They are the manliest of men. The most masculine of the macho. The most marvelous of males. They are “beardos,” and they are going to take over Atlantic City on Saturday, Nov. 22 when the Beard & Mustache Championship of The Universe arrives at the Golden Nugget.

Okay, so maybe having a beard doesn’t all by itself make you manly or masculine or marvelous, but these days it does seem to make you pretty cool. Beards are back in style, and they’re bigger than ever — in some cases, literally.

Jon Henderson of Good Time Tricycle Productions, who’s producing the event, says our opinion of facial hair has changed over the years. Through the second half of the 20th century, sporting a beard was the opposite of cool; aside from eccentrics like Orson Welles, beards were decidedly “out.” Not anymore. “If you look at the ‘alternative’ styles from a few years back,” Henderson points out, “they are normal now.”

He’s right. It used to be that only your weird eighth-grade science teacher rocked a distinctive beard; now, any man who knows what to do with his testosterone does. Like that wizard with the oldest beard in Middle Earth said: “The world is changing.” Suddenly, it’s not just okay to celebrate your facial hair, it’s the height of awesome. The Championship of The Universe is proof of that.

The event sprang out of an Asbury Park gala thrown by the Garden State Beard & Mustache Society. That group’s Garden State Beard and ‘Stache Competition is entering its fourth year, and Henderson was a big fan. So big, in fact, he asked his friend Matt Chrystal, president of the group, what he’d think about putting something together in Atlantic City.

The answer was, basically: “You should go for it.” Henderson did. And he decided to go big.

The hosts and judges are an assortment of the most weird, wild and fun names in alt-celebrity, including WWE star Gene Snitsky; adult film star Tera Patrick; Aarne Bielefeldt of IFC’s Whisker Wars; some crazy dude called Beardimus Maximus (best known from MTV’s Save The Beard); 2013’s World Beard Champion Jeff Langum (not to be confused with bearded indie-music god Jeff Mangum); and perhaps Moses, if he can get some time off.

As if beards weren’t manly enough, the event coincides with another happening at the Golden Nugget this weened: the Whiskey Revival festival, a grand tasting experience featuring craft and artisan whiskey, spirits and moonshine from some 30 distilleries including Bulleit Bourbon, Art in the Age Spirits and Midnight Moon. It’s enough to make Ron Swanson a little light-headed.

While whiskey and beards might sound like an intimidating black hole of testosterone, though, it turns out the event is far more general-audience-friendly than you’d think. For example, those all-star judges will be deciding on a dozen categories that include two categories for women (Fake Beard Most Creative and Fake Beard Most Realistic), categories for varied facial hair styles (Donegal, Chops, Freestyle Beard & others), and, of course, Worst in Show and Champion of the Universe. There will also be a world-class burlesque show by Peek-a-Boo Revue — and a pre-party Friday night at the Boneyard Grill, hosted by the beard-loving women of the Whiskerina All-Star Society.

Whether it comes naturally or through long years of waiting, it’s clear the bearded feel a strong sense of camaraderie. Eric Anderson, manager of operations at the all-things-beard website Beardfarmer.com, says he can’t imagine life without a mug full of facial hair. Part of that is the brotherhood that comes with having a face full of whiskers: “You can instantly connect with another bearded brother — it’s a face trophy,” Anderson says. “The thing about trophies is you like showing people and talking about them. I encourage all men to canvas their faces with their natural gifts.”

And you know what? The non-bearded need not feel left out in the cold. “Even if you’re not bearded and don’t have a mustache, you’re going to have a great time because you have great music, great whiskey, and these people are so likeable,” says event promoter Henderson. “By leaps and bounds, this is going to be the coolest thing happening in Atlantic City all week.”

Now, a lot of guys reading this will sympathize with the plight of those who can’t grow a beard. Don’t feel bad. “I was that guy,” Henderson admits. “Up until I was 30, I couldn’t grow a beard or mustache — then one day a mustache just appeared on my face. It was weird. The big thing is, you have to have patience.” n

BEARD & MUSTACHE CHAMPIONSHIP OF THE UNIVERSE

Saturday, Nov. 22. 8pm–1am. Golden Nugget, Huron & Brigantine Blvd., A.C. Hosted by Brian O’Halloran & Adam RealMan. $25 to attend, $35 to compete. Info & tickets: beardnj.com

pre-party:

Whiskerina All-Star Society Ball

Friday, Nov. 21. 7pm. Boneyard Bar & Grill,

20S S. Virginia Ave., A.C. Tickets: $5. Info: beardnj.com

WHISKEY REVIVAL

Nov. 21-22. Friday: 7–11pm. Saturday: 4–8pm. Golden Nugget, Huron & Brigantine Blvd.,

A.C. $59. Tickets: ticketmaster.com or 800.736.1420. More Info:

goldennugget.com/atlanticcity

The trend seems unstoppable: Bearded hopefuls at last year’s regional East Coast Beard & Mustache Championship. Photo: J.R. Blackwell