Whisker Wars, which begins its second season Nov. 23 on IFC, is one of those reality-TV shows about a competitive world most people never knew existed in this case, the world of competitive bearding. Among the stars of the show, and of this world: the Austin Facial Hair Club.
Or, rather, select members of the AFHC: featured on the show are Bryan Nelson, whose full beard stretches practically to his navel; Allen Demling, who combines a chest length natural beard with a finely styled handlebar mustache; Alex LaRoche, whose sculpted, multitiered freestyle beards can reach widths yes, widths that seem to defy gravity; and Miletus Callahan-Barlie, whose mustache-less beard (known as a Donegal) earns some good-natured derision from his teammates.
In the first season, the AFHC were mavericks its members didnt need signatures on an online petition to secede from Beard Team USA and try to make their own way in the facial-hair world. In this case, world is fairly literal, because competitive bearding started in Europe (although just where and when it started is a subject of dispute even within the bearding community), and the first season ended with both the Austin Facial Hair Club and Beard Team USA taking a bit of a beating at the World Beard & Moustache Championships in Norway.
The championships, by the way, have events that take place in several categories, some of which are fairly self-explanatory, such as full beard natural, and some of which are a little more esoteric, such as the Garibaldi (broad, full and round. Length not to exceed 20 cm, moustache integrated.).
One of the Beard Team USA stars who took a hit in season one was Jack Passion, a California man with a long red beard who was expected to take first in full beard natural but came in second, which is enough to make him consider shaving the whole thing off during the second-season premiere.
The second season begins with some of that drama, as well as with several members of the Austin Facial Hair Club competing in an early bearding-circuit event in Columbus, Ohio, the first step in a return to the next World Beard & Moustache Championships, which will take place in Germany. But the drama matters less than the imagery of flowing or ornate beards (one contestant in the freestyle category, playing to the hometown crowd in Columbus, clips the word Ohio into his multi-tiered facial hair).
The series is produced by Thom Beers (the impresario behind Deadliest Catch, Storage Wars: Texas and seemingly half the nonfiction shows on cable), who narrates with his usual aggressive earnestness, as if this competition were as life-or-death as, say, crab-fishing off the coast of Alaska. But characters like Passion, who has enough reality-show arrogance and flair to overcome his setbacks, and the Austin Facial Hair Club crew keep it relatively entertaining. And in the season premiere, we even get an explanation for why Amish and Quakers tend to wear their beards sans mustaches. Who said reality TV doesnt teach you anything?
Whisker Wars' second-season premiere is at 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23, on IFC. If you miss it, it will repeat at midnight Nov. 23; 3:30 a.m. Nov. 24; and 10 p.m. Nov. 25. The series airs regularly at 9 p.m. Fridays on IFC. And of course, it's online as well. Here's a taste -- wait, should we say "taste" with all this hair around?