PLOVER, Wis. — The average mustachioed man touches his mustache 760 times every 24 hours. But Andy Longtine is no normal man, and his cookie-duster is anything but average.
As he sits at the kitchen table in his Plover home next to his girlfriend, Rachael Griffiths, discussing the attention his handlebar mustache attracts pretty much everywhere he goes, it seems he’s drawn to it as much as other people are.
He twirls the ends. He strokes the section immediately under his nose. He smooths the wings that taper to the diligently coiffed and curlicued ends that stretch more than 15 inches from tip to tip.
For the next hour, as the enterprise analyst for Travel Guard insurance discusses his facial-hair aspirations and the stares his ’stache draws on travels from Texas to New York, Longtine continuously twiddles and twirls and treats the hairs as if they are they are the most important thing in his life.
Which is appropriate. Longtine, 36, is preparing to compete Nov. 2 in the 2013 World Beard and Mustache Championships in Leinfelden-Echterdingen, Germany, which means his facial hair could soon be declared the best on the planet, Gannett Wisconsin Media reported.
I’ve always wanted to be the world’s best at something, and it turns out that facial hair is something that I am really good at,” Longtine said with a laugh.
Longtine never set out to be a competitive mustache-grower. It began as a little bit of fun between friends.
Longtine takes a fishing trip, what he calls “going to fishing camp,” with a group of his friends every year to one Wisconsin lake or another. Three years ago, the group traveled to the Chippewa Flowage near Hayward and all grew mustaches to commemorate the trip.
Chris Manthey, one of Longtine’s co-workers at Travel Guard and a friend of about eight years, said the fishing buddies had varying degrees of success with their first attempts at facial hair. But Longtine seemed to be a natural.
“He came in with this biker-esque fu manchu, and about halfway through the trip, he decided to go with what you see today, only now it’s bigger,” Manthey said.
The fishing trip ended, but when Longtine returned home, he decided the mustache was “sweet” and kept cultivating it. In 2012, Longtine heard about the Oshkosh Mustache Bash, an annual charity event where about 100 mustache enthusiasts compete amongst each other for top billing.
Longtine threw his mustache into the ring, so to speak. He showed up on the day of the event, registered as a walk-on competitor and won, earning Most Valuable Mustache honors. Longtine successfully defended his crown at this year’s Mustache Bash, and now has his eyes on a bigger prize.
When Longtine first mentioned competing in the world championships, Manthey thought it was a little crazy and figured Longtine would never follow through with it. That all changed when Longtine claimed his first victory in Oshkosh.
“To be honest with you, when he came back with that trophy, I knew there was going to be no stopping him,” Manthey said. “He had gotten a taste of it, and was just going to keep going.”
Longtine said he gets a lot of support for his mustache at home. He said his 4-year-old daughter Sadie enjoys pulling it up and down at the corners; Griffiths is fully behind the idea of competing on the world stage.
“When he told me he wanted to start growing it out I thought it was awesome,” Griffiths said. “It’s weird; we’ve had couples come up to us, and the woman will tell me that she likes the mustache but would never let their boyfriend or husband do it. I don’t know why. I think it looks great.”
He already had been looking into bigger competitions about a year and a half ago, and had connected with Beard Team USA, which organizes the annual National Beard and Mustache Championships and represents the United States in international competitions.
Longtine opted not to travel to the national championships in New Orleans in September, instead saving up for an extended trip to Germany with Griffiths before the world championships.
Longtine will take part in the natural mustache category, one of six different categories at the event. Mustaches must be left as they grow naturally, and competitors may not use wax, hairspray, hair lacquer, styling mousse or hair gel to maintain their mustaches.
PHOTO: Andy Longtine of Plover, Wis., grooms his moustache into a handle bar moustache on Oct. 10, 2013. Longtine is preparing to compete Nov. 2 in the 2013 World Beard and Mustache Championships in Leinfelden-Echterdingen, Germany, which means his facial hair could soon be declared the best on the planet. (AP Photo/The Stevens Point Journal, Casey Lake)