Morgan Spurlock, the guy who’s made a career out of going to jail and giving himself liver failure, has a new release. Mansome tackles the male grooming industry and male grooming in general. And along with Wil Arnett, Jason Bateman and Zach Galifianakis, it spotlights Jack Passion, a two-time world beard champion and the author of The Facial Hair Handbook. The 28-year-old knows a hell of a lot about grooming—and life—as we learned in this candid Q&A.
MADE MAN: So you’re into competitive bearding. Can you explain to our readers what the heck that is?
JACK PASSION: It started as this homage and parody of the Olympics and organized sports. At first it was kind of silly, but it grew into this thing where there’s a beard competition everywhere in America. Some people take it very seriously and some dudes are just there for the camaraderie. They get to meet other guys with more extreme facial hair.
I make sure to eat right and exercise. Healthy man, healthy beard. That’s always worked out for me.
MM: What do you make of male grooming in general? Not so much the act itself, but the emphasis placed on it by men’s magazines, documentaries and the like?
JP: Well, men have groomed throughout history. Only recently has the conversation become that it’s more OK to talk about it. Some men take it further than I would, but for me it’s all about highlighting the things I like about how I look and minimizing the things that I like less. In Mansome, one of the experts says that this is really about mating. Grooming is a way to show off yourself as a healthy mate. For some guys this means doing the metro thing, and for other guys it means being a little burlier.
MM: So what’s your routine?
JP: Even though I have a huge beard, I’m very particular about grooming. To keep my beard looking nice I do a lot. I wash it, condition it, put some beard oil in it and look after the split ends and whatnot. But I also make sure to eat right and exercise. Healthy man, healthy beard. That’s always worked out for me. A lot of guys are surprised to hear that I shave my back. I like the hair on my chest, but my back hair grows in weird. Again, I just want to highlight my good points and minimize everything else.
MM: It seems like nutrition is an even bigger deal than grooming when it comes to having a champion beard.
JP: Hair is not important for biological survival. It’s just about the last thing on the list of priorities. For better or for worse, my career has come from my beard. I have a TV show, Whisker Wars on IFC, and I’m in Mansome… this is all due to my beard. To me it’s a bit like bodybuilding. Keeping my beard in good shape is part of my schtick. The older guys I compete against in the film say that you can’t really grow a beard until you’re 40.
MM: What advice do you have to men who want to grow a rugged beard but have been afraid to try?
JP: Buy my book, ha ha. There really aren’t any secrets. If you want facial hair, I say do it. Staying away from extremes is always a good idea. Your beard should transcend trends. A good beard is timeless, just like a good haircut or a nice suit. If you aim for that you really can’t lose. I promote more conservative beard styling. Grow a good beard, keep it trimmed and healthy. Really outlandish stuff—and I know this from experience, because my beard is pretty outlandish—people don’t take you seriously. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to ask yourself what your dad or granddad would think of your beard, or anything else. If they would say, “Boy, you look stupid,” you probably do. If they’d say you’re a handsome man, you’re doing it right.
MM: What do you think is different about male grooming now as opposed to in your father or grandfather’s day?
JP: Well, we talk about a new masculinity emerging. There’s the idea of being a man’s man and of being your own man. I think it’s a great time to be your own man in a way that other men are going to take seriously. I feel like I belong in the 1920s. Men used to hang out in barbershops all the time. Historically, men have always worked together and hunted together as brothers in the wild. But the corporate culture turns us into snakes and pits us against one another. I think it’s great to be a man and good to hang out with other men. It’s a healthy part of life and men should nurture that.
MM: What do your father and grandfather think of your beard?
JP: My grandfather died before I grew mine, but I was just thinking that I need to apply what I just said to myself, ha ha.