The Big Beard Theory: Brothers Prepare for Minnesota Beard-Off
Don and Doug Bratland are preparing for the competition of their life—the Minnesota Beard-off.
Sometimes, you just need to step back and appreciate the bearded folk.
Making their long-awaited debuts are two well-known bearded men of Northfield—Doug and Don Bratland, rockin’ (they’re in a band!) twins who sport ferocious facial hair that many men could only fantasize about growing.
After missing out the last two years—Don was out of town and Doug didn’t want to compete alone—the two will make the 45-mile trek to put their beards up against the best in Minnesota.
"The whole idea of competing is hilarious," Don said. "Normally, we don’t like to draw attention to the fact that we’re freaks—the twin thing, we’ve made peace with it, (but) it's an appropriate place to poke fun at ourselves."
Aside from being twins in a city of 20,000 people, they say it's not hard for people to notice them because of their loud, red beards, which, at 47 years old (Don is older by a few minutes), are now fending off sprouting white hairs.
But competing with their beards, even for fun, seemed like the natural move for the twins.
“You’ve got to take it seriously to some extent," Doug said. "But in the big picture, no one is taking it seriously.”
The competition is split into four categories: full beard, partial beard, moustache, and freestyle, which, according to the Beard-off organizers, includes “false beards, drawn-on beards, a beard of bees, fake lady beards, you name it.”
At nine months plus worth of growth for the Brothers Bratland, the two have registered for the full beard category, though it was with hesitation.
“I don’t like the idea of competing against my brother,” Doug said. “We’re probably at a disadvantage.”
He said they considered entering the freestyle category as a twin offering and may still consider a last-minute switch if organizers allow it.
“If you think of it as one beard … we’re in,” Don said.
The idea, Doug said, revolves around the brothers presenting themselves as conjoined twins connected by, you guessed it, their beards.
Metaphorically speaking, it’s a connection that rings true.
The last time Doug was clean-shaven, it was 12 days before his wedding in 1995. After taking razor to skin, he looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the man looking back at him.
In a moment of panic, he called his partner in beardedness and asked how quickly the growth would return.
“You need 10 days,” Don confidently replied.
As it turned out, the real Doug Bratland made it to his wedding.
“I had become a bearded guy unbeknownst to myself,” said Doug, who considered himself a “seasonal” beard wearer before then.
And so began the unofficial journey to Saturday’s Beard-Off.
Now 17 years later, the Brothers Bratland are ready for their first soiree into competitive bearding.
Aside from simply growing the beard—no special diet or exercise necessary—Doug said an occasional conditioning session is good, but when the beard is too freshly washed or conditioned, it gets too bushy.
And if all goes well on Saturday—or if the two at least have fun—it won’t be their last time competing, the brothers said.
Though Don said he might consider another category, because another year of a long beard "wouldn't be fair to my wife."
But in the end, it’s about not taking life too seriously, appreciating good facial hair and making friends along the way.
“It’s a brotherhood," Don said. "It’s like guys riding motorcycles. They nod at each other. Beard guys do it too.”
FOR MORE BEARDED FUN
Check out Doug's beard blog
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