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Michigan grad students celebrate bearded woodsmen

Bearded woodsmen are everywhere.

The Associated Press calls the look "lumberjack chic."

Outside magazine dubbed it lumbersexual(think: opposite of metrosexual). It's loosely defined as someone who looks like a lumberjack but hasn't chopped down an actual tree.

My friend Sarah calls this ESPN profile on the Toronto Blue Jays starter Daniel Norris “hipster catnip.” (He lives in his VW van and shaves with the blade of an ax.)

Grad students at the School of Natural Resources & Environment at the University of Michigan decided there were so many bearded dudes at the school that they’d make a calendar to honor them.

Celebrating the beard

Dannan Hodge is a first year grad student and one of the masterminds behind the calendar.

“That’s how I found the 'SNREds' at the first football game, like, ‘There are the beards!’” she says, laughing. “We just wanted something that was fun and tongue-in-cheek that would bring students and alumni together.”

(You pronounce that term, SNREd, like "nerd" with an s on the front. It's the nickname SNRE students use for themselves.)

So, she and her friends held a casting call in the school’s common area. You had to bring a “beardfolio” with you: multiple shots and angles of your beard.

Theo Eggermont (aka Mr. January) also brought a letter of recommendation from his mom.

“My great granddaddy won the Lyon County, Minnesota Beard Competition back in the 1980’s, so she referenced that,” he says.

The calendar features more than two dozen bearded guys.

Mikaela Rodkin is working on a dual degree in SNRE and the Ross Business School. She says after the first casting call, they decided to open it up to the whole student body.

“The initial reaction was that it was a really hilarious, kind of goofy calendar. Then there was a little… well, 60% of the school is women, what about celebrating the women?”

Credit Dave Brenner / SNRE
Michelle Mabson

And so, the calendar features a number of female grad students (some in flannel, some not). Jenny Hebert brought her own moss-and-paper beard to her photo shoot.

Nope, that's not a live squirrel

These photos are the handiwork of SNRE school photographer Dave Brenner.

"A lot of this was mad Photoshopping skills because the weather was limiting, so we had to do all these shots in my office." So his grad student models had to imagine they had bees buzzing around them, or say,  had their hand resting on a wolf's back.

"I’d tell them 'work it, own that expression, give me some love, people,'" he laughs.

The day I met up with these guys, Mike Burbidge (he posed for the month of January with a giant saw) was eating a whole, raw cucumber the way most of us eat a banana. He says he gets too dirty to be considered a lumbersexual.

I asked him if he's gotten much reaction from his modeling gig.

"Yes, from my grandmother," he says. "She says I'm a very handsome boy."

Credit Dave Brenner / SNRE
The last page of the calendar. The bearded models did this shot in one take.

Rebecca Williams is senior editor in the newsroom, where she edits stories and helps guide news coverage.