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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: March 25, 2015

Celebrate the stache: 8th Annual Stache Pag Friday at State Theatre

Written by: Ray Routhier

You might think the only people who go to Stache Pag, Portland’s eight-year-old mustache pageant, are hipsters embracing the irony of wearing silly-looking facial hair as a way to be cool.

But that is not the case.

The focus of Stache Pag is a parade of mustachioed men in outrageous costumes sauntering down a catwalk, to music and lots of hooting and hollering. The event draws hundreds of people of both sexes looking for something different, weird and fun. That encompasses a pretty wide swath of Greater Portland’s residents.

Check out our gallery from last year: Stache Pag 2014 photos

How keen is your mustache memory? Guess who these historic mustaches belong to?

Stache Pag has grown so popular that this year the organizers have moved it from Port City Music Hall, with a capacity of about 530 people, to the 1,800-capacity State Theatre.

“Portland is just a great city where people love to be alternative, be a little different. Facial hair has become fashionable lately, but here in Maine we’ve always had beards and mustaches,” said Jesse Wall, a 33-year-old fitness trainer from Oxford who has competed twice at Stache Pag. “So really, Stache Pag is a celebration of culture in Maine, with hipsters joining in.”

Stache Pag began when Nick Callanan and some of his young professional friends were having a few drinks and thinking about out-of-the-ordinary diversions to help them through the long winter. Growing mustaches is what they came up with. Once they had grown the staches, they decided to have a little get-together to see what one was best, or biggest, or weirdest.

That meeting of the staches became Stache Pag. Callanan, who runs a video production company called No Umbrella Media, is still a prime organizer of the event. But today there are a host of local business sponsors as well.

In fact, Stache Pag is now just one several components of the week-long Facial Hair Fest. The event began on March 21 with the Bearded Brew Fest and the CANAM Beard and Mustache Competition. The latter is different than Stache Pag because it includes all facial hair and less theatrics. Then there was a mustache film festival scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday at Empire on Congress Sreet.

Friendly competitors Josh Cichowski of Augusta and Jeff Nichols of Hallowell. Photo by Amy Paradysz

Friendly competitors Josh Cichowski of Augusta and Jeff Nichols of Hallowell. Photo by Amy Paradysz

But Stache Pag itself, the event that started it all, will be on Friday. It’ll be equal parts variety show, beauty pageant, and theater.

The event starts at 7:30 p.m. with a variety show featuring magic, dance, comedy and music. There will be death-defying aerial acts from Portland’s Circus Conservatory of America.

Then at 9 p.m. the mustache competition begins. Most competitors come in character, ranging from a cowboy or a lumberjack to a body builder, skier or pirate. Anything where a mustache could be part of the costume.

Wall, for instance, went last year as a character called PowderStache, a man dressed in winter clothes and frozen from head to toe. His face was white, almost blue, and his thick mustache was covered with white powder.

The 40 or so competitors come on stage to be judged in four categories.

At least three finalists are chosen in each of the categories by way of crowd applause. A decibel meter is used so there’s no guess work.

The four categories, according to the official Stache Pag entry rules, are: Magnum P.I., named for Tom Selleck’s seminal stache on his ’70s TV show, a natural mustache with no styling allowed; 1899 Maine Legislature, a curled or styled mustache like the ones common circa 1899; The Castaway, a full beard; and The Thigh Tickler, freestyle facial hair where anything goes.

The finalists will be asked to complete the “Gentlemen’s Obstacle Course” and be rated by a panel of judges.

Last year’s obstacle course involved lifting an inflatable bar bell, hugging or dancing with a large stuffed duck, and posing a lot. All these things were done to music, and with great style.

Besides a winner in each category, judges will pick one “best in show” winner as well. Winners get a trophy and the honor being Stache Pag royalty.

Wall won the 1899 Maine Legislature category last year, but this year he’s trimmed his stache a little and is entering in the Magnum P.I. category. He’s going in character as wrestling superstar Hulk Hogan, whom he recently met.

“I told him I was going to go as him and defend his mustache, and he thought that was hilarious,” said Wall.

It certainly should be that.

Add another 40 or so people in character, defending all manner of mustaches with pride and panache, and you can see why Stache Pag is growing on people.

Fun facts about facial hair

1/2 – Of one inch is about how much facial hair the average man can grow in a month.
16 – The years it would take most men to collect one pound of beard hair clippings.
42 – Percent of men say they don’t let their facial hair grow.
70 – Percent of American women who say they prefer a clean-shaven man.
100 to 600 – Razor strokes, on average, are needed to shave a man’s face.
210 – The age of the world’s oldest existing barber shop, Truefitt and Hill, in London.
1680 – The year the first folding straight razor was introduced.
5,000 to 25,000 – Whiskers normally found on a man’s face.
3,300 – Hours a man will spend shaving during his life, on average.


WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
WHERE: State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $20 in advance; $30 on show day

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