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Extended interview with Jack Passion, star of Whisker Wars

Walnut Creek's best-known beard grower is the star of an upcoming documentary series


Photos courtesy of IFC

To the residents of the suburban East Bay, Jack Passion is “that guy with the beard.” The longtime Walnut Creek resident is about to make a national splash on Whisker Wars, a documentary series that follows Passion, 29, from the national beard growing championship in Bend, Oregon, to the world championship Trontheim, Norway.

Whenever I see you around Walnut Creek, I wonder what it’s like to wear that beard 24/7.
At this point I’m a fixture here in town, people should not stare, but they do. If I go into Nordstrom to buy a pair of jeans, everyone gawks, and it’s kind of intense. However, if you can keep the beard up in the Walnut Creek social climate, going to a facial hair competition is a piece of cake.

How far away from Walnut Creek has competitive bearding taken you?
I’ve won first place in competitions in Brighton, England and Anchorage, Alaska. I’ve comepeted in contests in the Alps, these small remote Austrian villages. You know what is funny though? The reigning national moustache champion lives in Concord. We must have something in the water here.

Will Whisker Wars be a straight documentary, or will it have a sense of humor about the beard-growing world?
It’s definitely funny. It’s a testament to IFC; their slogan is “always on, slightly off “which is the perfect way to describe beard competition. These bearded men are total divas. As for my part, I’m the Muhammad Ali of facial hair. I go into a tournament and dominate, and then there is this trail of jealous little boys who whine about losing to me. I’m both a villain and a hero, depending on who is watching.

Do you know what you would look like if you shaved off your beard?
I don’t. I’ve been growing it for eight years. When I started, I still had some baby fat. Who knows what face is waiting beneath this cocoon of facial hair? I would not shave it for anything, because this beard has brought so many great things into my life. My book, The Facial Hair Handbook, has sold really well. And I’ve been able to travel the world, which did not happen when I was a musician.

Whisker Wars premieres on August 5 at 11 p.m. on the IFC Channel. To watch clips go to ifc.com/whisker-wars/


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