WHY BEARD CLUB, director’s statement

by director Laura J. Lukitsch

It wasn’t the extreme facial hair of the World Beard and Mustache competitors that got me interested in doing this film.

It was the reaction from ordinary men. Men from all walks of life.

My physical therapist brother-in-law, an African American playwright I was working with, the guys in the office.

Oh, and the hundreds of thousands of men who seemed to be interested in looking at other men’s facial hair.

Beauty competitions for men’s beards seemed strange for me and yet, when I talked to other men about this, it wasn’t the strangeness of beard styles or in fact beards themselves that dominated our conversations.

Instead, it was what was associated with the idea of the beard. The memories. The values tied to the act of growing or shaving a beard. The opportunities missed or gained.

I realized that talking about beards and mustaches provided a door into the mind of men.

And underneath my curiosity, was a fear of men.

Over time, I realized I didn’t mistrust all men. I mainly mistrusted white men. Or the idea of white men who are dominating, unfeeling, uncaring, power hungry, violent white man. Men who embody toxic masculinity (although at the time, I didn’t know that term).

Maybe that stereotype is unsettling to you, too? 

This film was a journey to understand men through the lens of their beards and the values, history, spirituality that talking about beards reveal. 

I entered a strange and wonderful world of barbershops, pride parades, houses of worship, and yes, beard competitions.

I encountered twists and turns of history, of power and oppression, using the markers of facial hair to exult or extinguish others.

What I found is a lot less about testosterone and a lot more about a shared sense of human vulnerability.

I learned that beard and mustaches competitions are places that ask us to imagine a future where men embrace difference, have fun, and where it is okay for men and women to be who they are.

And that is a beautiful thing.

Photo by Ross Wheeler