On your mark, get set, grow

While one might observe that facial hair has always been part of the University of Chicago tradition (see, for example, Thorstein Veblen and John Dewey), it might be more accurate to say the University of Chicago has merely followed in the ancient tradition of bearded classical education (see, for example, Socrates).

The long-abandoned Mustache Race, part of campus life through the first half of the 20th century, exemplifies the connection between the College and facial hair. Members of the senior class would try to grow a mustache over the course of a few weeks, at the end of which judges would crown a victor.

This year the satirical campus magazine Chicago Shady Dealer revived the event. The Shady Dealer gave it a more inclusive twist, adding to the original “mustachery” category “beardsmanship” and “female facial hairitude.” Opening ceremonies took place February 27 at the C-bench. On April 9, six weeks later, the contest will reach its dramatic conclusion. As one of 26 contestants (including four women), here I chronicle my journey.

Day 1: I wake up early for the last shave of the next six weeks, applying a liberal amount of aftershave—my face will not smell this fresh again for quite some time. At registration, the mustachioed judge gently caresses my face to make sure I haven’t gotten a head start. Despite this unwanted contact with my still barren cheeks, I sign a sheet saying that I’ll be growing a beard. I also pledge to steer clear of “performance-enhancing chemicals and treatments” like Rogaine.

Day 12: There’s a little bit of itching now. Until now this realization had only registered at a subconscious level, but I think I have an especially bristly beard. It is also still uneven. Wondering what sorts of things could cause these deviations in facial-hair length, I run through the possible causes: genetics, growing up near industrial plants, work-related stress, not eating enough leafy greens. Some things we may never understand.

Day 27: After all this time, I’ve gotten pretty used to my beard. There are still a few weeks left before the judging, but no matter what happens between now and then, I believe I could go beard-to-beard with the best of them.

Well, maybe not Dewey. Now that guy had a mustache.

Seth Mayer, '08

Seth%202_28_thumb.jpg mar14_thumb.jpg John_Dewey_01_thumb.jpg

Photos (left to right): Seth Mayer goes from bare to bearded. But could he beat John Dewey?

March 31, 2008