PORTLAND — The mustache – and the ‘Stache Pag, a growing annual event that celebrates it – is many things to many people: A cure for winter boredom, an excuse to raise funds for charity, a medium of self expression.
Now in its fifth year, the ‘Stache Pag is both tongue-in-cheek and fiercely competitive, and promises to be bigger than ever.
This year, the semi-underground pageant of fine (and not so fine) facial hair, to be held Friday, March 30, is moving to a new downtown venue at Port City Music Hall. Organizers have also put together the city’s first International Moustache Film Festival, which drew entries from Russia, Belgium, India, and across the United States.
During the pageant itself, up to 15 men will compete in each of four categories: the 1899 Maine Legislature, for handlebars and other classic styles; the Magnum P.I., for bold but grounded looks, the Uncle Rico, for men who wear a mustache regardless of spotty growth capacity, and the Thigh Tickler, for everything else.
Competitors are encouraged to come in costumes that befit “the character of their mustache,” as the event’s web page states.
“Some guys just show up in a Red Sox hat and a T-shirt and let their mustache do the talking, and some come in tights and capes,” event organizer Nick Callanan said.
A panel of judges chooses three finalists from each group, scoring the mustaches for their fullness, grooming, and definition of category. The ultimate winners are selected according to audience applause following a round of posing and posturing.
Callanan said a mustache can be more than a naturally occurring accessory. It can be a vessel of a man’s personality, the anchor that keeps his face and ego attached.
The pageant raises money for a variety of nonprofits, third-year entrant Jamin Badger noted.
This year’s beneficiaries are Northeast Historic Film, a Bucksport based archive of rare films relating to New England, the Portland arts promoter MENSK, and the cancer-research umbrella fundraiser Mystache Fights Cancer.
But for all the big, important work to be done – the diseases to cure, the stereotypes of mustache wearers as perverts to overcome – the ‘Stache Pag is at heart an event for those who don’t take themselves quite seriously.
“We just started this thing as an afterthought to make it through the winter,” Callanan said.
“We’re … about the pageantry and the showmanship,” said Badger, who last year came to the competition dressed as Rich Uncle Money Bags, of Monopoly fame.
Last year, Badger said he was confident he had won the corwd’s support after tossing handfuls of gold coins to the audience as only a carefree millionaire could. But during a musical chairs-style final event where contestants had to freeze in pose when the music stopped, Badger could tell that something had happened behind him when the crowd began shouting wildly.
Frozen in place, Badger couldn’t see what was going on for a moment.
“I turned around,” he said, to look at another finalist, “and I saw he had a mustache shaved onto his chest.”
The ‘Stache Pag begins at 9:30 p.m. on Friday at Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St. The International Moustache Film Festival, featuring 30 “mustache films” from around the world, will be screened Saturday at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Deering Grange Hall, 1408 Washington Ave.
Jamin Badger, an air traffic controller by day, is one of 60 mustached men who will compete in the ‘Stache Pag on Friday, March 30, at Port City Music Hall.