Facial-hair lovers meet for friendship, service

Jay Staley and Richie Darling, right, discuss their methods of beard grooming with other members at the first meeting of the Missouri Order of Beardsmen.

Jay Staley and Richie Darling, right, discuss their methods of beard grooming with other members at the first meeting of the Missouri Order of Beardsmen. Kile Brewer/News Tribune

They like facial hair — and they support meeting local needs.

For the first time, members of several Missouri-based beard and moustache clubs organized a meeting in one spot — and the “Missouri Order of Beardsmen” (or MOB) gathered at Jefferson City’s J. Pfenny’s Sports Grill and Pub on Saturday afternoon, for food and conversation.

And to donate a collection of food and clothing to the Samaritan Center.

“In our communities, we do lots of outreach for the homeless, pet rescues, food pantries,” said Scott Kellough, 42, Grain Valley, and a member of Kansas City’s club.

Jim Harris, 47, Jefferson City, has sported “some kind of facial hair” for most of the past 30 years, “minus my few years in the Army.”

He said the first thing he usually gets asked is, “What kind of Harley I drive and how long I have been riding — if I had the money, I would be riding one. …

“Around here, (people) assume if you’re bald-headed and have a big beard, you ride a Harley.”

Bill Petersen, 33, is president of Springfield’s “Queen City” club.

“We, basically, just like our beards, our moustaches and hanging out and having a good time,” he said.

But they also have a purpose.

“We get together once a month and do community involvement,” he explained. “We do street clean-ups. We volunteer at Ozarks Food Harvest (and) no-kill animal shelters.

“We’ve raised over $16,000 for local charities in Southwest Missouri. We’ve done over 500 community service hours, as a group.”

At least a 1,000 pounds of clothes and at least 500 pounds of food were brought Saturday to the first statewide meeting, to be donated to the Samaritan Center.

“The MOB Cup,” a traveling trophy, will recognize the various clubs’ community service work.

“In this case, whatever club made the most donations for the Samaritan Center will take the MOB Cup,” Kellough said.

Missouri’s clubs include St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and Jefferson City.

The local group, founded in 2011, calls itself “MMASH, or Missouri Men Against SHaving.”

Many clubs have Facebook pages — the Mid-Missouri club’s is www.facebook.com/MOBeardClub, and the statewide group’s page is www.facebook.com/MissouriMOB.

“With the Missouri Order of Beardsmen, we’re trying to bring a coalition of all the clubs, where we can get together and make a difference not (just) locally, but statewide, however we can,” said Kellough, who helped organize Saturday’s first MOB meeting.

“I would be the MOB boss,” he quipped.

Or the “chief agitator?”

“You might say that,” he said. “That would be better.”

Springfield’s “Queen City” Club is the state’s oldest, founded in 2009.

Christy Claybaker, 33, and her husband, Curtis, helped form it “as a means to help raise money for local charity — it was the main focus.”

She’s found that many men “hide behind their beards (but) are usually soft-spoken, gentle giants. It’s a beautiful thing to see them come out from behind it and start doing things for the community.

“And meeting other bearded men in the community and making new friends.”

The Claybakers “have made many, many friendships over the last five years,” and continue being active in the club for both its social and community service aspects.

Many in the groups also could be considered as being “against” razors.

“It’s just something that we choose to do,” Kellough said. “It’s a freedom of expression.”

People ask Petersen if he started growing his beard because of the popular “Duck Dynasty” TV show.

“I grew it because I don’t like shaving,” he said.

But beard-wearers shouldn’t be seen as unclean or unkempt.

“It’s a whole art form,” Petersen said. “People style their beard, maintain their beard. …

“I spend more time in the bathroom than my wife does.”

“Yes!” she agreed, from a nearby couch.

Beards shouldn’t be seen as any kind of “statement,” the way many unshaven faces were perceived in the 1960s and ’70s.

Kellough explained: “Over time, within the last several years, it’s become more of an accepted thing.

“But there’s always a bad stigma, it seems like, that guys who wear big beards, long beards, are lazy … bikers … or slackers.”

Even today, with a greater acceptance of long-bearded men, Kellough said “you’ll have women who will grab their purse a little closer to them, or they’ll pull their kids in. We’re just trying to change the public’s perspective that all bearded guys aren’t dirtbags.”

Each of the clubs also offers competitions for various beard and moustache styles, and MOB expects members from other clubs to attend those events, as well.

Harris first heard about the Kansas City group last year and went to their competition, then followed up that experience with Saturday’s gathering.

While facial hair is encouraged, it’s not required for club membership.

“You just have to have an appreciation for facial hair,” Kellough said.

Beards were much more accepted — perhaps even the norm — in the 1800s.

And Kellough said the beardsmen would like to see that attitude return.

“The natural man grows a beard,” he noted. “Genetically, not every man can — but, if you can, you might as well. At least try it.”

Although about three dozen men, family members and friends traveled to Jefferson City on Saturday, statewide membership is “closer to a thousand,” Kellough said.

Like others in the groups, Harris wants people to remember not to judge others by their appearance, “whether it’s facial hair, or piercings or tattoos. Individuals are individuals, and everybody has a right to express the way they want to express themselves.”

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