Shane Sheriff often grew a beard during the winter months and then shaved it all off come spring. But five years ago, he decided to toss his razors and let his hair keep growing, and growing.
Since then, Sheriff’s ginger beard has expanded into a thick, lustrous beard with plenty of length. Sheriff’s beard, in fact, now stretches past his belly button.
Sheriff, who lives in Dawsonville, has won several beard competitions, including taking first place in a “full beard natural” over 12 inch category at the 2016 Just for Men National Beard and Moustache Championships in Nashville. Competing in the World Beard and Moustache Championships in Austin, Texas, in September, he finished 13th in the full beard natural category (of beards over 45.1 centimeters long — that means beards that are at least nearly 18 inches long).
Keeping his mane of hair highly competitive requires a specific regimen: high-quality shampoos and conditioners (he currently uses Redken) and a beard butter and beard oil (he uses Mountain Man Beard Products). He has to be careful when eating to avoid food getting stuck in the follicles, and he typically drinks through a straw.
The impressive beard gets a lot of attention. He often gets requests for photos.
“And when I am in the car, if stuck in traffic, people wave to me and say, ‘I love the beard,’” he said.
Sheriff, 48, said all of the attention has helped him be more sociable.
“I used to be shy and I would never go out of my way to speak to anyone,” he said. “But now I have to because I have people come up to me. … And now I absolutely like it.”
His wife, Tracy, is also a big fan of the beard.
“I absolutely love it,” she said. “Once it got to be a good length and out of that awkward stage and it started getting that full look, and it is very soft with the product he uses, I just fell in love with it.”
She’s also enjoyed seeing how the follicles have transformed her husband’s demeanor.
“He is a big teddy bear and he has this nice personality. He used to be very quiet, but not anymore. He has really come out of his shell.”
Sheriff, a manager of an Airgas, a welding supply store, in Gainesville, and Tracy travel together for competitions, which they say have brought them closer.
Tracy has also joined in on the fun as a “Whiskerina,” a woman who makes beards for the competition. She usually enters the “realistic” beard category, using real auburn brown hair (which she gets from hair salons), and using an adhesive to attach the hair to her face. She has won one competition, and finished fifth in the world competition in Austin.
Daniel “DC” Cunningham, president of the Marble City Whisker Society, which has a robust Facebook page for sharing growing tips, photos and events, said Sheriff is successful at winning because he shows well to the judges as well as interacting with the crowd. Stage performance doesn’t technically help with your score, he said, but a competitor who plays to the crowd will typically do better than one who simply walks across the stage.
Cunningham, who judges beard competitions, said he looks at the color, width and fullness of the beard, and how the beard flows.
“Shane’s beard excels in all those elements,” Cunningham said in a Facebook message.
There are many competitions, as many as 50 across the country every year. Money raised typically goes to local charities, including organizations to feed the hungry and support veterans and cancer charities.
Sheriff said his beard continues to add length, and he hopes his long locks keep growing.
He noted the man who took first place in the world competition, “his beard was almost dragging the floor.”