Benjamin Taylor, a 34-year-old Glenwood resident, recently made a bet with his wife, and on the line was his fancy mustache’s existence.
The bet? If Taylor can finish in the top three of the Wahl Clipper Corp. “Most Talented Beard in America” competition the handlebar mustache stays for another year. Lose, and Dahlia Levine, Taylor’s wife of one year gets to shave it off.
“I miss my husband’s face,” Levine said. “I don’t love the long mustache, but I love him anyway.”
“We tease each other back and forth about my facial hair,” Taylor said. “Sometimes she jokes about shaving it off, so we made this bet.”
Taylor was one of 10 finalists for the annual national facial hair competition, and Wahl, based in Sterling, Illinois, announced Tuesday that Taylor finished second and won $10,000. While Levine, 30, would have loved to shave off her husband’s twirly mustache, she still rooted for him, especially because of what he plans to do with the money.
Taylor, who is deaf, will donate his winnings to WhyISign, an organization that gives resources to families with deaf children. The winner of the competition, which was open to a public vote, received $20,000, while the second- and third-place finishers won $10,000 and $5,000, respectively. Jonathan Brannan from Ocean Springs, Mississippi, finished in first, while Cliff Prowse from Little Rock, Arkansas, placed third.
“It’s a win-win for me,” said Levine, who is also deaf and works at the Maryland School for the Deaf, prior to the announcement of the winners. “If he wins the money, he can donate it. If he doesn’t, I’ll shave it off. I can’t lose in this.”
Taylor grew up deaf in a large hearing family with four siblings. Everyone in his family learned sign language, and Taylor credits them for helping him become a “strong deaf individual today.”
About 90% of deaf children have hearing parents, and 80% of those parents, Taylor said, can’t communicate with their children.
“I was lucky that my brothers and my sisters and my parents all learned sign [language],” Taylor said. “I was really able to thrive, so I want to give that money to [WhyISign] to make sure there are resources for parents who don’t know how to communicate with their kid. The barriers of language deprivation need to be addressed.”
All 10 finalists for the Wahl contest had to submit photos and video for voters to view and vote on. Taylor’s video featured him doing magic tricks, dancing and twirling a baton on fire.
Taylor’s handlebar mustache — too thin to resemble the one sported by the mascot of the game Monopoly, and too thick be mistaken for that of Cy Young Award-winning baseball pitcher Rollie Fingers — isn’t new for him, and neither is using it to compete in peculiar competitions. In 2014, Taylor finished second in the English division of the World Beard and Moustache Championships in Oregon.
A year after that, Taylor got a new job and had to shave his facial hair. After he started working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, he started growing out the mustache again and got it competition ready.
“I’m surprised I became a finalist,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d be in the top 10.”