“I’ve always had beards,” says Ygnacio Cervio, “I guess it’s a rebellious thing. I encourage other men to grow one at least once in their lives to see how it looks. For me, it’s a way of life.”
Ygnacio’s beard’s current length is the result of four years’ growth. In 2013, he finished fifth in the natural beard with moustache category of the World Beard Championship, a journey that was filmed for short BBC documentary, Beard Chronicles, now on YouTube. Though born in Argentina, Ygnacio is a proud adopted Kiwi and represents New Zealand on the world stage. The following year, he assembled a team of New Zealand bearded blokes for the event, and is campaigning for the beard world cup to be held in Aotearoa in 2021.
Inspired by his experience on the world stage, Ygnacio, an independent film maker, founded the Fellowship of the Beard, through which he organises annual national beard competitions in NZ: “After Germany, I realised that no one was really doing it here, so I thought, ‘why not do something about it?'”
The first one, held at the King’s Arms, attracted nearly 40 competitors and more than 300 guests.
“I had no idea what would happen,” says Ygnacio, 38. “I would have been happy if just five guys turned up. There were live bands too, it was such a success.” Last year’s was even better, with 71 competitors joined by girls with fake face fur, attended by 550 guests. This year’s event, on 29 October, promises to be grander still, with world cup competitors flying in from Australia and the US. Money raised from the competitions is donated to a range of of kid, cancer, and mental health charities.
Past judges have included Movember champions, the city’s best barbers, and the creative director from vintage magazine, Glory Days. “It’s not just the length of a beard that is important,” says Ygnacio. “It’s the overall look — how well it is cared for, how tidy it is, how charismatic the guy behind it is. There is a very thin line between looking like a hobo and looking like a professional beard grower!”
Maybe it’s a guy thing, but I almost want to applaud Ygnacio’s magnificent mane. Though, when we meet, he laments that he’s having “a bad beard day”.
Growing aside, it takes real dedication to care for such a vast forest of facial hair. He washes it daily, avoiding shampoo, and opting only for natural soaps, oils and masks, occasionally having to also trim split ends. Eating certain foods in public such as soup and ice cream is a no-no. With every sip of coffee, he uses his spare hand to part his moustache.
Needless to say, it’s a lifestyle which draws a certain amount of attention.
“There are at least a couple of comments every day,” he says, “though 98% of them are definitely complimentary. But people often want to touch it, and that can be a bit annoying, especially for my girlfriend!”
Presumably, I ask, she’s a fan of the facial hair.
“Oh yes, I’ve always had a beard since she’s known me,” says Ygnacio, before adding rather wryly, “though it wasn’t quite this long when we met.”
Words and photo: Jamie Christian Desplaces