This summer, the fascinating and hair-raising world of competitive facial hair growing is coming to IFC. Whisker Wars (http://www.ifc.com/whisker-wars), a seven episode docu-comedy produced and narrated by award-winning producer Thom Beers (Deadliest Catch: Crab Fishing in Alaska, Ice Road Truckers, IRT: Deadliest Roads, Storage Wars, Ax Men), premieres Friday, August 5 at 11:00pm ET/PT.
The series follows a devoted group of whisker warriors as they travel the country competing for top bearding honors in preparation for the World Championship Competition in Trondhjem, Norway. Historically, Germany has long dominated the field but now there is an upstart squad on the horizon - Beard Team USA. In an effort to solidify their standing, more than 80 local U.S. chapters are coming together to form the ultimate American bearding team. Self-appointed Captain of Beard Team USA, Phil Olsen will lead them in their attempt to stage an upset and bring home the World title. However, Phil's quest quickly shifts from building the team to holding it together as his motives come into question and tensions flare between his star players.
"The eccentricities and dedication of the bearding community is absolutely riveting and once you add the competition element, it becomes a true sporting event," said Executive Producer Thom Beers. "Whisker Wars has it all - rivalry, tragedy, love, jealousy and passion. It's an epic story."
The beardsmen generally compete in five categories: Moustache, Partial Beard, Full Beard Groomed, Freestyle and the prestigious, Full Beard Natural. They are judged on overall appearance, style and personality. Whisker Wars introduces viewers to some of the country's top beardsmen in all categories including two-time World Champion in the Full Beard Natural category, Jack Passion. Jack has a clear goal: to become the first "Professional Beardsman" - and nothing will get in his way. Not even his fellow beardsmen who are vying for his spot, including last year's national champion Aarne Bielefeldt, the Gotham City Beard Alliance's Myk O'Connor, and president of the Austin Facial Hair Club, Bryan Nelson. Throughout the season, the beardsmen's love of country and sport is put to the test as they battle each other and eventually other nations for the crowning achievement of World Champion.
Whisker Wars is executive produced by Thom Beers, Philip D. Segal and Jeff Conroy with Jay Bennett and Diane Kay Bennett as series producers for Original Productions, a FremantleMedia Company. Debbie Demontreux, Dan Pasternack and Jennifer Caserta serve as executive producers for IFC.
MEET THE BEARDSMEN
JACK PASSION - Beard Team USA (California)
As the two-time World Champion in the Full Beard Natural category, Jack Passion is determined to become the first "Professional Beardsman." His long, brilliant, crimson beard, which he has affectionately named "Big Red," is the beard to beat at every competition and he prides himself as the Muhammad Ali of bearding. For Jack, bearding is more than a hobby, it's a potential livelihood. Jack wants to turn his successes on the competitive stage to profit through sales of his "Facial Hair Handbook," personal appearances and endorsement deals. In order for Jack to succeed, he must maintain his status as top beardsmen and protect his title from emerging rivals.
PHIL OLSEN - Beard Team USA (California)
As the founder and self-appointed Captain of Beard Team USA, Phil's objective is to assemble an unstoppable American Team to take down the Germans at the next World Championships in Norway. However, Phil's relationship with his protégé Jack Passion evolves from one as mentor and coach to one riddled with increasingly apparent favoritism. While Phil seems to believe his coddling of Jack only strengthens the team (by elevating its star and the image of the sport) it appears to have the opposite effect: alienating others within the ranks. Will Phil's hubris ultimately lead to a balkanization of Beard Team USA, or will he be able to hold their public image together, and keep his place as the figurehead of American bearding?
AARNE BIELEFELDT - Beard Team USA (California)
A European transplant to the States, Aarne lives a quiet life with his wife Rita in the Northern California countryside. Life at home for Aarne is a quiet one, in a house that he built, including solar panels that provide his power and several harpsichords which he plays and which his wife hand paints. At the 2010 Nationals, Aarne literally came out of the woods to humbly win first place in Full Beard Natural when reigning favorite Jack Passion chose not to compete but rather host the event. Much to Jack's consternation, Aarne has now become his chief competitor at many major circuit events. Aarne's style and charm along with his long flowing beard consistently makes him a fan favorite. And as the sole European on Beard Team USA, he straddles the old and new world of bearding, making him quite the contender heading into Norway. Aarne is motivated by a pure love of bearding in a way that makes him appear both childlike and yet seemingly above it all. But make no mistake, Aarne is a serious competitor.
MYK O'CONNOR - Gotham City Beard Alliance/Beard Team USA (New York)
Myk O'Connor, a Gotham City Beard Alliance member, maintains he never thought bearding would change his lifebut it has. He met his girlfriend and beard coach Karolina at a competition in Alaska, fell in love with both the sport and her and moved across the country to pursue both. While a loyal member of Beard Team USA, Myk feels strongly about beard competitions "doing good," raising money for charity and working to alleviate some of the misconceptions about bearded men - as evidenced by his own NY competition, which raised funds for 9/11 first responders. Overall, Myk is a beardsmen with balance in his life represented by his relationship with Karolina, his positive outlook, and the purity of his love for beards. But can he maintain that balance as an up-and-comer on the bearding circuit if he's forced to chase champions like Jack Passion?
