ITHACA, NY — Get out your mustache wax: the Ithaca Beard and Mustache Club is seeking participants for its 9th annual Chili ‘Stache and Beard Competition during the 20th Annual Downtown Ithaca Chili Cook-Off this Saturday.

Hirsute categories include full natural beard (greater than six inches), full groomed beard, and partial beard, but you don’t even need facial hair to participate.

Competitors can also vie for the prize in

What’s the secret to success?

“I have three shots of whiskey and I wrestle a grizzly bear,” said 2017 first place full beard winner Phil Allen, of his competition day routine.

If you think you would like to compete, sign up on the ICBM website here, or visit the Facebook event for more information.

With great facial hair comes great responsibility

“Ithaca Beard and Mustache club is a real-life social club rather than being behind a screen,” said Todd Noyes, head of IBMC.

The club first formed in 2013, a group of five friends (who all happened to have beards) got to talking about competitive facial hair, about the World Beard and Mustache Competition held yearly in Germany. Why couldn’t they do the same closer to home?

“The club itself is a really good place to network, meet new friends, and get together to have fun over an event than can be seen as silly, but some people take it so serious,” Noyes said. “At the event…they are truly there to win and show off the greatness of their mustache or beard that they have cultivated for so long.”

From the start, the club sought to be a part of local events and give back to the community.

The club’s motto is “With great facial hair comes great responsibility”, and members take it to heart. How can a beard help out the community?

“We decided as a local club that we wanted to make sure we donated to non-profits. Every fundraiser we do, every competition, some proceeds from registration go to local nonprofits,” Noyes said. To day, IBMC has donated to Loaves and Fishes, Planned Parenthood, St. Baldrick’s, the SPCA and United Way.

IBMC also make their own beard oils and t-shirts, which they sell locally at Ithacamade and will also sell at the Cook-Off to keep the club going and benefit other non-profits.

There are around 50 people who collaborate, socialize and come to IBMC’s annual events, and anyone can join, regardless of facial hair or gender.

“We say if we give you a business card, you’re part of the club,” Noyes said.

In the club as well as the competition, fun prevails.

The Chili Cook-Off competition draws attendees from Ithaca and the surrounding area. Noyes, who MCs the competition, said his favorite part is watching the participants come to life, enjoying the attention in front of the crowd for the hard work of growing a beard.

Competitors give their stage name, like Mephistacheles or  Sir Mancilot, and then a panel judges them on whisker length, fullness, sophistication and “manliness”, among other qualities. (“Manliness”, Noyes said, refers to the quality of having a big, thick, burly beard.)

Participants from the 2017 competition. Noyes kneels, third from left. Photo by Jennifer Wholey.

As for Noyes himself, he said that it has been over four years since he has last shaved his auburn beard, which is now three or four inches long.

“I travel a bit and I got married in August, and I have trimmed it up for these occasions. I kind of like to look proper, but it was a hard battle to shave for the wedding; my wife was not having it,” he laughed.

In the weekend’s competition, Noyes said mustache competitions can be the most difficult for some people.

“People usually fall in love with a style and stick with it. There are some people who can grow fast, good beards, and they can play with it, shave it down, go to partial beard,” he said.

The partial beard folks are more likely to change up their styles. Full beard growers usually will keep their full beards for life, he continued. “I wish I had a beard that wouldn’t stop growing; after a certain length it’s not as full.”

And of course there’s the issue of maintenance: conditioning it regularly, and keeping it clean when you eat or drink. Wet wipes, he said, are key.

A little bit of advice for competitors at the big event: Noyes suggested having a good breakfast, and giving one’s beard a good talking to in the mirror.

“After that, I think they would just walk up, feel confident and positive about what’s about to happen.”

Featured image by Dave Burbank.

Jennifer Wholey is a feature writer and Head of Dining Partnerships for the Ithaca Voice. Contact her at