Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

May 30, 2013

GARY'S WORLD: Beards of a feather flock together

By Gary Nelson
Senior staff writer

CROSSVILLE — Mom always warned me about joining a gang or a club in my youth and said, “Birds of a feather flock together. If you hang around with someone and they do something — everyone will assume you will behave the same way.”

Well, mom is definitely right in this instance of my life and I may have gone off the deep end here, but I went ahead and made a request to join a club.

It’s an obscure club, which made it seem sort of alluring and charming to me.

Now, I’ve been a beard enthusiast since my childhood ever since my older brother began sporting a beard. I personally have worn one off and on since 1998. My brother quit growing his a long time ago for reasons that still mystify me to this day.

So, imagine my delight when I was browsing the Internet for clubs to join when I discovered Tennesseebeards.com, the Tennessee Beard and Mustache Club.

It’s too late, don’t try talking me out of it. I’ve already gone and done it. I’ve gone through the initiation — growing a beard — and the application process, which consists of sending in a picture of said beard and your name and location.

In fact, it’s one of the more grueling applications for club membership I’ve endured. I feel like it may have been worth it, though.

After all, doesn’t being a member of on online beard club bring a bit of mystery, suspense and excitement along with it?

That’s what I imagined. Oh, and not only that, but I’m the first and ONLY member from Crossville!

The fun doesn’t stop there, either. Not only is the Tennessee Beard and Mustache Club (TMBC) a bona fide club — it’s a smaller, chapter club of the greater Beard Team USA — a national club.

Now, in case you haven’t noticed over the past few years, beards have been making a comeback. The popularity of beards has been soaring recently due to the likes of Zach Galifianakis, star of the Hangover movies. And the guys from Duck Dynasty are like beard mega-stars.

But Zach and Si shouldn’t get all the credit, beards were also popular in the 1960s and ‘70s — and even in the 1860s and ‘70s. In fact, beards date back to ancient times, so the fashion statement of a beard is nothing new.

I’ve even heard rumors of reported beard growing contests that were held in Crossville back in the 1950s when the city turned 100 years old.

Too bad we didn’t have a revival back in 2006 for the city’s sesquicentennial celebration — that would have been fun.

The founder of the TMBC, Leon Newton, of Pulaski, TN, proudly proclaims he’s been a beard grower for 30 years and his current beard has been growing for more than three years. Leon’s beard is down to the middle of his stomach — which is enough to make any ZZ Top band member envious.

In fact, I’m certain Billy Gibbons, guitarist of the band, crafted his beard back in the ‘70s, along the lines of Leon’s.

I guess one of my favorite things about becoming a member of this club is that the membership fees and dues are at no cost to any member — now that’s something I can afford.

Membership is even open to beard and or mustache growing individuals and enthusiasts outside of the state of Tennessee; however, after browsing through the membership catalogue, I didn’t notice a non-Tennessee member.

Now all I have to do is talk Chronicle Editor Mike Moser into joining the TMBC. I mean, it ought to be a right of passage for him — he’s been donning a beard practically since ol’ Si was a teenager.

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Gary Nelson is a Crossville Chronicle staffwriter. His column is published each Friday. He may be reached at gnelson@crossville-chronicle.com.