual. If I was going to shave, I would shave it with a straight razor.

New episodes of “Whisker Wars” air on IFC on Fridays at 11 p.m. ET

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Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Lane 27: Broken Windows

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Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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