April 11, 2008

Mustache race ends in glory, envy

The Great Mustache Race finished outside Cobb Hall on Wednesday, bringing an end to the 42-day facial hair ordeals of 12 undergraduates, with one of the losers charging a winner with witchcraft.

More than 50 students attended the ceremony. The competition, a U of C tradition that began in 1910 and ended in 1940, was resurrected by the satirical campus publication The Shady Dealer.

Each of the 26 contestants entered one of the event’s three divisions of “mustachery,” “beardmanship,” and “female facial hair.” Only 12 of the original entrants attended the judging. Contestants were required to be completely shaved on February 27 before attempting to grow facial hair as lush and voluminous as possible.

“You have seen me go from zero to hero,” said third-year math major Carmel Levy, who competed in the beardmanship contest. He described his facial hair as a “connected mutton chop arrangement” with a “soul patch”—a small inverse hair-triangle on his chin.

“I have high hopes for my candidacy as a ‘mustacher,’” Levy said before the judging.

The judges chose a loser and three finalists from each of the divisions; the audience chose each division’s winner by cheering for their favorite.

The judges consisted of three experienced facial hair growers: third-year Zach Binney—also a maroon staff writer—who sported a twirled mustache, biology professor Eric Larson, and third-year Bob Knox. Both Larson and Knox donned large beards that obscured their chins.

Levy, though he made the final three, did not win the competition. “You look like an idiot,” Binney told Levy, though he admired Levy’s effort, adding, “I like the style.”

“Hmmmm,” Binney said, peering at fourth-year Seth Samelson’s beard.

“I like the gradation,” he said. “It’s quite impressive and full for six weeks.”

The audience chose Samelson as the winner of the beardsmanship division.

Jim Ryan won the mustache division, sporting a mustache which he claimed was in the “imperial” style—dating back to Shakespeare, he said.

The sole entrant in the female division, second-year Christopher Henderson, braved the cold in a blue skirt, skimpy blouse, black high heels, and a polka-dot shawl.

“Obviously you’re in a class by yourself,” Larson told Henderson. Henderson, a male, won both first and last prize in the female division.

Winners Henderson, Ryan, and Samelson each received a tin pail containing various facial manicuring products, including a supply of Clubman Mustache Wax.

The loser’s prize was a can of Pringles potato chips and a can of Chef Boyardee pasta. Organizers hoped that the mustached mascots of each product would inspire the losers toward stronger growths in next year’s competition.

“I suspect the winner of foul play,” Levy said, in an interview after the competition.

Samelson’s beard was “so voluptuous, so lustrous, so hairy beyond the real,” Levy said, that he suspected Samelson of supernatural intervention, “maybe some sort of magic.”

“Carmel’s allegation is a barefaced lie,” Samelson said in an e-mail interview on Thursday.

Correction: Due to a spelling error, Seth Samelson's last name was twice written as Stephenson.