Beards bond local men with 6 o’clock shadows

— By PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
James Davis, Mike Rogers and Scott Hart have the support of loved ones as they sport three styles of beards, but they want the general public to also accept their less than traditional choice of self-expression.

Guys with facial hair just want a little respect. The 6 o'clock Shadow Beard Team formed in January to raise awareness among the general population that fellows with beards are just like other men, except they have chosen a way outside the norm to express themselves.

"We're not dirty mountain men," said Scott Hart, 31, of Greencastle. "We're professionals and have a lot of face time with the public."

Mike Rogers, 32, Hagerstown, Md. and James Davis, 41, Brunswick, Md. are also founding members. The group is rounded out with Austin Shemon, Will Carr and David Heckman. Their job descriptions include parts specialist and finance manager at a high-end automobile dealership, bank branch manager, photographer, printing company employee and tattoo artist.

"Most people with beards are pleasant," said Davis. "We have to be because of the perception of others."

They have been the recipients of a wide variety of responses as people see them for the first time. Some point, others avoid them or scowl. Children run up or run away. One little girl thought Davis was the bogeyman. Women touch their beards without asking permission.

The men tolerate the reactions because they are comfortable with their lifestyle choices.

"The last time I saw my chin was seven yeras ago," said Hart. He grew the Donnegal, or Amish, style because it fit his personality. He started with a mustache, but after his Mennonite grandfather died, switched to a beard to show respect to his heritage.

Davis is also seven years into a goatee. He wanted to start earlier but couldn't because of a previous job. His hair is an accessory, a modification to his body, he said. Rogers is the veteran, growing a Van Dyke (mustache and goatee) since 2001. He sees it as a sign of manhood, and bets some clean-shaven men wish they could do the same, but their significant others won't let them. The other three members have full beards.

Set apart

The three gathered for a special meeting outside of the regular third Friday of the month. They gather at 8:30 p.m. at John Allison Public House, a club sponsor. The members all have wives or fiances' and children. Their families come first, but they also admit the club is an outlet to reclaim their identities and bond with other men. While Western civilization has not widely accepted the bearded male, other traditions honor and expect such growth. It has been associated with wisdom, and the members in the car industry found they are getting more customers, especially from older people, and those with Russian and German backgrounds. No bosses have hassled them about their beards.

"It's a huge subculture, whether anyone wants to admit it or not," said Davis.

They feel part of a brotherhood, and become instant friends with anyone they meet in person, or through social networking sites. They also know the power that comes with beards.

"They break the ice or intimidate," Davis continued. "First people think you are scary or creepy. Then they accept you."

National sports figures help the cause, as players in football, basketball, baseball and hockey grow beards for a season or special events.

And it takes work to maintain a well-groomed beard, the local guys admit. They use special shampoos, conditioners, and brushes. They discovered wives don't like to share hair care tools. Hart's wife flat irons his beard.

"I primp a lot!" he said.

Outreach

The 6 o'clock Shadow Beard Team is a branch of Beard Team USA. As opportune, the men will attend beard competitions, to be judged on health, appearance, and appropriate style to face and personality. Hart took fourth out of 18 in partial beard natural at an April contest in Philadelphia. The members are also committed to raising money for charities. The events are decided upon through work and church connections. They are producing promotional material about the club and plan to be part of a First Friday in Greencastle.

For information on the group, visit their Facebook page Sixoclockshadow Beards or contact them by email at six_oclockshadow@yahoo.com