Meet Bryan Nelson, president of the Austin Facial Hair Club and rival for Jack Passion’s full beard natural crown. Bryan was once considered the beardsman who stood the best chance of usurping Jack in the Full Beard Natural category, but Bryan is fighting his way back from a decision that has left him fighting to regain his status. But he’s not just twiddling his thumbs waiting for his beard to grow, he is using his time to motivate the Austin ranks to compete in every bearding category at the World Championships in Norway, whether they compete as part of Beard Team USA or not. He may also be using his time to impersonate Jack Passion on Twitter. Bryan sat down with us to chat about beards, bears and the Coen Brothers, so read this and then tune in to “Whisker Wars” tonight at 11 p.m. ET.
Hi Bryan, where am I reaching you today?
Well, I’m out tour managing for Peelander Z on the Warped Tour
Is that your day job?
It’s something I do a few times a year. I record bands and I do sound. I am trying to get out of working in bars.
Do you find that your beard limits your career choices?
I’ve been in the music business for about 15 years. When I’m tour managing it’s easier to pick me out of a crowd, which can be really helpful. It’s quick way to point me out, especially because I generally work with Japanese bands, so I stick out in a crowd.
How did you end up in the world of competitive facial hair growing?
There was a competition in Austin and I was a judge there. Then since I had a big beard, I was directed to the websites with all the competitions and everything. I almost went to one contest but …well, it was a whole bear society. I would get 20 emails of people asking to use my picture. Now, I really don’t have a problem with anyone’s sexual orientation but I don’t want to put myself on the front page of a bear website either. So I stuck with the Austin contests for a while.
You have a wife and child, did you meet your wife with a full beard?
We met in the fall of 2004, I asked her out at one of her art shows, and a little over a year later, after we got serious, I decided to shave my beard. I had dated other girls and, while my beard was clean, other girls had, you know, cuddled in my beard, and I wanted to give her a clean beard that was all her beard.
Did she appreciate that?
I think so.
But then you started growing it back right away?
Yep. August 2005 was the last time I shaved. My beard grows pretty fast. Last year my wife and baby and I were extras in True Grit so they had to cut my beard and my hair for that so I could look like a city person. They cut it all they way to my nipples.
So even though you compete in the beard circuit, you let them cut it for the movie?
Yeah. I was thinking my six-month old daughter gets to be in a Coen Brothers movie. Cutting it actually helped me have a more relaxed attitude about the beard and the competitions. I mean, you can’t take these competitions too seriously. The judges are like the mayor’s daughter or a hairdresser from the town. Some people get way too serious about it. Our team can get really serious and really competitive, but we smack each other down.
With a six-month old daughter around, what is the weirdest thing she’s ever got stuck in your beard?
Her whole body! First it was her hands. Then her toes and then she would get stuck and she would start screaming and she couldn’t move and would be pulling my beard out and screaming. It was bad.
What do you use to keep your beard in tip top condition?
I usually take a shower once a day. Mostly because sometimes you wake up and your beard is sticking out weird ’cause I slept on it wrong. I take a beard correction shower. I shampoo and condition it. I use Main and Tail Straight Arrow. It’s for horses. It doesn’t have alcohol, which can be really drying for beards.
What’s the hardest thing to eat with a full beard?
Actually, drinking out of a water fountain is really hard. I have to use two hands and move my moustache out of the way. Sometimes soup can be a challenge. Or soft-boiled eggs. Egg yolk is the worst to get in your hair. I am pretty good though. I would challenge anyone to a contest of messy eating. Actually, we wanted to have the Beard Olympics! You would have all these messy foods and one napkin and see who would have the least food on their bead.. Also maybe a beard soak where you dip your beard in a cup of water and see who can wring out the most.
New episodes of “Whisker Wars” air on IFC on Fridays at 11 p.m. ET/10 ct