Great Mustache Race resurrects U-of-C tradition

By Mischa Fierer

[img id=”80388″ align=”alignleft”] Twenty-six students—including four women—pledged to grow beards, mustaches, or “female facial hair” for the Great Mustache Race at the event’s kick-off outside Cobb Hall on Wednesday.

This year’s competition, sponsored by the campus satirical publication, The Shady Dealer, is a resurrection of a U-of-C mustache competition relegated to history. The contest was held annually between 1910 and 1940 and originally involved every male in the senior class.

Contestants were required to be completely shaved when they signed up to compete in one of the event’s three divisions: “mustachery,” “beardmanship,” and “female facial hair.” The contestants will have just 42 days to develop the lushest and most voluminous facial hair.

“I swear,” the contestants pledged, “to cultivate my follicles to the best of my natural ability without the aid of performance-enhancing substances.”

Rogaine is strictly prohibited—as are Hitler mustaches—organizers said.

In order to level the playing field among contestants, judges are allowing women with false beards and men in drag to compete in the female facial hair division. One of the five female contestants, who stood tall in a pink dress on Wednesday, is actually male.

While the student in drag had already shaved earlier in the day, other entrants parted with their facial hair only after they had entered Cobb.

In Cobb 112, third-year math major Carmel Levy shaved off his beard with an electric razor in order to join the competition, his black hair dropping onto an edition of the U of C Chronicle that he had put down to catch his hair.

“It’s stupid and classic at the same time,” Levy said while shaving.

Other contestants who formerly sported facial hair acclimated themselves to their new nakedness.

“I’m feeling every breeze and eddy; I can sense it,” said second-year Josh Nalven, the event’s organizer. “It’s kind of cool!”

The original mustache competition began in 1910 when U of C seniors issued an edict requiring all fourth-year males to grow a mustache at an informal class meeting.

The man judged to have the best mustache won The Mustache Cup, originally a box of cigars, the Tribune reported. For those who did not participate, “A ‘Kaiser Wilhelm’ will be painted artistically on the offending lip with violent ink…and then the unfortunate will be thrown in a tank at Bartlett gymnasium.”

“The mustache is one of the finest in texture, conformation and color that I have seen since the depression started,” said campus barber and former contest judge Herb Patterson, of the 1932 winner’s effort, in a Tribune archive report.

The student with the “scantiest and most pitiful mustache” would be given The Booby Prize, which was often a bottle of hair tonic and a “ducking” in Botany Pond. One hairless student attempted to have 12 others arrested after being ducked for failing to grow a mustache.

“Every morning he looked into the mirror for progress of ‘sprouts’ on his lip,” the Tribune reported in 1912. He did not find any, and so he got wet.

In the early 20th century, women often judged the contest but could not enter. Now, Nalven welcomes females to join the competition.

“That’s kind of gross,” said one female student who attended the event after learning that fellow women had signed up. The student did not wish to have her name published for fear of offending friends.

But so far, enthusiasm for facial hair in all its varieties is high among competitors and their admiring supporters.

“In my normal quotidian life I try to keep a little bit of scruff so that I don’t look sixteen,” Levy said, while shaving his nearly one-inch long beard.

After finishing, Levy put his shirt back on and strode outside to sign up for the event. He signed his name on the entry form and slapped it down on the table.

“Mustacherito!” he said.