Wisconsin man is a winner by a hair

Jason Kiley with his wife Ashley and his champion beard, via Facebook

Given the weather conditions, this is a good time to be Jason Kiley, of Viroqua, Wis., introduced to us today by the La Crosse Tribune, which pays tribute to him because he’s a champion beard grower.

“It gets in the way of just about everything,” Kiley tells the paper. “Imagine something two feet long hanging down your face.”

It sounds positively warm.

It’s so long, he’s zipped it into his jacket a few times, tied it into his shoelaces by mistake, and there’s that food thing.

“You have to relearn to eat basically everything,” Kiley says. “In the beginning you’re doing a lot of chewing on your mustache no matter what you’re eating.”

He attends eight to 10 beard competitions a year, something he got into on a lark when he was feeling a little burned out being a sculptor and craftsman.

He earned Best of Show in the 2017 Beard and Moustache Championship in Texas, the Tribune says.

Kiley’s wife, Ashley, has no qualms about his beard, and the pair have “a spoken agreement that I have no say in what style or haircut she has. She can do what she pleases.” His daughter, Etta, 8, has only seen her dad with a full face of whiskers, and calls his competitive looks “funny beards,” offering her own design suggestions.

Etta has even entered contests herself — albeit not with real facial hair, but faux. Kiley took a 4-year-old Etta to the craft store and let her go wild. Coming up with a zebra headpiece with a beard of pink ribbons and jewels, little Etta won best in show. The proud youngster likes to remind her dad he’s not the only Best in Show winner in the house.

Etta and Ashley accompany Kiley to a few of the 10 or so competitions he attends annually, though Ashley opts out of the Whiskerinas contests, in which women can enter in “natural” (realistic appearing) or “fantastic” (outlandish and with an accompanying costume) categories, fashioning their beards out of materials of their choosing.

Of all the beards he’s seen, Kiley says he was most impressed by friend Rachel Iammarino’s “Teen Wolf” rendition at the 2017 World Beard and Moustache Championships, which included head-to-toe fur, sumptuous mahogany beard and basketball uniform.

There’s no payday. The competitions raise money for charity. The beareded competitors win bragging rights.