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Forsyth County firefighter takes top spot in mustache competition
howie barrett
Howie Barrett poses with some of Stache Salt's products. Photo courtesy Barrett family.

Each year, Howie Barrett participates in No-Shave November, growing out his mustache all month long and then shaving it in early December. But Barrett put his razor on hiatus in 2020, growing out the ‘stache until it made a statement.

In October, Barrett joined a mustache competition by Stache Salt, a Texas-based company owned and operated by a firefighter that sells handmade facial hair care kits and supplies.

Barrett has been serving with the Forsyth County Fire Department for over 11 years, and said that when he began his career, he had to shave his beard.

According to Barrett, beards and other facial hair that “impedes with our masks that we wear for structural firefighting” are prohibited for the safety of the firefighters.

In October, Barrett said one of his coworkers tagged him in a post from Stache Salt about its fourth annual mustache competition. Being a fan of the company’s products, he decided to check it out.

“Everybody at the fire station says stuff about his moustache,” said his wife Hilary Barrett. “You know, the men are envious when another man can actually grow a good moustache, so they always make jokes with [Howie].”

Howie said the competition had certain challenges like submitting videos of the contestants’ mustache care routine, posting a photo as a well-known person or character with a mustache and a calendar photoshoot competition.

Thinking that he wouldn’t beat out the other 40-50 contestants, Howie said he “didn’t think much of [the competition].”

“People were always supporting me,” he said. “But I never expected to get as many likes as I did [on Instagram], and the recognition that I’ve received is pretty neat.”

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howie barrett
Hilary, left, and Howie Barrett, right, stand in front of a firetruck. Howie was recently crowned the winner of Stache Salt's mustache competition. Photo courtesy Barrett family.

When Howie made the Top 12, he was given the month July for the calendar.

“He was so excited to get Mr. July,” Hilary said. "But unfortunatley he had to submit his picture while he was out of town for training."

After brainstorming, Hilary ordered him a pair of American flag-patterned overalls and shipped them to his hotel. Donning the overalls, he posed in his hotel room and sent the photos to “one of his EMT buddies” that edited them, positioning him onto a tank with fireworks and an eagle.

“There were some really hilarious photos in the calendar [competition],” Hilary said. “All of the firefighters did so awesome.”

Hilary said that once the calendar photos were posted on Instagram, Howie and another man were “neck and neck” with the number of likes they were receiving. So she took to Facebook to enlist the help of Forsyth County.

“I was really surprised that my post was allowed on [this Facebook group],” Hilary said. “And it was so neat to see people commenting that they recognized [Howie] and were sharing pictures of him and his mustache.

“The county’s always been awesome, though, even before the competition and my post [on Facebook],” she said. “People come to fire stations all the time to bring gifts and meals, it’s a really supportive community.”

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howie barrett
Howie Barrett dresses up as Mr. Monopoly for a challenge for Stache Salt's mustache competition. Photo courtesy Barrett family.

Once the votes were in, Howie was crowned as the champion of Stache Salt’s fourth mustache competition, earning him an ambassador spot and bragging rights.

Hilary said the mustache will “have to stay for at least a year or longer.”

“I do like the mustache,” Hilary said. “He stands out with it but at the same time, I kind of miss him not having it.”

“But I joke now that he takes longer than me to get ready,” she said. “He’s always in the mirror trying to perfect that curl … and it’s funny because he has a shaved head, so he’s usually done getting ready quickly. But now, with the mustache, we can all be waiting in the car while he’s still trying to fix it and make sure he doesn’t have a hair out of place.”

Howie said that while he was surprised to win, he was thankful he was able to participate and “help grow the [Stache Salt] business.”

“If [Hilary] looks at me tomorrow and says that the mustache has to go, then it’s got to go. It’s all up to my lovely wife,” Howie said. “But I don’t foresee that happening. She’s been very supportive.”

“Moving forward, I just want to help further [the Stache Salt] business, the products and just help in any way that I can,” Howie said. “To glorify God in all of this by helping — that’s what’s important to me.”