FROM the working-class shadow to the manicured hipster to the full-blown Ned Kelly bush, Hunter men have embraced facial hair.
And on Sunday in Newcastle they lined up to see who would be crowned king of the crop.
Organiser, the bearded Peter Hall, says the look is far from a fad. ‘‘All sorts of people grow beards for all different reasons,’’ he said.
Beard-cuddles with their kids, the mates they attract, the women they attract, the feel of a beard being stroked, or catching the wind out a car window were all incentives to stop shaving.
Mr Hall, who happens to work for the Australian Beard Company, launched the state-wide beard competition in Lambton to also help raise money for the Variety Bash.
Based on the success, he plans to roll out similar events in other Australian states and eventually hopes there will be enough competitors to introduce sub-categories.
On Sunday at least 16 of the 20-odd contestants took to the stage with a version of the full beard.
‘‘There’s the working-class beard, the bogan, the hipster, the chin straps and the lamb chops,’’ Mr Hall, a long-time natural beard-wearer, said.
Competitors came from as far as Sydney.
Geoff Haren couldn’t come but he sent his beard in a zip-locked bag with his wife.
Harley Muir won the people’s choice. He had ‘‘his missus’’ to thank. ‘‘She encouraged me to grow it two and a half years ago,’’ he said.
But not every woman is a beard supporter. Even the female judges admitted they didn’t find them attractive.
‘‘I don’t like them myself so judging was clearly about the beard,’’ Brooke Meade said.
‘‘It was the fullness, length and thickness ... I wish I got to feel them though.’’
Newcastle Herald photographer Max Mason-Hubers stood out above them all.
Mr Hall described Mason-Hubers’ beard as ‘‘glorious’’.
‘‘You can’t get much better than that,’’ he said.
I STARTED growing my beard on New Year’s Eve this year.
I’d always had a short beard but I thought this was a good time to see what I could produce.
Everyone’s got to try it once in their life I think. I was going travelling so I just didn’t take my shaving gear with me and let it go from there.
It certainly didn’t look great for a while because I never trimmed it, but thankfully it grew into itself.
The best description for it is a bushranger beard.
I never wanted a high-maintenance beard. If it looked good without me having to touch it then I’d keep it, otherwise it would have to go.
I don’t wash it. I just rinse it with water and occasionally I blow dry it and put argan oil in it when I want it to smell pretty.
It has its ups and downs. It makes eating anything difficult. No ice-cream in a cone for starters, and no more egg sandwiches. I have to cut my toast into soldiers.
There’s a bit to put up with, but it also draws a lot of positives – and I think I look better with a beard.