Zach Heagy: Baddest beard in the 'Burg?

Written by Muleskinner Staff

Heagy has been growing his beard since No-Shave November in 2011. (Photo by KEVIN LYON, for The Muleskinner)
Heagy has been growing his beard since No-Shave November in 2011. (Photo by KEVIN LYON, for The Muleskinner)

Story by KEVIN LYON, for The Muleskinner—
The beard is the first thing that you notice about Zach Heagy.
While his friends and family have gotten accustomed to it, he gets comparisons with ZZ Top and “Duck Dynasty” on a weekly basis on campus.
The beard is a major part of his life, whether he’s shampooing it in the shower or getting it out of his face on a windy day.
Somewhere between the homeless jokes,and the compliments is the story of Zach Heagy being different by deciding to stop using a razor.
Heagy has been growing his beard since Nov. 1, 2011, when he did No-Shave November and didn’t stop.
Heagy went to KC Lutheran, a small private high school in Kansas City that had a strict policy prohibiting facial hair.
When Heagy got out of high school, he was suddenly free to grow out his hair as much as he wanted.
He graduated in 2009, but he didn’t think about growing his beard beyond No-Shave November until 2011.
“I’m at the end of the month, and I didn’t see any reason to stop,” Heagy said with a shrug as he played “Bioshock Infinite” in his room. “It’s basically a contest for who’s the laziest, and it was me.”
Most men have patchy beards, unconnected mustaches or worse, but Zach has an almost Biblical look.
His beard is bristly and full, making him look like a cross between a mountain man and a classic rock bass guitarist.
With his glasses and long hair, Heagy even bears a passing resemblance to John Lennon.
Heagy isn’t bothered by his beard at all, and often forgets it’s there.
“I’ve had nightmares where someone cut a chunk out of it while I was asleep,” Heagy said. “I hate those. I’ve had this thing for so long I don’t want it to just disappear.”
The reactions he gets are almost always positive.
“People have done crazy things,” Heagy said. “My friends are pretty used to it, but when I go out it’s something I have to be aware of.”
Once while in Todd dining hall on the west side of campus, someone asked Heagy to mock his friend for having a smaller beard.
“He wanted me to go over, stroke my beard and go ‘That’s not that impressive,’” Heagy said with a laugh. “I didn’t do it, but things like that happen.”
His family adjusted quickly to the change, and his mother supports him in doing what he wants while he can.
“When he gets a job, he needs to trim it,” said Tamie Stockman-Heagy, Zach’s mother, during a phone interview. “But other than that it’s not really a problem.”
The appeal of the beard is something Heagy said he immediately noticed.
“You know, beards have had all these manly connotations for forever,” Heagy said.
Examples of both earnest and ironic beard fan sites and support groups abound on the Internet, and Heagy enjoys being a part of it. Beard loving is also an intensely male fan club.
Few of the people who come up and compliment him on his beard are women.
“It’s almost always guys who go, ‘Man, that’s awesome,’” Heagy said.
Heagy’s roommate, Michael Corwin, said women don’t dislike facial hair, but beards aren’t exactly the most comfortable things to be around.
“If they like it, they usually like the stubble,” Corwin said, stroking his chin for effect. “Not a lot of girls go for the real deal.”
Heagy is used to his beard, but he imagines that it is not exactly comfortable to be around.
“When I’m not wearing a shirt, I realize it’s down there scratching my chest,” Heagy said. “I wouldn’t enjoy that if I was a woman.”
The first impression most people get of Heagy’s beard is memorable.
“The first time I saw it, I just went, ‘Wow, that’s huge,’” Corwin said in their room. “It was the first thing I noticed, definitely.”
Every one of his friends had a similar reaction – somewhere between a laugh and open awe.
“There was a length where it inspired me to grow my own beard,” said Matt Davis, who lives in Heagy’s building, said. “It’s pretty crazy.”
The problems with the beard are the same as with long hair. Heagy has to make sure to take care of split ends, shampoo it thoroughly and make sure not to leave hairs around his room.
“I shed like crazy, mostly because I’m constantly just stroking it,” Heagy said.
He said he is usually absentmindedly playing with his beard and mustache, so much so that his mother made him stop doing it when he goes to church.
He had a phase in the fall where he would wind up his mustache like a Bond villain or a pirate.
“I don’t even notice that I do it, but I guess I do it all the time,” Heagy said.
There are also less flattering stereotypes that Heagy deals with. The word homeless gets used around him frequently.
“My beard probably comes up 50 percent of the time I talk to anyone, but I don’t really let it get to me,” Heagy said with a laugh.
Heagy graduates next semester, and he plans to significantly trim his beard while he looks for internships this summer.
He said he hasn’t really thought much about cutting his beard, but he knows he will have to do it.
“I thought with computer programming, the beard would be a plus,” Heagy said. “But yeah, I’m gonna have to change it sometime.”