Photo by Rosa Cautela

Man’s Second-Best Friend

When someone asks me if my beard makes me hot during the summer, I like to reply with it makes me hot all year long.” – Unknown

I have never had a beard until now. For the past seven years of my life I held a serving job, forcing me to take a razorblade and slice off all unnecessary scruff. Apparently, this was to appease the old lady regulars from the nursing home next door who felt that beards are exclusively for the homeless and sex offenders. (Sure, the homeless cannot afford to shave, and yeah, I could imagine someone being a bit disturbed if they found a single beard hair in their tomato soup, but I must attest that creepers come in a wide variety, from clean shaven to the Fu Manchu.)

And now, after all those years of frantically trying to stop the blood from gushing out my neck while driving to work, I have seen the bearded light and am wondering what all of the hubbub is about. So I decided to get in contact with the Buckeye Bearders, a group of bearded men who get together once a month and have a big freakin’ party. Now that I am among their ranks, surely they will let me in on some inside bearding secrets—that is, unless I crack during an interview and accidently blurt out, “Can I touch it?”

“The thing about growing a beard is, you have to take care of it like a pet. To have a good beard, you have to eat right, take vitamins, and you have to wash it. You can’t just kind of stick a Cheeto in there and expect it to be all good.”

That’s Josh Rider, one of the first walk-in members of the Buckeye Bearders. He moved to Columbus from Oklahoma and was delighted when his wife found the group’s Instagram page. For him, a major draw of the group is the social connectivity. “We are a whole bunch of men with beards that go to bars and hang out, reach out to the community, and raise money for local charities,” said Rider. “There is more to beards than just looking homeless.”

“It’s a really open and
diverse group of men
and ladies that get
together once a month and try to raise a little money for Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Pleasure Guild.
It’s a social group
consisting mostly of
guys with beards, but

not exclusively.”

The Buckeye Bearders started in March of this year and meet on the second Thursday of every month at different local breweries (themselves dens for the bearded). “It’s a really open and diverse group of men and ladies that get together once a month and try to raise a little money for Nationwide Children’s Hospital Pleasure Guild,” said Jeremy Lahman, one of the group’s founding members. “It’s a social group consisting mostly of guys with beards, but not exclusively. We always try to make people feel welcomed.”

Each member pays $25 dollars for the year. Not only does that get you drink discounts for events, but you also get a pint glass from the brewery stuffed with coupons from local businesses, from Cliff Originals, Turner’s Barbershop, Defining Skin Tattoo. Best of all, 20 percent of the proceeds benefit Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

“We are a local non-profit that just wants to support local businesses, and wants to get together with friendly guys (and girls too),” said Brent Merriman, another founding member of the Buckeye Bearders. “We are trying to stick to local and keep our business in town.”

The idea started over a couple beers at North High Brewing. Cliff Originals, a bearding product line, was giving out samples, and that’s when the conversation started. “Cliff Originals is the good stuff,” Rider said. “You know, I hate to say it, but sometimes my beard, or any beard, can kind of look like pubic hair. But after using his products, my beard is smooth and it smells good. It makes your beard feel and look healthy, and that is a huge plus—especially for my wife.”

With roughly 60 members and four successful months under their belts, the Bearders are now looking towards the future. “We want to do more events that are 100 percent fundraisers,” said Lahman. “We talked about a bearded bowling tournament, or a 5k marathon called ‘Running of the Beards.’ We want to do more events that focus all of our efforts towards charity.”

And like any quality, scruffy beard, the group needs to grow in order to reach its full potential. “We are always welcoming new members, especially those who want to contribute new efforts for charity ideas. And we are very inclusive,” Lahman said.

“It’s weird how things have changed,” Rider added. “I have had a beard practically all of my life. Beards, much like tattoos, were once considered for savage gang members, and now beards and tattoos are sexy. And now that they are in, I can never wear flannel.”

Yes, the beard paradigm has shifted, and for now the hirsute have secured their place in mainstream culture. Really, the Buckeye Bearders are just a bunch of nice guys along with their girlfriends and wives who enjoy being a part of something. Whether they are sharing grooming tips, product lines, or just a local IPA and a few laughs, they always have a contribution to the Columbus community in the back of their bearded minds. My beard still needs some work, as it is still in its awkward years, but I am certain that after some quality time spent around other beards, with perhaps a touch of product, it will reach its full, whiskery, Viking, pirate, biker dude potential.

The Buckeye Bearders meet the second Thursday of every month. The next event will take place at Land Grant Brewing Co. August 13. For more, visit buckeyebearders.com.

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Danny Hamen

Insatiable bibliophile. Intrepid journalist. Born to run. Here for the cake.

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