Beard Wars

—Urban Beardsman

Dom Casuccio VS Ulysses S. Grant

Chad Roberts, president and founder of the RVA Beard League in Richmond, VA, sips a porter called Liberty or Death at Triple Crossing Brewery, impressively keeping his beard that falls, in a braid, to his navel away from the suds. He tells me why he chose Confederate General William “Little Billy” Mahone. “As I researched him I found that he had very distinct views that are very, very different than mine,” Roberts said of the general who earned a promotion to Major General for slaughtering African American troops at the Battle of the Crater. “He also had the longest beard.”

Shawn Morgan VS Stonewall Jackson

Roberts, hair pomaded into a crisp pompadour, chose Mahone as part of a new exhibit called Beard Wars at the Valentine Museum in Richmond. The exhibit, opening March 26 and running through November 30, styles RVA Beard League members to look like Union and Confederate generals. Beard League members were photographed by local Terry Brown. The photos are mounted side by side and accompanied by shaving accessories and other objects from the Valentine collection. Some other generals featured in the exhibit are: Ulysses S. Grant, Stonewall Jackson and, the general whose name lives on in sideburns everywhere, Ambrose E. Burnside.

Robere Del Follicle VS George Blake Cosby

Though the facial hair was groomed to match their Civil War counterparts, beard league members were dressed in contemporary clothing. Roberts said members were encouraged to wear their own “uniforms” and found the concept of the exhibit “a unique foil” to darker parts of Richmond’s past and role in the Civil War as the capital of the Confederacy. “I was trying my best to represent Richmond now,” he said.

Amy Roberts VS Ambrose Burnside

The exhibit is part of a city-wide commemoration of the 150-year anniversary of the end of the Civil War that kicks off in late March. The Valentine is the perfect place for such an exhibit because it tells the history of the city and its people through innovative special exhibits and an expansive permanent collection that rotates through the newly renovated museum on a regular basis. It’s also home to one of medicine’s quirky footnotes in Valentine’s Meat Juice.

Beardsmen will find no shortage of entertainment before or after catching the exhibit. Richmond, a welcoming locale to beards of all stripe and shape, is a growing city with 14 craft breweries – soon to be 15 with the addition of Stone Brewery’s only east coast facility – a vibrant arts scene, kayaking and mountain biking within city limits and some of the best contemporary southern comfort food in the country.

About the Author:

Greg Houser is a freelance writer living in Richmond, VA. Follow him on Instagram.


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