BRYAN NELSON - Austin Facial Hair Club/Beard Team USA (Texas)
As president of the Austin Facial Hair Club and arch rival to Jack Passion, Bryan has motivated the Austin squad to begin cultivating a member of their team to compete in every category at the World Championships in Norway, potentially independent of Beard Team USA. In so doing, the other members of the Austin Facial Hair Club have moved into other categories, away from Full Beard Natural, making way for Bryan to claim the title they believe should rightfully be his. Once considered the beardsman who could best usurp Jack in the Full Beard Natural category, Bryan is fighting his way back from a decision that has since handicapped him and left him fighting to regain his status. But can he do it in time for Norway? Meanwhile he continues to lead the Austin Facial Hair Club's efforts and attempts to make Jack Passion's quest for glory as fraught with complication and ridicule as possible.
ALLEN DEMLING - Austin Facial Hair Club/Beard Team USA (Texas)
A one-time contender in local politics, Allen had been happily playing second fiddle to Bryan Nelson in the bearding world until a surprising upset at Nationals that placed him second in the country just behind Aarne. Allen finds himself a rising star but chooses to move into the less prestigious Full Beard, Styled Mustache category to help the Austin Facial Hair Club establish themselves as a team. But for Allen, the trip to the world stage could also be a chance to distinguish himself by bringing honor to Texas and repositioning himself to finally realize his political ambitions.
ALEX LAROCHE - Austin Facial Hair Club/Beard Team USA (Texas)
As the most outspoken member of the Austin squad, Alex gives the loudest voice to the Austin Facial Hair Club's increasing disillusionment with Beard Team USA. Alex is the Austin Facial Hair Club's pick for the Freestyle category and over time, Alex grows from a prankster into a serious contender for the team. Americans have a reputation for failing in the category but Alex could emerge as the first American to present a serious Freestyle beard on the world stage. Each time he styles his beard, it gets more elaborate and he clearly gets more invested. Despite being the smart-aleck, Alex can't help but admit he actually cares.
MILETUS CALLAHAN-BARILE - Austin Facial Hair Club/Beard Team USA (Texas)
Riverboat captain Miletus takes a lot of ribbing from his Austin Facial Hair Club teammates for his style of beard: The Donegal (aka The Alaskan Whaler), which is not currently recognized with its own category. This leaves Miletus to compete in the less prestigious Partial Beard category in all Beard Team USA organized events, often positioning him as the lowest man in the Austin Facial Hair Club's pecking order. The heightened flurry of team related activities has put some strain between Miletus and his boss, the owner of the river boat he captains. Despite these challenges, Miletus comes into his own as the organizational brain of the Austin Facial Hair Club's fundraising endeavors. Before Norway, Miletus has an opportunity to travel to Alaska and partake in the only US competition that recognizes his style of beard. If victorious in Alaska, Miletus will finally earn himself a place amongst the nation's best beardsmen heading into the final showdown in Norway.
BEARD CATEGORIES (can vary per competition)
* courtesy of http://beardteamusa.org
The moustache is the hair that grows on the upper lip but can also include hairs growing from elsewhere on the face that are a natural extension of the shape of the moustache. Therefore Fu Manchus, walruses, and horseshoe styles are all considered mustaches. Anyone with any facial hair that is not a moustache must compete in a different category. Judges select the moustaches that best enhance the contestants' overall appearance, style and personality.
This category includes all styles of facial hair that are neither full beards nor solely moustaches. Examples are sideburns, van dykes, goatees, soul patches, mutton chops, and imperials. Judges select the facial hair that best enhance the contestants' overall appearance, style and personality. Miletus Callahan-Barile from Austin Facial Hair Club competes in this category.
FULL BEARD GROOMED
This category is for shorter full beards groomed by means of shaving, trimming, and/or the use of styling products. There must be an unbroken line of unshaven face from the temple to the chin to the other temple. Judges consider the quality of the grooming, noting in particular how well the grooming enhances the beard's appearance. Allen Demling from the Austin Facial Hair Club competes in this category.
FULL BEARD NATURAL
Portions of the cheeks can be partially shaved as can the neck, but there must be an unbroken line of unshaven face from the temple to the chin to the other temple. Trimming is allowed as are styling products, but this category is for fuller, longer full beards that have been allowed to achieve their natural fullness, size, and shape. Judges determine which beards best enhance the contestant's overall appearance, style and personality. Whisker Wars competitors in this category include Jack Passion, Aarne Bielefeldt, Bryan Nelson, and Myk O'Connor.
Anything goes. In this category, judges determine which contestant's facial hair is the most creative and artistic. Austin Facial Hair Club member Alex LaRoche competes in this category.
ADDITIONAL JUDGING CRITERIA
In all categories, judges are instructed to consider the overall condition and health of the facial hair, detail in styling if applicable, uniformity of color, thickness, symmetry, size including but not limited to length and presentation.