Don’t try to keep it low with these guys, they just never go unnoticed! Los Angeles, Johannesburg, Frankfurt, Sydney, Moscow, Puerto Rico, Okinawa, Rio… the Bearded Villains meet about everywhere on the planet. Sure, they do partake in grooming tips, but there’s more to their club, as they share a strong core of human values. Travelling worldwide alongside them revealed their three ever-growing traits: their beards, their hearts and their gang.
The Masked Squad
The club started in 2014 in Los Angeles, when longstanding facial hair aficionado Frederick von Knox decided to showcase bearded men with character. Their mission statement reads: “To unite Bearded Men of all cultures, races, creed and sexuality in a Brotherhood devoted to Loyalty, Honor and Respect toward all people, Dedicated to the betterment of mankind through fraternity, charity and kindness.”
Their logo, a classic masked cartoon villain with a beard, sets the tone for their fraternity. As everyday superheroes, the Bearded Villains dedicate a lot of their time to charity, ranging from the rebuilding of a school (BV Puerto Rico), to running a fundraising marathon for underprivileged children (BV UK), supporting ill children (BV Miami), distributing personal care products to homeless Parisians, and collecting clothes to raise money for cancer patients (BV South Africa).
The community has expanded to around 2,500 members worldwide in more than 80 chapters. Sylvain Lignac, 30, is a security agent in the north of France. He discovered the Bearded Villains on the internet: “I appreciated the camaraderie, the values and the idea that we’re stronger together.”
Then there’s 37-year-old Hubri Bruyn, who is the captain of the South Africa chapter. He sees a direct connection between a man with a beard and the generosity hiding under it: “I would say that bearded men are loyal, kind and patient. It does take patience, dedication and loyalty towards your goals to grow a beard and take care of it, and that can be attributed to personality traits.”
OK, so having a beard defines a part of your life, but according to the villains themselves, it’s also a great conversation starter. An invisible human bond connects beardsmen who nod and smile at each other on the street, recognizing the brotherhood that lies within the phenomenon. After a global meeting in Europe in 2016, their sense of community culminated in the International Bearded Villains bad ass bash in Las Vegas, with over 200 gents – sometimes travelling thousands of kilometers for the occasion – participating in epic contests and raffles.
If the way the movement has snowballed internationally is spectacular, earning membership is no easy task. Andreas Fransson, a Swedish art director, explains the successive steps to becoming a Villain. First of all, aspiring villains must have an Instagram account and use tons of well-chosen hashtags (#beardedvillains #stayvillain #stayloyal #villainsalute #heartbeard #instabeard…). Then, as they keep posting creative beard pictures and showing support and love through good deeds, they should contact the members of their local chapter who seem to be on the lookout for expansion. With the right attitude, prospective members may be scouted and after approval of a score of Villains Counselors, they might receive a patch in their Instagram mailbox.
Fab, 42, is part of the selection board. He insists that “thoughtfulness in the membership recruitment is key to our success”. Hyperconnected Bearded Villains even have a private messaging platform where they chat charity projects plus grooming and styling tips on the last super comb and their favorite beard oil.
Coarse Beard, Soft Heart
Too often the villains are mistaken for bad boys, explains Sylvain Lignac. In Sweden, a meeting of beard enthusiasts triggered a police call about a possible Isis cell. The misunderstanding prompted a good laugh among the club, which preaches tolerance and open-mindedness. “Our movement and its charities are the best way to combat prejudice,” he continues.
Within the brotherhood, far from being a fad, the beard is a lifestyle. Hubri Bruyn says people notice him more since he has a beard, something he feels empowering. “For me, being bearded is a daily responsibility. I want to act as a gentleman, (…) and be an example for younger kids growing up in a world with so many misconceptions based on appearance.”
The Bearded Villains peculiar looks assert their identity and elicit curiosity while bringing more good into the world. Rockers, bikers, wise old men or hipsters, Bearded Villains are guys from all walks of life, but overall they’re kind-hearted ones who won’t allow homophobia, racism or sexism across the world. And Bearded Villains is not just about men: Villain Queens are also welcome!
Curious about the club? The next big Bearded Villains event is planned in Amsterdam on May 20, 2017 (www.beardsterdam.com).