Strangers used to gaze at Jason Heien’s colorful, eye-popping tattoos. Now, the Superior Township resident stands out for another reason: a full, thick beard framed by a handlebar mustache.
“Now people don’t look at my arms anymore — they look at my face,” the software engineer said. “I would have to say every single day, I get a compliment either on my beard or mustache.”
His facial follicles have earned the 44-year-old even more attention lately.
Wahl, the company that produces grooming products and other items, recently named him its Man of the Year.
Each year, the contest spotlights “real guys with a real passion for facial hair,” according to the website.
Participants could enter the competition through Facebook or, like Heien did, join a traveling event as part of Wahl’s Facial Hair Friendly Cities Tour, which featured a mobile barbershop offering free trims and grooming advice in hopes of finding “one guy with the best scruff.”
Heien, whose one-time Halloween costume as the Roman god of the sea Neptune inspired him to start growing his beard about a year earlier, was drawn to a trimming event at Detroit’s Campus Martius, not far from his workplace.
He eventually became one of 11 men who “made the cut” as finalists, Wahl representatives said in a statement Tuesday.
“Our goal in visiting the most facial hair friendly cities is to find real guys with a real passion for great facial hair, and to celebrate them,” said Steven Yde, division vice president for Wahl. “The Wahl Man of the Year Contest not only awards guys who consider facial hair integral to who they are, but it introduces us to guys who are proud to represent their cities — Jason is a prime example of this.”
Weeks ago ago, the father learned that the company had bestowed upo him the title of Man of the Year for his tidy whiskers. The honor comes with a $1,500 grand prize and a feature in a national advertisement.
The recognition shocked Heien, who has been trimming his hair with Wahl clippers since seventh grade.
Since the win, Heien has fielded interview requests and online admiration. Last month, after he first was named Wahl’s Man of Detroit, Gov. Rick Snyder hailed him a “tireless ambassador for the city” and “one of our Great Michiganders.”
Today, he’s still following his daily maintenance routine — styling paste and all — as well as pursuing plans for a product dubbed the “mustache perfecter.”
His advice to others hoping to grow out their bristles but not sure how to start: “You have to be strong enough to get past the weird stage where it’s all fuzzy and doesn’t look right.”