I suppose there is nothing that can be done in this world that can't be turned into a contest: Whatever the product or practice, there will always be a first, a biggest or, subject to judges' ruling, a best. "Whisker Wars," which begins Friday on IFC, is a "docu-comedy" — to use the provided description — about the world of competitive beard-growing, or bearding.
The main players are Jack Passion, two-time Natural Full Beard world champion and author of "The Facial Hair Handbook"; his coach, mentor and tireless partisan Phil Olsen, self-described as "the founder and self-appointed captain of Beard Team USA," a federation of beard-growing societies; Aarne Bielefeldt, a rangy, gray-haired Scandinavian living off the grid in Northern California, where he looks after the forest and plays the harpsichord; Myk O'Connor, a likable young Brooklynite who wants to establish New York "as a major stop on the beard circuit"; and various members of Texas' Austin Facial Hair Club, who are generally set against Passion and Olsen, whom they see as too interested in personal gain and glory, and who regard their own Bryan Nelson as the man to beat Passion.
Schooled in the European tradition, Passion, whose beard is "renowned for color and density," does indeed seem a little full of himself: "My name is Jack Passion, world beard champion, not Jack Passion, awesome guy with a beard," he says, and he stands apart from his fellow beardsmen (that's the word), a lone wolf isolated by his own ambition and the disdain of the competition. Where he casts himself as the Muhammad Ali of facial hair -- "I talk a lot of trash and rhyme a lot" -- Bielefeldt, who is cast as the natural man to Passion's sophisticate, says of his own facial hair, "There's nothing much to say. It grows. Let it grow."