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Originally published September 6, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 6, 2007 at 8:39 AM

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Evergreen student wins facial-hair contest

It was a fascination with his father's mustache that motivated Burke Kenny to grow world-class facial hair. The 22-year-old from Olympia...

Seattle Times staff reporter

It was a fascination with his father's mustache that motivated Burke Kenny to grow world-class facial hair.

The 22-year-old from Olympia, who had always admired his dad's hirsute experiments, set out to grow something unusual — maybe even exotic — on his own face.

After four years of nurturing his full beard and mustache with a meticulous daily regimen (which includes scrubbing it with Grandpa's Pine Tar soap, paddle brushing and trimming split ends), Kenny's own facial hair was deemed some of the best on the planet.

On Saturday, the Evergreen State College student won top beard honors at the World Beard and Moustache Championship in Brighton, England.

Kenny's sculpted Octopus-shaped facial hair beat out international "bearded friends" to take top honors in the full-beard, styled-mustache category.

The top prize? An engraved beer mug with a mustache guard.

Kenny avoided donning a costume, as many competitors do at the biennial competition, saying, "I love to let the beard speak for itself. I don't like all the frills and gimmicks."

Kenny, who started shaving at age 13, said beards get a bad rap when men let them get scraggly.

"I definitely feel like I'm promoting the positive side of facial hair," he said. "If you're going to go for it, go big and go for quality."

Kenny went to the competition with Beard Team USA, a beard-lovers' club made up of 250 Americans.

About 37 people from that group traveled to represent the United States at the World Championship.

Phil Olsen, the USA team captain, who stopped shaving nine years ago, calls celebrating their whiskered characteristics "great fun"

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"We all have beards and like having beards and feel that beards don't get the respect they deserve," he said.

The 17-category World Championship measures the best in all types of styles — including Imperial mustaches and Verdi beards.

Beard Team USA took home top honors in four other categories, but German representatives swept nine divisions. Contestants from the U.K. won 3 categories.

Jeff Well, a pilot from Port Angeles, won third place in the Dali mustache category. He dressed up like a vintage, turn-of-the century pilot with goggles and a white scarf to accentuate his lip fringe.

"It's nothing like you would see in a typical competition where people are taking it so seriously," he said.

In terms of helping attract the ladies, beards aren't always helpful, the men say.

"Some women love it," said Olsen. "But to be honest, I'm sure that the majority of women worldwide don't."

"If they don't like it, I'm not interested anyway," he said.

The world championships started 17 years ago, and the next championship will be held in Anchorage in 2009.

Christina Siderius: csiderius@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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