Last November, Jose Trochez noticed he was going bald. He was only 25. Because it was no-shave November, he decided to shave his head clean and let his facial hair grow. Within weeks, a thick, curly black beard sprouted from his chin. He preferred the new look but noticed others stared at him differently. Some loved ones made snide comments.
“A lot of people would say, ‘You look like a bum’ and ‘Do you have a job?’” Trochez recalls. “Then there were those typical jerks who would say, ‘What’s up, Taliban?’ or ‘What’s up, ISIS?’”
Beards have been hipster-certified for years, but Trochez quickly realized they still carry a stigma in society at large. In fact, he learned, a nascent movement had already begun to try to recast bushy facial hair as the mark of do-gooders.
The campaign was launched last year in Los Angeles by a man named Frederick von Knox, who organized a group of bearded men to give back to the community. They called themselves Bearded Villains. Other chapters soon popped up, as far away as the Netherlands and Australia.
Trochez and four others started a Miami chapter eight months ago. They meet at least once a month and plan projects. Their first mission was raising money for a little boy named Matthew, who was diagnosed with leukemia. Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the men raised $5,000 so Matthew could go on a Disney cruise.
“Our main objective is to be as involved with our community as we possibly can by extending our hands and help with any local project we can do,” Trochez says. “Hopefully, that will get people away from that stigma of men with beards.”
Since April, the men have also spent their weekends hammering away at Habitat for Humanity events and running in a 5K for breast cancer. The group has swelled to 20 members and is looking to recruit more. “We have all shapes and sizes in our group,” Trochez says. “One guy has more of a chin strap, but we let everyone in.”
Trochez says the group started as a way to meet other men with beards. And they do discuss trims and treatment. One member, Ray Atesiano, has even concocted his own formula of beard oil that he hopes to begin selling in January. “Every beard is different, and there are all types of hair,” Atesiano says. “I started mixing my own ingredients to find the right balance, and some of the guys tested it out and like it too.”
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Trochez says the group has evolved and they’re now a close-knit brotherhood. Most go out for drinks and chuckle at some of the looks they attract at bars. Even though they’ve noticed an uptick in bearded men in Miami in recent years, Trochez says it’s not uncommon for them to be confused for a motorcycle gang. “Guys will come up to us and be like, ‘What bike you got?’ and we’ll just laugh,” Trochez says.
They’re looking to recruit more members to gear up for their latest project: Beards for Beards. The men plan to hit the streets to help homeless men with beards. They’ll give them a groom and a shave while also handing out packages with shirts, pants, underwear, socks, gift cards to Publix or McDonald’s, shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, and toothpaste. They’ve raised $1,500 so far.
“My beard is my identity,” Trochez says, “and I think everyone should grow theirs out once just to try it.”