I mustache you a question: On average, how long does it take to grow, trim and style facial hair that garners not only regional, but also national and international recognition?

Neal Eckrich, of Dewitt, combed through the fine details of his mustache upkeep with Central Current staff. He’s proof that not all mustaches are created equal. 

Eckrich recently received another title: Third-place winner of the World Beard and Moustache Association Championship. 

This year’s competition was held in Burghausen, Germany, in June. Eckrich, representing the United States, placed third in the natural mustache category for what can only be described as a very impressive ‘stache.

The WBMA marked Eckrich’s third time participating in a world competition. His first competition was in his hometown of Austin, Texas, and the second was in Belgium — right before the onset of the pandemic. 

“My wife and I talked about it and decided it would be a fun excuse to travel,” Eckrich said. 

For more than a decade,  Eckrich has invested time, patience and countless products and trimming sessions to attain his distinct mustache, in which he takes great pride.

When he first started growing the mustache, Eckrich, Associate Dean of Administrative Affairs at Binghamton Clinical Campus, jokingly recounted the disproving comments he received about his new ‘do. Yet, he encouraged naysayers to “just give it a chance.”

“My daughter loves it. She only knows me with it, so I think it would really freak her out if it wasn’t there anymore,” Eckrich said. 

Neal Eckrich, of Fayetteville, demonstrates how he prepares his mustache. He recently won a prize in the World Beard and Mustache Association Championships. Photo by Michelle Gabel | Central Current

During the earlier years, he was unsure of how to style it and encountered myriad stages of trial and error. Over the course of 12 years of mustache growing, he often experimented, using different brands of wax and gels he purchased from local stores, to figure out his ideal look.

“I went through that for quite a few years, trying to figure that out, before I finally realized that just was not the path for me,” Eckrich said. “Then at some point, I decided to try out using a flat iron, and so I bought a little, tiny, thin flat iron, and I basically curl it. I wrap it around and it just curls up. Add oil to it, that’s basically what I did for quite a while.”

With his perseverance and determination to let it grow, Eckrich won the national title in the 2021 National Beard and Moustache Championships in Scranton, Pennsylania. 

While scrolling through his facebook feed, he discovered the posting for the WBMA competition. 

“I really haven’t thought about necessarily the reason why I entered the competition specifically, other than just for fun,” Eckrich said. 

Eckrich and his family used the opportunity as a chance to visit Europe, this time touring multiple countries including Austria, Croatia, Italy, Slovenia and finally stopping in Germany for the WBMA competition, all within a span of 10 days. 

“It was a whirlwind trip, but I definitely got to see a lot of things … all thanks to a mustache,” Eckrich said. 

For Eckrich, entering the competition was just a fun gig, but he doesn’t knock  people who take the experience a bit more seriously than he does. 

“I always tell people,  it’s similar to a dog show, you have a standard for the poodle, a standard for the husky … Same thing for this mustache competition. There’s a couple dozen categories; you’re just trying to meet your category, ” he said.

All of the proceeds raised from the WBMA championship go to local charities, and the competitors walk away with trophies, he said. 

Dressed in a white t-shirt and blue denim jeans, Eckrich demonstrated his daily process of achieving the intricately and neatly upward curled design of his facial hair, the signature style that everyone knows him by. 

Eckrich assures his mustache was not tailored for the WBMA competition.

“This is just my style, this is my everyday, going into the office, this is what you’ll see. See me in Wegmans, this is what you’ll find,” he said, smiling beneath the lustrous curls of his mustache.

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