What is a mustache to you? A figure of patriarchy? A reminder of your thirst for milk? A symbol of world dominance? For two friends, it was the focus of one simple bet: “Who could grow the best mustache in a month?” said Jeff Matthews, founder and coordinator for the New York Chapter of Mustaches for Kids.
Originally, the organization began in Los Angeles in 1999. The two guys were Allen ‘Big Al’ Ewald and Dan Strange. Given the length of one month, they made a bet to see who could grow the best mustache between the two of them. After they both shaved off all of their facial hair, the bet began. “After about a week or so,” Matthews recanted, “they realized that neither one looked better than the other.” Instead of supplying the winner with a prize, they decided that the loser- the one with the worst mustache- had to give money to charity.
It was then that they came up with the concept of Mustaches for Kids. As its popularity grew, the organization began to inflate with “growers” or participants. Along with the laughter that is easily generated from the contest is the seriousness o f which the organization exists to contribute to society. Beginning with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Mustaches for Kids slowly began to contribute their funds to other charities created specifically for the betterment of kids around North America such as Children’s Hospital of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and this year’s DonorsChoose.org which supplies funding to teachers who are not met with the proper means for educational projects and school supplies for their students.
Jeff Matthews involved himself in the project soon after its creation. “I was a friend of Allen’s from college. I heard about the work they were doing in 1999 and thought it was funny, but at the same time, it was also a great idea. I had moved to NYC at the time, so I couldn’t help them in L.A. so I asked if I could expand it into the city.” Today the organization exists in over 40 cities around the United States and Canada.
As the idea developed beyond their immediate group of friends, they came up with a few ground rules to govern the process of becoming the ‘Sweetest ‘Stache’. Here’s to name a few:
- On the designated Clean Shaven Day, participants (Growers) will shave their faces clean of any and all facial hair. This includes, but is not limited to, Mustaches, beards, goatees, muttonchops, chinstraps, soul patches, sideburns that extend below the top of the earlobe, and Van Dykes.
- For the duration of one month (4 weeks) sweet Mustaches will be grown for the world to behold. During that time, there will be weekly Mustache Checkpoint Days. All involved will shave their mugs on Checkpoint Days, save for the area above their upper lips. No fair growing a full beard or goatee for a month, and then shaving down to just the Mustache.
- The Mustache must only stretch from one corner of your mouth to the other corner. No Edwardian tapers. No Rollie Fingers handlebars. Just corner to corner conformity.
- No Hitler Mustaches are allowed.
- The use of growth hormones and coloring agents is not condoned or sanctioned by Mustaches for Kids. We feel that these Mustache Growing Performance Enhancers violate the spirit of the contest.
“The event is always held at the end of the growing season, called the ‘Stache Bash” said Matthews. “It’s a Mustache Beauty pageant. Only one man’s mustache can be crowned King of New York.” Just two weeks ago, Nick Leavens was crowned king. This was his fourth competition in the past five years.
How are Mustache Kings determined?
Contrary to popular belief, the mustache king is not determined by the amount of money his mustache raises. The funds for the charity are the only constitutes of this event that is held online. Fans, family and friends earn money for the charity by voting for their favorite mustache by donating money to the grower of choice. Every cent of revenue that is donated under the grower’s name goes directly to the charity. This year they received over 1,100 donors, and in the past 10 years have accumulated nearly $800,000 for charities in all.
This year, the Mustache King was determined on a series of three rounds. “The first round was a parade,” said Matthews enthusiastically. “Half of the growers were eliminated. The second round was the mustache haiku, where we test who can be the most creative with lyric. The final is beer foam retention where the last few are given a flask of Guinness” and tested who can hold the foam down the best with their mustache. Once they were down to the final three competitors, they were all asked “if their mustache was an animal, what would it be and why?” and had to do an interpretive dance based upon the response. According to the Mustache for Kids of New York website, Nick Leavens, the 2009 Mustache King, “sealed his victory over fellow finalists John Roberts and Todd ‘Trivia Champ’ Florio with a sensual ‘junlgle cat’ dance that described his Mustache. Rrrowwrr!!”