Handlebars and mutton chops

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Eric Brown has been carefully growing his muttonchops for two years, conditioning the coarse hair, occasionally trimming it, and above all, nurturing it.

Now, it’s his beard’s turn to do a little something for him.

The 35-year-old ordained minister, photographer and calendar-maker will be among the contestants in the First Annual Coney Island Beard and Moustache Competition, September 6 beginning at 7 p.m.

Brown, a Jersey City resident, will compete in the best sideburns category, and said he is excited, but not the least bit nervous.

He doesn’t plan on using any special waxes, potions or oils before the competition. “The only thing I might do is clean it up a bit and curl the moustache,” he said.

Brown’s style is a throwback to a hairier time—at least as far as the men in the Oval Office were concerned.

“Look at any president from the 1880’s and that’s what I look like,” Brown said.

He said he’s grown his facial hair in that fashion precisely because it’s “ridiculous.”

“The more people that are absurd—yet sane—the better,” he said.

The competition is open to any and all challengers—provided they are adequately hirsute—in a range of categories, including: best beard natural, best beard styled, best moustache natural, best sideburns, and best all around.

The contest is being organized by the sideshow performer Donny Vomit, in association with Coney Island USA.

At press time, Vomit did not return several calls for comment.

Pre-show and registration begins at 7 p.m. at the Freak Bar. An awards and variety show will follow inside the Sideshow Theater.

If Bushwick resident Kris Payne is in town on Sept. 6, he’ll be in Coney Island.

Payne, 24, founded the Gotham City Beardsman Alliance back in the winter of 2007. The group, a haven for the bearded, now boasts about 10 active members.

A photographer by trade, Payne said beards have been making a cultural comeback.

“I think there is a resurgence of a certain type of manhood that needs to be accounted for,” he said.

In an age of man-boy models and unisex colognes, the cultural zeitgeist has all but begged for a big ol’ beard, he said.

“A beard is something a man can do and a woman can’t,” he said. “It’s a positive sexism thing, and there needs to be something like that in the world right now,” he said.

Originally from Oklahoma, Payne has lived in Brooklyn for the past two years. He said his beard, which has been growing free for the past 17 months, has helped his big city adjustment.

“When I ride my Vespa in Williamsburg, the kids think I’m the coolest Hasidic Jew on the planet,” he said.

It doesn’t hurt around the ladies either, he admitted.

“There is a standoff at first…but most people want to touch it,” Payne said.

He said any beard competition is “a friendly thing.”

“It’s not like, ‘Oh, your beard sucks,’” he explained. “It’s more like, ‘You can be doing better.’”

Registration and cover for the show is $10. The competition take place at Coney Island USA, located at 1208 Surf Avenue in Coney Island. For more information go to, or call 718-372-5159.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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