By Anthony Brancaleone
“We know the most about the Egyptians, as they fastidiously recorded their habits on papyrus and in tombs. For them, removing body hair was essential as it was seen as base and bestial, but they nonetheless embraced the beard as a status symbol,” writes author Allen Peterkin in his 2001 release One Thousand Beards: A Cultural History of Facial Hair.
Millenia later and man is, perhaps, even more entangled in the follicular gamesmanship of what it means to truly be a man. Growing organically out of the Great Recession, from Hipster enclaves like Portland OR, Austin TX, and the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn NY, came a reprendre of period staches that challenged societal norms.
At first, with a more Bohemian appearance, men wore whiskered looks that spoke to their condition during those downtrodden times. However, these artfully relaxed styles soon burst forth in displays of raffish bristles that began to hint at the coming of a New Renaissance.
Suddenly, men were proud to be men again: Beardos tatted up, while Hipsters dug in, some coiffed in Man Buns, and demanded that their surroundings be recognized; to be locally sourced was as close to Godliness as one could get, outside of a Radiohead concert.
Instagram exported these New American styles and soon the world followed. The global Hipster was born, and every one did his best to [nonchalantly] convince the rest of us that He was the point of origin.
America replied with burley, urbex lumbermen, in all their vintage-plaid splendor, followed by the suited and booted downtown looks of today’s Urban Gentry.
It wasn’t long before the Corporations came calling; threatening to exploit and destroy the work of our era’s finest dandy’s.
It seemed all hope was lost.
Until … one Men’s grooming company sent its team of mustacheologists and beardisticians forth to traverse the country in search of The. Best. Facial. Hair.
Alas, native Detroiter, Jason Heien.
Behold! Wahl Grooming’s “Man of the Year”!
Name: Jason Christopher Heien.
Born: April 18, 1973
Rank: Persian Gulf War / Navy Veteran. Employed by GalaxE Solutions, as an Application Engineer.
File: I am married to a beautiful woman Rebekah, and am entirely proud in every way of my 15-year-old son Cole.
Place of Birth: Born in Detroit, and have lived in the greater Detroit area most of my life. In high school I was an exchange student to Denmark. I used to speak Danish fluently. I could have chosen to live anywhere, but I chose to come back to Detroit. I was stationed at Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Norfolk (on the USS Austin (LPD-4) now decommissioned). My wife and I have 2 dogs, one is a rescue and the other is an AKC English Bull Terrier.
AB: Easy, Sailor, I only requested your POB (Give a Squid a fathom and he’ll take a league).
“I moustache you a question, but I’ll shave it for later.”
AB: Describe how it feels to be Wahl’s Champion of Men
JH: It is an honor and incredibly humbling to have been chosen as Wahl’s Man of the Year.
AB: Are you able to walk us through your morning routine?
JH: The morning routine is much the same as everyone’s I would think. Out of the shower, I dry my hair and beard. I do my hair first, then mustache then beard. I think the time some people take shaving would equal the time I spend on my facial hair, and for special occasions, I would think most people pay extra attention and spend a little more time. I use a product I came up with for my stache, and use Paul Mitchell ESP in my beard for a nice hold.
AB: How does Detroit influence your facial hair and grooming, or is it your look that is influencing the city?
JH: I find Detroit increasingly inspiring. It could be a little of both. Detroit in general, seems to be a pretty accepting city, from blue-collar to white-collar. This has allowed me to express my creativity with my own personal sense of style. Likewise, it seems that almost everyday someone notices and asks me questions about my look, or my facial hair, and how I achieve it.
AB: Can you recommend products for other Beardos?
JH: First and foremost, Wahl trimmers and clippers. I have been using them for more than half my life. I have cut my hair since the 7th grade, and I gave many of my fellow shipmates haircuts with Wahl clippers for the 4 years I was on the USS Austin. I use several different brands of products to maintain and groom my beard, and I am using a product that I have developed and plan to market for mustaches. Often times it is a matter of trial and error to find the right products for you, so what might work for my beard, may not work some someone else’s.
AB: What are some of your facial hair influences and what was it about each of them that inspired you?
JH: Allesandro Manfredini – He is a model, who looks great and has a refined yet edgy style.
Santa – He is jolly and generous.
Shel Silverstein – He is a man of wise words (aka “My Beard”).
AB: Who are 3 of the top Beardos in the world today?
JH: It is tough to come with 3 names, since who am I to say who is at the top or better than any one else, since there are so many different types, styles, shapes, color, groomed and natural. Not to mention it is completely subjective and everyone likes what they like.
AB: Yet, you are the Bearded Man of the Year. How about Detroit men that may exemplify the proper look in facial hair
JH: Again, I am unsure how to define what the “proper” look in facial hair is but, I think Master Dorian, Filipè El Taco Gonzales of MCFHC,
AB: What can you tell us about them?
JH: Dorian owns a barbershop in Corktown, and is a giving guy. He volunteered to give free beard trims when Wahl came to Detroit in search of their Man of Year.
Filipe is a the founder of Murder City Facial Hair Crew. He and the crew throw an awesome Detroit competition in the name of charity every November. It’s called the Circus of Whiskers.
