Beards of Manchester, or: The hairiest two weeks of my life.

Manchester seems to be full of fantastic beards, some big and bushy, others neatly trimmed, and others perfectly styled, curled and waxed. Joining me at the Noah & The Whale show at Manchester Cathedral a few months ago, my (clean shaven and bald) friend Dan from Cambridge was almost shocked by the amount of facial hair the city’s population sports on their faces.

I doubt this is related to a particular Mancunian fashion trend in any way and mainly an expression of 1) “don’t care” attitude 2) laziness 3) a tendency to sleep in 4) vanity (beards are great for hiding wrinkles), and 5) the membership card to the secret fellowship of the fuzz.

And so we thought to ourselves: well, wouldn’t it be nice to get some of the finest beards together for a photo exhibition – or a calendar – or both? What started out as a funny little idea, born at the Deaf Institute on a not too unusual Wednesday night, quickly turned into a bit of a whirlwind, or shall I say facial hair hurricane over night. As it happens when two people with too little time and too many ideas get together, we (that is, me and Chris “Hey Manchester” Horkan) jumped right into “Project Beard” and launched the Beards of Manchester website – only to be completely blown away by a neverending stream of emails with beardy faces, press request and countless tweets.

There has been surprisingly little discussion about the potential issues arising with the ‘masculinity’ aspects of facial hair. I am the first person to speak out* about anything that might be considered offensive or sexist, but in the context of ‘Beards of Manchester’ we hope it has become clear that we accept facial hair as something some people simply HAVE and others don’t, regardless of sex/gender or how ‘masculine’ they are. Judging by the positive feedback from women and the pictures of bearded ladies we received, we consider our project as fairly un-offensive and open to everyone. I really hope I’m not completely misled here.

The submission for the calendar ended last night after a crazy 14 days, with an incredible 208 photos of beardy men and women in the gallery. We’re going to pick our favourites for the calendar photo shoot, prepare the launch party at Common on 21st October and hope to sell as many Beards of Manchester 2011 calendars as possible – all profits will go to the Lifeshare charity in Manchester. Looks like my fuzzy life isn’t quite over yet…

* complain, moan and rant.