LINCOLN PARK — The proud owner of Chicago's top beard credits his Italian and Lebanese heritage for his magnificent mane.
"I think have great genes," said 33-year-old John Wayne "Duke" Formica.
Formica was recently selected as Chicago's pick for "Wahl Man of the Year" and could soon find his bearded face in a national ad campaign.
"I get a lot of compliments walking down the street," the Lincoln Park resident said. "Or I'll be in the grocery store, and people come up and compliment me."
Reporter Paul Biasco dishes on the man behind Chicago's best beard:
He even gets the praise from men at bars who want to know his grooming secrets.
Formica, a corporate chef who has helped launch restaurants such as Sunda, Homestead, and most recently, the Yum Cha Dim Sum Parlor, said he has been sporting his beard for about a year.
"I think it sets a good example for men who want to grow a beard," he said. "I think it’s a trend now — people are growing facial hair. You can groom it well and look good."
Formica, who calls himself the traveling cowboy chef, said he draws inspiration from movie characters or people he meets while traveling around the world.
During Halloween, he sculpted his beard into the Wolverine look. Now he's rocking the Leonidas.
He used to be in the military, where the only facial hair allowed was a well-trimmed mustache, so leaving the service definitely played a role in his wanting to grow a beard, Formica said.
"I change the look all the time," he said. I have fun with it."
Formica entered the Wahl Man of the Year contest by chance while strolling through the Windy City Ribfest over the Fourth of July weekend.
His girlfriend suggested he enter, and he had trimmed that morning, so his 'stache was good to go, he said.
Wahl gave Formica $500 and a top-of-the-line trimmer for winning the Chicago stop of its 12-city tour.
The company conducted two years of market research before beginning the tour to determine which cities to mention that focused on beard and mustache positivity.
Chicago came in at No. 4 on the list.
“Chicago is one of the hairy havens included on the tour’s 11-city schedule, based on its vast acceptance of facial hair,” said Steven Yde, director of marketing for Wahl.
"The mission of our tour is to support and pursue great facial hair," Yde said.
At each stop Wahl will donate $1 to ZERO — The End of Prostate Cancer, a nonprofit, for every facial hair trim performed.
Online voting for the Man of the Year contest runs through Oct. 12, with the winner taking home $1,000 and appearing in a national ad.
"I think it’d be cool," Formica said. "I'm a chef, so I'm used to a little bit of attention."
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