(An excerpt from an upcoming project.)
To the folks who weren’t familiar with the term Beardist, let us revisit the year 1997. Inside the pages of the ‘97 yearbook were 324 student portraits. During the week of mandatory photo-taking, a group of 58 male students decided to, as a collective joke, grow out whatever they could on their pimply faces. To put this in context, let it be reminded this was before no-shave November and impromptu flash mobs were conceived. Let me remind you they were student between the ages of 14 and 18 in the wildest of the wild west — High school. They were visionaries and unfashionably so. But above all, they were proud of their small but exclusive club.
What started as a geeky prank had become somewhat of a school tradition. Every year come school photo time, the real men had their chins at attempting the ritual. Statistic has shown, beard-growing increased at an average annual rate of 8%. The phenomenon was in place and the term “Beardist” became the official title for participants.
Girls, of course, were horrified. Their boyfriends and potential soulmates were temporarily obsessed with facial hair. At the pinnacle of this event, male bonding inherently became the main attraction. Guys were checking out guys, and for the most part, things were “alright”.
Jealous girlfriends, however, were not amused. The sentence “You’ve changed. I can’t stand you anymore” was uttered in any given classroom and on every school corridor. Hearts were broken and souls were crushed. However, true Beardists knew all the dramatic complications and emotional distractions contribute to a greater cause. It was a competition. A marathon. A test of self-control and endurance.
Since 2001, the school committee agreed to turn the phenomenon into an annual school tradition. Every year two weeks after the yearbook photography day, the Beardists gather in the school auditorium to bare their masterpieces. And so, another year comes another competition. A competition that could only thrive in the wildest of the wild west…