HARKER HEIGHTS — In a military town full of smooth faces, there’s a new group pushing back and advocating for men across Central Texas to grow the bushiest, burliest beards they can.
The Lion’s Mane Beard Club, started recently by Army veteran Michael Stroub, is seeking the manliest beards to join their club and wants to host charity events for other veterans.
“I think a lot of people don’t grow it out because of the outlook on it,” Stroub said. “I think a lot of people consider having a beard with being homeless, having a beard with being lazy. That’s sort of what things that I want to change. As a man, it defines who you are.”
Others had family going through tough times as the reason they grew their man mane.
“I wanted to promote healthy beard growth and to raise awareness of beard growth and the rich history that’s behind it,” Stroub said. “The other reason is there’s a lot of disabled vets, retired vets who stay in the area and I wanted to help them, to donate to (Disabled American Veterans).
The group had a meeting Sunday night at The Twisted Wrench at 1507 East Veterans Memorial Blvd., in Harker Heights and at least 10 manly faces came to support the group.
A common theme in the group is the right for every man to grow his soup catcher as a sign of and pride in his manhood.
“I started growing it because of my brother,” said Eric Chavez, the group’s vice president. “He was going through a divorce and I was like ‘Let’s do something different.’ So we just started growing our beards out and that was that.”
Possessing perhaps the thickest, most manicured beard in the bunch was Quinton Crocker, a construction safety coordinator at Fort Hood who regularly competes in local beard competitions.
Beard oil sponsor
“I’m pretty sure I'm the only person here who’s been sponsored by beard oil companies,” Crocker said proudly. “I got paid to go to these events. ... San Antonio twice, did their mustache comp, and then I’ve got another beard competition coming up. The worst I’ve done and the best I’ve done is second at any one of them except for Austin. Austin is the only one I haven’t placed at.
“Austin, they get people flying in from overseas. It’s the largest competition in the nation. It’s a pretty big deal,” Crocker said.
If you’re thinking about growing our your scruff, the group said it’s important to oil and brush your beard as washing will dry your skin and hair.
“I probably wash it three times a week and put beard oil in it two times a day, once in the morning after a hot shower so it gets into the pores and then at night before I go to bed,” Stroub said. “In the morning I use one of those thick boar brushes to get it straight, but after that, I’ll use a comb from then on because the brush can actually cause damage and cause the ends to split on your hair.”
25 years of growth
At 65 and with by far the longest, whitest beard, Glen McKinnon had to think hard when asked how long he had been growing his face locks.
“Oh gosh. A long time,” McKinnon said, who has sons in their 30s who have never seen him without a beard.
“At least 25 years,” he said.
Having such a long beard does prevent some from eating certain foods, McKinnon said.
“Ice cream cones are out. You’ve gotta take a shower after eating an ice cream cone,” he said. “You put an ice cream cone up to your face, and before long it’s running down through your beard.”
The long, white growth has caused some problems with love interests in his life. Some women thought he was homeless, he said jovially, adding it’s important for people not to judge a book by its cover.
“Never take a first impression of somebody. Because I know a lot of people who take first impressions and, boy, they’re wrong. Get to know me. I’m a hell of a nice guy,” McKinnon said.