AB: In the 90s Women rode Harley’s. In the 00s Women decided it was time to enjoy cigars. Now, in the wake of Third Wave Feminism, do you see women rocking facial hair?
JH: Nothing is out of the realm of possibility, and my only suggestion would be to coordinate the look of their facial hair with their overall style. A well put together look is always the best!
AB. Talk to us about your dashing mustache.
JH: I have been growing it for several years and it came about after a Halloween costume. Handlebar mustaches are generally considered “old timey”, but what is often old is new again. Lately, I have been getting a lot of compliments from younger people, so not only is it a conversation starter, but it also helps to bridge the gap between generations. Being that it is longer, it gives me the opportunity to not always do the standard curly handlebar. I can style it straight and sometimes rectangular.
AB: You keep a hint of gray in your beard, chops, and sideburns. Help men to determine when the time is right for them to do the same.
JH: That is a personal choice, but since my wife is a stylist, I know how difficult it is to keep up with covering grey hair. Plus, I happen to like my grey hair and am impatiently waiting for the rest of my beard and mustache to turn grey.
AB: Jason Heien, you truly have a fabulous look. Just amazing. Are you self grooming or are you visiting the barber?
JH: Firstly, Thank you. Yes, for the most part I am self grooming, I continue to cut and style my hair, beard and mustache. I have always used Wahl clippers and trimmers. They last forever. Patience and starting long and gradually going shorter is the key to not screwing up your dome yourself.
Recently, however, I have had the pleasure and honor to receive haircuts from barbers at Real Barber in Ypsilanti and Detroit Barbers in Corktown.
“The barber learns to shave at the beards of fools.” ~Italian proverb
AB: Please, explain to men the importance of a signature look – grooming to clothes.
JH: In my opinion, a signature look not only sets you apart, but often attracts attention. People may say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but first impressions do make a difference.
AB: And, where do you and your signature look like to dine while in Detroit?
AB: Have a signature dish?
JH: We’re always on the hunt for carpaccio, and love to compare calamari where ever we go.
AB: Are you a drinking man?
We love craft cocktails, and always ask for the custom cocktail menu. It depends on my mood, what I am eating and time of year to determine what I am drinking. After touring a distillery in Bardstown, KY several years ago, I turned into a bourbon fan, but usually go for something lighter before dinner, whether it is gin, vodka, or rum. You can never go wrong with asking the bartender if they have a cocktail they have been working on, or have a recipe they are honing.
We frequent Bad Luck Bar, Grey Ghost, and Detroit Distillery.
AB: The City of Detroit reminds you of …
JH: Detroit reminds me of the stories that you still hear about the classic car that was in someone’s garage, forgotten, tarnished, and not running efficiently. Once in the right hands, it is restored back to its original beauty.
AB: Speaking of restoration, can you tell us a bit about preparation for the Best Beard in America competition?
JH: Honestly, I didn’t do much preparation. I already had the beard and stache. The one thing I made sure to do that day was to bring some extra money since the event was for charity.
AB: Already had the beard and stache … isn’t that lovely. Let’s talk beauty then. Are you able to break down your programme for physical conditioning?
JH: I try to eat a pretty healthy diet 80% of the time. I also workout 3 times throughout the week, and my wife and I enjoy working out together on the weekends.
AB: What is the darkest place on the web you have explored?
JH: I would have to say the dark web. Facebook seems to get kinda dark around election time.
AB: Yes, it does. Have you had the opportunity to ride the Qline?
JH: Being that I work downtown and park across the street from where I work, I haven’t been on the QLine, but I love that it connects Midtown to Downtown. It helps the city so much.
AB: How do others respond to you now that you officially have the Best Beard in America? Are you getting more “attention” in the romance department?
JH: My wife is my biggest cheerleader and supports everything I do. I am also humbled by the love and support that my friends and family have shown to me.
AB: In today’s America, there seems to be a good deal of complaining; some of it justified, some of it not. People seem to enjoy martyrdom. There is also a good possibility that we are experiencing a Cold Civil War…
JH: Complaining is like rocking in a rocking chair to get to Florida. You can do it all day, but you are going nowhere. It is ok to identify an area that needs improvement, AND come up with a possible solution. This brings movement forward.
AB: If you were running for Supreme Ruler, what 10 items would be in your platform to make the world a better place and who would you choose as your running mate?
JH: I would choose my wife as my running mate. She is the most positive, intelligent, thoughtful, generous, and inspirational person I have ever met.
AB: (Reaches for tissue to dry eyes)
JH: 10 Items:
- Instilling self-esteem in our youth. Without it they lack self-confidence and without self-confidence, you are not strong enough to take risks.
- Removal of greed. There is a lot to be said about this, but it all boils down to being greedy never got anyone anywhere.
- Give and give often. Giving to charity is always a good idea. Money is good, but time and knowledge are the most valued things you can give.
- Being humble. You should always be willing to admit your mistakes, and learning from them.
- Respect others and yourself.
- You are your words… and actions
- Work hard, play hard. In that order.
- Pay attention to detail. I learned this in boot camp but it can apply to anything.
- Take nothing for granted. Appreciate and be grateful for all that you have while you have it. Nothing is guaranteed.