Life as a national mustache champion: ‘I drink a lot more stuff with straws’

February 3, 2023

It began as a dare, reports The Washington Post. In 2018, one of Bob Baker’s co-workers in the federal government challenged him to grow a beard for a year without trimming it.

“I was constantly growing a beard; then, shaving it because my skin would get itchy,” says Baker, who lives in Greene County, Virginia. “She basically dared me not to shave it.”

Baker not only accepted his co-worker’s challenge, he decided if he was taking on a beard, he was going to do it right: “I bought some beard shampoo, beard oil, and beard balm—and, by the end of the year in 2019, I had this really nice-looking beard,” he says. “It was about seven inches long — the longest one I’d ever had.”

There was one problem, though. His wife, Pam Baker, didn’t like it.

“She was always saying, ‘OK, you’ve gone more than a year—when are you going to shave it off?’” says Baker, 49, a computer systems administrator and father of four.

“I’d also grown a big mustache, and the national mustache competition was coming up,” he says.

He struck a deal with his wife that he’d shave his beard but keep his huge mustache for the National Beard and Moustache Championships competition. He’d put so much work into it, and he’d grown it impressively long, so he wanted to see how far he could take it.

Then, to his great shock, he won first place in the handlebar mustache category in 2020. There was no going back.

“I was so shocked when they announced I was the winner that I about fell off my chair,” he says. “I decided right there to keep going with it.”

The following year, in 2021, he came in second place in the handlebar category. And in November 2022, with about 200 competitors across all categories, he clinched first place again by winning the top freestyle mustache.

“Styling my mustache has become a passion of mine,” he said. “I’ve really learned a lot since I started on this journey four years ago.”

He now has his sights set on the World Beard and Moustache Championships this June in Germany.

Baker has had a beard and mustache on and off since leaving the Army in 2005 “because finally, nobody could tell me I couldn’t grow facial hair,” he said.

But this mustache he’d grown was something apart.

Now, each morning, he picks which style he’s in the mood for: Sometimes he styles his mustache into a classic handlebar shape; other days, he’ll go for the Imperial look—a thick tapered design with sloping points.

He’s been known to opt for the Hungarian, a thick and bushy Wyatt Earp-style mustache; or the English, a tight and narrow mustache with straight, pencil-thin ends.

A support network of 1.3 million followers on TikTok watches his videos about proper mustache care and cheers him on, says Baker—noting that he also posts photos of his latest mustache looks on Instagram.

He has named his mustache Elliot Norris, “because if Sam Elliot and Chuck Norris had a baby, my mustache would be it,” he said.

Research contact: @washingtonpost