LONDON – One contestant had a mustache twisted into the shape of London's Tower Bridge; others sported bushy beards that would make Grizzly Adams envious. In the end, Beard Team USA nabbed four of the top honors — by a whisker — at the World Beard and Mustache Championships.
About 250 shaggy men from around the world competed Saturday in 17 different classes of facial hair at the competition in Brighton, England.
The event had long been dominated by German beard clubs, but the Americans made a strong showing at this year's competition, taking victories in four categories.
Jack Passion, a 23-year-old from San Francisco, won the highly competitive "Full Natural Beard" competition with his flowing orange fuzz.
"I feel fantastic," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "I'm 23 and I have the best beard in the world."
He attributed part of his success to his outfit, a blue tuxedo and bowler hat, which helped bring out the red in his beard.
"I looked like a groom," he said. "Too bad you never get married when you have a huge beard."
The mustache categories include the "Dali" — slender with long tips, straight or arching up — and the big and bushy "Hungarian," while the beard categories ranged from the shorter "Verdi" to the rounder, more expansive "Garibaldi."
Those with particularly fanciful fuzz — like the man with the Tower Bridge growing from his face — competed in freestyle categories.
Competitors were barred from using extensions or hair pins, although wax and hairspray were allowed in some cases.
The first World Beard and Mustache Championship was held by beard enthusiasts in Germany in 1990. The next championships in 2009 will be held in Anchorage, Alaska.
"Anchorage knows how to put on a show," said David Traver, 42, who is organizing the 2009 event. "And they have a fantastic appreciation for whiskers."