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Man starts local beard club

Oct. 02, 2013 @ 11:21 PM

HUNTINGTON – If you walk into Black Sheep Burrito and Brews Thursday night and feel like you’ve walked onto a scene packed with more cool beards than the set of “Duck Dynasty,” you’re not imagining things.

Hosting its monthly, free public meeting at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, is the Huntington-based beard and mustache club, Blue Collar Beards.

The group was started in September by a real ‘hairy potter,’ so to speak - well-known and respected ceramic artist Jason Kiley, a studio technician at Marshall University College of Arts and Media, an instructor at the Huntington Museum of Art and owner of the ceramics company, One-Eyed Cat Curiosities and Crafts.

Kiley, who has had varying lengths of beard since his college days back at Minnesota State University, said Blue Collar Beards is just a fun and informal social club that will gather for a few good brews, celebrate America’s resurgence in its affection for facial hair as well as help organize future contests whose proceeds will go toward good community causes.

“A lot of the beard and mustache clubs are community-based organizations that do a lot of volunteering and a lot of giving back to their communities,” Kiley said. “I suppose the gist of it is pretty simple that the Blue Collar Beards would like to start a club that can help the community and celebrate facial hair.”

Kiley, who for the past 10 years would seesaw back and forth between a bushier winter beard and a trimmed back summer shave, said he got more into the love of the beard when he just put the razor down (he hasn’t shaved in a full year) and started attending some regional beard competitions, some of which he has won.

“This past summer after going to a couple beard competitions I decided to tough it out and see if I could make it through the summer with a full beard and it wasn’t that bad,” Kiley said. “Now, I want the next goal to be two years.”

With a big well-groomed beard being formed, Kiley, who normally would attend a yearly national ceramics conference to further his life’s craft, decided to punt that trip and head out to some regional beard contests.

This past winter, Kiley took home the Epic Beard prize at Fireside Grill in Hurricane, won another prize at the May contest at the Mardi Gras Casino and then with his wife Ashley’s curling-iron styling skills on his mustache, bested 20 other competitors to win full beard styled mustache, at Love for the Beard in Fredericksburg Va., in August.

“I was always going to the big ceramics conference every year and I always had a large beard, and I started getting recognized more for my beard,” said Kiley who is headed to a Pittsburgh competition this weekend with Joshua Young. “People just stopped to get pictures of me and my beard. I felt like I was at a point in my ceramics career where I had plateaued and so I was like whatever, I’m going to just find a beard contest and figured if I make a trophy for them specifically I could make some money.”

Finding out all the contests are charity-based, Kiley changed that notion and began donating his unique beard-themed trophies while also spreading the word about his quirky ceramics work done under the One-Eyed Cat Curiosities and Crafts moniker.

Interestingly, that giving spirit has paid off as Kiley has made friends with such folks as beard contest giant and TV star Aarne Bielefeldt of “Whisker Wars,” for whom he made a left-handed beard-friendly, coffee mug.

“I’ve got to meet a lot of good people and bring it full circle,” Kiley said of his art. “The bearding community is where my career in ceramics has really taken off and I just started it as a kind of a joke.”

Kiley said he feels like the movement is just really getting started as beard and mustache clubs are being promoted by such shows as “Whisker Wars,”and contests are adding unique twists as the arts-and-crafts-fueled Whiskerinas, ladies groups that craft fake beards, like a lady who built an award-winning full-length Lego-beard.

“It’s a whole lot of fun and a lot of just silly fun,” Kiley said. “And I think there is definitely a  resurgence. You see a lot more about it on Facebook and a lot of younger guys are growing quite a bit more beards. I think a lot of the parts are coming together and I know a lot of the older members are saying how much different it is for them and how they were treated 10 or 15 years ago.”

With winter coming on, Kiley said now is a great time for local folks to step up the facial hair game and come on out for a brew to celebrate the beard and help the group plan some more fun.

“I think with the Rusty Razors out of Hurricane and the Charleston club we can put on a really good show sometime, we just need to pick a date and have a contest,” Kiley said. “At this next meeting my goal is to just put our heads together for something to work toward. We’re still in the recruiting stage so everyone is welcome.”

If someone wants to try and grow a beard, Kiley has a great tip.

“Do not pick up the razor,” Kiley said. “If you are going to grow a beard you’ve got to let it go.”

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