If you were at the Brass Rail a couple Wednesdays ago, you probably noticed the beard-to-man ratio was a smidge higher than it usually is at the local bar.
A handful of men – all sporting faces landscaped with the kind of zeal usually reserved for topiary gardens – lined the bar, sipping beer.
Side-by-side, they looked like a group of turn-of-the-last-century farmers, in town to sell some of that black market raw milk everyone is raving about.
In fact, the group is part of the Beard and Mustache Society of Fort Wayne, a philanthropic group created in March by a collection of local artists, musicians and Brass Rail patrons.
In attendance was Ben Carr, brandishing a chest-length dark brown beard. Next to him, Adam Murphy displayed a set of chops that could feed the Duggars for a week. Also there, Felix Moxter, looking dapper behind a furry, ginger beard, and Jimmy Martin, whose overflowing mustache could kick the Hawaiian shirt out from under Magnum P.I.s stach any day.
New business, Moxter announced, flipping through a notebook filled with ideas, dates and notes for future charitable events. And then another beer.
The handful of society members lifted their drinks in agreement, one or two of them holding beers wrapped in coozies emblazoned with the groups name and tagline: Im not telling you its going to be easy. Im telling you its going to be worth it.
The group, which combines socializing with charity work, is one of many facial hair-focused philanthropic clubs in the United States. In New Jersey, theyre known as The Garden State Beard and Mustache Society. In Dayton, they are the Gem City Gentlemen of the Gilded Beard.
For a time, Martin, who also tends bar at the Brass Rail, was a member of the Holy City Beard and Mustache Society in Charleston, S.C., where he lived while attending culinary school. The experience was too good not to bring home with him, he says.
Its a great idea, Martin says. You meet, you talk about what youre doing as a group to help the community, and then you start drinking. And I think all of us in this group have the desire to do something more – be a part of something bigger than ourselves, so everything kind of fell into place.
Recently, the society raised 100 pounds of food for the Community Harvest Food Bank by way of a concert featuring Swamp Cabbage, a rootsy blues outfit from Savannah, Ga.
Currently, plans are being made for an ALS Walk team, an outdoor block party/art show and the Santa Rampage, where members will dress like Santa Claus and tour local bars, gathering money for Toys for Tots.
Although the group is defined by beards and mustaches, there are a handful of female members, too, known jokingly as the Whisker Sisters, a nickname coined by Martins wife (and fellow member), Zoe.
Among them are Kendra Johnson of the band TIMBER!!!, Kirsten Hamrick and Rhonda Moxter.
Actually, I was a little confused when I got the invitation to join the group, Johnson says. Are you trying to tell me something, here? Do I need to shave?
But its so nice to be a part of this. Now people laugh when I say Im going to a beardy-stache meeting.
Although the organization is rooted in the local art and original music scenes, membership is open to anyone.
Its just that having a reputation as a club founded at a downtown bar where tattoos are more common than pearls adds to its allure, Moxter says.
That is part of the excitement, Moxter says. Were ruffling the feathers of society in a way. But actually, were just a group of people from completely different backgrounds who want to combine socializing with helping the community at large. We all have pride in our city. Were all unified in our desire to help.
We just prefer doing it after a pint and a good meal, Johnson says. Beard and mustache optional.
To contact the Beard and Mustache Society of Fort Wayne, search for Fort Wayne Beard and Mustache on Facebook.