Next time you’re walking down Philadelphia's South Street or swinging a club on the golf course in South Jersey you might see a world champion -- and you likely won't miss him.
How could you miss him with all that hair hanging off his face?
Earlier this month, Jeff Langum took home the title of best Full Beard Natural at the World Beard & Moustache Championships in Leinfelden-Echterdingen, Germany.
NBC10 caught up to Camden County, N.J. resident as he was out on the golf course after returning home from his victory.
(We know what you’re thinking: the avid golfer normally tucks his flowing facial hair into his shirt so that it doesn’t get in the way on the golf course.)
Three years ago, Langum never imagined being a world bearding champ.
“I had no idea I could grow a beard like this,” Langum said.
Inspired by the television show Whisker Wars, he began to grow out his goatee right around the time he was laid off from an old job. He then searched out fellow face fuzz enthusiasts.
“I did a Google search on Philadelphia and ‘bearding’ and I came to find the Philadelphia Beard and Mustache Club,” Langum said.
Langum, 39, went to the group’s next meeting -- they meet every third Sunday of the month at Tattooed Moms on South Street. He said the camaraderie and fun -- even at competitions -- kept him coming back.
“It’s more about hanging out and drinking beer and having a good time than the competition itself.”
Quickly he got more serious and, as his own boss doing web design from his Voorhees, N.J. home, he threw down the razor despite some discomfort at first.
“I just let it go,” Langum said.
He doesn’t dye -- his red facial hair is all natural. The only thing Langum uses on his championship beard is a product called Bluebeards Original -- a company that now sponsors Langum.
Of course the beard, though beloved by Langum, can cause a few problems. He says with a laugh that he and his wife often try to blame each other for clogging the shower drain. Despite that she remains his biggest fan.
He also says his kids love bearding. The beard itch even got his son Chris to compete in his first beard competition while attending college in Virginia.
Langum himself had his sites on a bigger prize. He went to Germany looking to build on his national natural beard championship.
Waiting were about 300 hirsute entrants from 20 different countries. Anyone is welcome to enter the world championship for a fee -- Langum said most competition registration fees range from $15 to $65 -- but that the Germans, who created bearding have certain rules in every category that they take pretty seriously.
There were no 5 o’clock shadows in Langum’s category that required an unaided beard. “This is it! The Marathon, the main event, the Real McCoy, the Superbowl,” read rules on the competition’s website. “No ‘tips pointed upward,’ nothing narrow and pointed, just who has the best beard! Length is important, but isn’t everything. Mass, density, shape, color, and overall impression all count.”
Langum sums it up his own way.
“You’re not allowed to have any kind of hair products or any oils during the competition. It’s gotta be all natural.”
Fresh off his national championship, Langum came in confident for the worlds -- he basically had two-years to prepare for the biennial competition -- but he didn’t know what to expect outside of a more serious tone at the worlds.
“Some of (the judges) are more about personality and your stage presence and in Germany it’s pretty much straight by the book -- all about the beard.”
He says his top-of-the-belly-length beard won for its fullness -- his specialty -- rather than length.
“Plenty of other people in Germany had way longer beards than me. One guy had one that he had to pick up off the floor -- he actually had to pick it up.”
Langum’s advice for anyone inspired to begin bearding is to Google their local club and go to a meeting.
“Once you’re into the club you will know where all the competitions are at.”
With his world championship in hand will Langum possibly move on to a new club?
“There’s been a few offers but I have to stick with Philadelphia, that’s where I got my start.”
He also said he doesn’t really have a secret to success outside of the right genes and some patience.
“Most people don’t know if they can grow a big, full beard because they never tried it.
“I always tell people ‘give it at least six months’ because you always go through that awkward stage where it’s all patchy and not coming in full and it’s itchy for the first three weeks or so -- most people give up and shave it off.”
Even If you make it past that point don’t expect to have a beard as epic as Langum’s or the other eight Americans who won trophies at worlds.
Langum and his teammates weren’t the only local to recently bring home facial hair hardware. A share of the Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year award wasrecently bestowed to Montgomery County, Pa., Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes by the American Mustache Institute.