The longer the better. At least this November for a group of bearded Yale men — and their groupies.
The November Beard Club (NBC) is a group of Yalies who came together this month to celebrate facial hair by educating themselves on beard growth and conditioning. Members said they also revel in male solidarity and drink beer.
“Everyone’s always looking for a reason to get together, hang out, sit around and laugh,” said David Gimbel ’03, co-head of NBC. “It’s another avenue to get together with friends and make new ones.”
That is the real essence of the NBC.
“The only club that requires less dedication to be in it than out of it,” the November Beard Club has been a part of Yale for many years.
What was once an underground group at Yale, consisting of only a few members, the NBC has come out of the woodwork this year with more lumberjack faces than ever before. Beginning with a poster campaign, e-mail recruitment and continuing with weekly meetings through November, the NBC has made its mark on Yale this month.
“Well, we’ve had bearded people at Yale since the school began, but the scholars are still out on whether they were part of any club like this,” Gimbel said.
Ross Eaton ’03, co-head of NBC, has a theory about the group’s growth.
“We decided to go mainstream this year,” he said. “You get to your junior year, and you start to wonder what kind of legacy you’ll leave behind. Mine is the NBC.”
The core group of this year’s bearded gentlemen consists of about 30 members, but there are countless other members on the fringe. And, despite rumors that NBC is a “men-only” organization; female members are welcomed and even encouraged to participate in the rituals and festivities.
“But, we do not endorse female beard growth,” Gimbel said.
As the original e-mail invitation to the 2001 NBC kick-off event read, “Any gentlemen interested in beard growth should attend, as well as any gentlewomen interested in men who are interested in beard growth.”
In fact, the beard club is open to just about everyone.
“There’s a misconception that you have to have a full beard,” said Aaron Goldhamer ’03. “But sideburns below the ears, moustaches, and goatees are fine.”
Adam Rein ’03, a proud owner of what are approaching mutton-chop-length sideburns, is proof of the club’s flexible facial hair requirement.
But, Gimbel and Eaton had bigger goals in mind at the club’s inception.
“When the students of Harvard arrive next week,” read an e-mail progress report prior to The Game, “they will undoubtedly be both mystified and intimidated by our unbridled show of testosterone. Their desire to hide their bald faces in shame will directly conflict with their urge to stare at our beards.”
While no organized Yale-Harvard beard match transpired, numerous Harvard men were “very interested” in the club, and the formation of a brother chapter of the NBC in Cambridge may be in the works for November 2002.
But here at Yale, Goldhamer said, the weekly meetings of the November Beard Club resemble “Quaker” meetings.
“You speak when the spirit moves you,” he explained. “Of course we have announcements, news of the week, discussion of beard-related issues, sightings of famous people with beards, member testimonies, and education on different types of facial hair growth.
“Oh, and we drink a keg,” he added.
Membership in the NBC has fluctuated throughout the month, with some dedicated members being unable to attend the weekly meetings, and with others, to the dismay of the leadership, dropping out of the club altogether.
“The guys who shaved halfway through November are traitors, mama’s boys, un-American,” said Goldhamer.
“Most of the traitors shave for women,” Eaton said .
David Babbitt ’03 adds to this theory.
“I think the stigma results from women’s envy of testosterone,” he said.
But even with that stigma of the furry face, many members feel they have not experienced beard discrimination.
“My girlfriend said I look like the Gladiator,” member Brandon McKay ’03 said.
Member Rusty Lane, ’03 agreed. “The women dig it.”
“My mom said, ‘My boy has now become a man,'” said Rein, who ironically has relatively little facial hair.
But the November Beard Club strives to stand for more than just drunken bearded revelry — there is the tradition.
“God, Moses, Abraham Lincoln, Wyclef Jean — pretty much everybody important in history had a beard,” Gimbel added. “We’re just following in their footsteps.”
As November draws to a close, the shaves will be even closer. Their final meeting, on Friday night, will celebrate the success of the NBC.
“It’s really a celebration of facial hair and a statement of male solidarity,” said Goldhamer.
“And a great reason,” Babbit added. “To get drunk on Friday nights.”
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