Bearded dudes are as common in Brooklyn as out-of-work actors in Los Angeles. And on December 3rd, they’ll have a chance to prove that their beard is truly the best, at the second annual NYC Beard and Mustache Contest being held at Club Europa. “It’s not often that you get so many beards, whiskers, goatees, ‘staches, and fake beards into a room and get them drunk,” says Kristina Weise, a beard competition enthusiast and one of the co-founders of the Build-a-Beard website. But lovers of unshaven men no longer need to get their fix just in New York boroughs. Beard-growing contests have gone global, popping up everywhere from Charlotte, North Carolina to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to Trondheim, Norway (the host city for last May’s World Beard and Moustache Championships). Jack Passion, a two-time Natural Full Beard world champion and author of The Facial Hair Handbook, has noticed a huge increase in hirsute competitors recently, but he doesn’t believe it indicates a surge in the sports’ popularity. “I think there are just more bearded guys,” he says. Phil Olsen, the founder and captain of Beard Team USA, agrees with his star athlete. “Fewer and fewer men want to look like women,” he says. And what advice does Olsen have for the beard-growing superstars of tomorrow? “The trick to growing a great beard,” he says, with Yoda-like solemnity, “is to do nothing.”

(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in the November 11th, 2011 issue of the New York Times Magazine.)