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Bearded 'Whisker Wars' Star Talks Tips, Tricks and Favorite Famous Facial Hair

by Maggie Furlong, posted Aug 19th 2011 6:00PM
Jack Passion, 'Whisker Wars'A beard isn't just facial hair -- if it's good enough, it's a living. Just ask the stars of 'Whisker Wars' (Fridays, 11PM ET on IFC).

From the guys behind 'Deadliest Catch' comes this new kind of reality TV competition, all about the fine art of competitive facial hair growth. I caught up with Jack Passion, a feisty man with a fiery red beard who's also a multiple time world facial hair champ and author of 'The Facial Hair Handbook.'

If you haven't caught the show yet, it won't take you long to realize that Passion is part of the new school of Beard Team USA, spreading the good news of good growth all over the world.

Passion talked all about what made him decide to grow two feet of red hair on his chin, and his Rapunzel-like view of how to make a career out of being a whisker warrior.

He also dished helpful hair tips, talked Movember and other non-profits that heighten the cool factor of facial hair and named his celebrity facial hair idols.

This idea of competitive beard growing ... I mean, you know that a lot of people don't even realize that this exists, right?
I do, yeah, and that's the appeal to me, and it has been from the very beginning. I got into it because I wanted a story to tell my grandkids. I can just be that old guy [in an old man voice], "I won a beard and mustache competition in Germany!" [Laughs] And that's still why I'm in it ... it's just so crazy, it's so funny.

Are you worried that having a TV show that shows you can make a living off of this will bring in even more competition?
Well there is an ideological difference in the community. There are people who want to keep it very small. These people also really want to keep facial hair stereotypes -- like negative biker, tough guy, outlaw, mountain man things. And then there are people who, I think, get the joke and want it to be this big, fun thing. We recognize that these are huge, fun events. It's a party pageant. I'm definitely in the latter camp. But really there's money to made from the competitions -- you've gotta spin your beard into gold yourself.

And you have, with a book and everything ...
If I didn't write a book about facial hair, I'd write a book about something else, and speak about something else. But it just so happens that my life, especially for the past eight years, has been so informed by this bearded perspective that it became my career, by default.

Well and I think men need a facial hair handbook. I don't think they know what to do with it.
I do too! You know, 100 years ago, it was common knowledge and guys went to barbers two or three times a week ... you see these old, classic images of guys sitting around in a barber shop. You had facial hair, but you groomed it meticulously. We just of forgot about it. I can remember when my dad taught me how to shave and watching my grandfather shave. I feel like the endangered male -- that's one of the first things we've lost, this ability to wear facial hair and look like a stud instead of a scumbag.

There's Movember, which raises money for prostate cancer and men's health, and Budweiser did their Grow One, Save a Million campaign. Do you support sponsored facial hair growth for sport like that?
Unquestionably. Totally. Look how much good has come from beards! Movember's raised like $156 million ... these beard contests are often linked to a charity, and growing a beard is a really healthy way for a man to express himself without having to resort to socially constructed masculinity and violence and all that stuff. It's just a really good thing, all the way around.

Do you have a Hollywood or celebrity facial hair idol?
Do you know Dr. Andrew Weil? He's a celebrity in food and health. And I think Ice Cube ... I really respect him for his career, and he is just the most gangster and honest MC. But he is always perfectly groomed. That's the key. Facial hair, there's no middle ground -- you're either gonna look great, or you're gonna look awful -- and I think that's why if a celebrity grows a beard, people are like, "Oh my god!" But nobody makes a big deal about George Clooney's beard. It complements his personal style. I have a two-foot long beard ...

And it's red!
Let's be honest -- it's like lava dipped in tiger blood. [Laughs] But I don't think guys should grow these huge extreme beards, unless they want to compete.

Has Tom Selleck's mustache sort of set the bar higher?
He has become iconic because of that look. There was this thing going around where you'd just see the eyebrows and another facial feature of all these famous people throughout history. And you could recognize people! Find me another Tom Selleck in history -- he owned it and made himself on it.

If he shaved, I think there'd be a public outcry.
I agree. There'd be riots!

So what's your best facial hair tip for every man?
My first law is healthy man, healthy beard. The hair, once it's on your face, is dead, and there's nothing you can do to make it better. All you can do is grow it well the first time around, which means healthy, clean, nutritionally-dense food, a lot of water, sleep, exercise. It's really easy if you just do it. A lot of guys don't do it and -- you've seen the show -- then they whine and complain like little boys when I beat them. [Laughs]

'Whisker Wars' airs Fridays, 11PM ET on IFC

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