How An Insane Beard Opens The Door To Life Experiences

insane beard Atreyu Porter McNight

Long, epic beards are the trend so growing a wooly mammoth on the face doesn’t look too out of place.  There are countless reasons to grow an insanely long beard — to hide a face, hide blemishes or just to hide. There many reasons why but one that’s incredibly unexpected — life opportunities. 

Porter McKnight, bassist for American metalcore band Atreyu, grew out his beard at the age of 15, almost fifteen years ago. As the band travels the world in support of their latest album, Long Live, Porter looks back at all of the opportunities his job and his beard have afforded him. 

I knew I was destined for beard-dom when one of my earliest memories is an image of my neighbor in Southern Alabama riding a lawnmower with his Gandalf- white beard flowing cheerfully in the breeze over his shoulder. I am 32 now and haven’t taken a razor to my face since my youthful pubescent scruff of 15. I’ve survived the Duck Dynasty heckling, the ZZ Top jokes, and the folk who assumed I was part of the now defunct (hopefully?) hipster shit beard trend. One of the most intriguing parts of having this massive gnome beard is how my face drapes are received around the world.

I’m currently writing this article in Edinburgh, Scotland and here all the tourists assume I’m a local and ask for directions/suggestions. Their face when I respond in my obvious American accent is priceless! Its even better when I provide them with the appropriate directions. Even at home in LA, I get many a “Shalom” in the Hasidic Jewish parts of town, only to hear me respond, “What’s up buddy?” and hop into my car on the Sabbath.

In 2013, I traveled to Ethiopia to shoot a film called “People of the Delta” (a fantastic narrative film of two southern Ethiopian tribes that’s coming out soon, check it!) and we had an overnight layover in Dubai so we decided to go for a wander. It’s ABSURDLY hot in summer (140F or 60C) so most buildings are connected by indoor air-conditioned escalation systems that are essentially just two-way human museums.  Seems I was the main attraction that day as EVERY SINGLE group that passed us donned open mouth stares of confusion in my direction.  Apparently in most cultures there , you can only have a beard of my length if you’re a holy man and here I am a day-walking Ginger clad in all black.

I doubt I’ll ever shave this free hair bib of a beard, even if it means my imminent jail time.

Back at our hotel in Dubai, we were hailed down by some curious beard observers and were bombarded by free whisky and friendly religious questions. After nearly missing my flight due to the drunken three  hours of sleep , we arrived in Addis Ababa, stayed the night, and headed down to the deep southern areas where we’d shoot the film. We stayed w ith two different tribes: one in a lush region near the river and one near the Kenyan border who have little to no greenery to survive. I was quite the spectacle at both destinations and my ghostly pale skin paired with this long Ginger beard received night and day responses.

The first group referred to me as something sounding like “Bonchinkachop,” which means “Cut your beard” and even with their disdain,a drunk man asked me to cut part of my beard so he could mush it into his own patchy face carpet. SO weird! The second sang the words “Ashorgoudo” that meant “Long Beard” and they were absolutely in love with my face pubes.

In the end, having a strong beard opens the door for weird shit to happen to you. Not only will every restaurant employee remember you, every baby want to grab your face like their lil’ short life depends on it, but it’ll keep you out of jail cause you could never rob/steal/assault anyone as you’re so identifiable.

I doubt I’ll ever shave this free hair bib of a beard, even if it means my imminent jail time.

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