These days there’s a Twelve Days of Christmas countdown for just about everything—but the one countdown that truly grabbed our attention comes in the form of beards. The Gay Beards. The 12 Gay Beards of Christmas countdown has included snow and wreaths and lights and bows all decked into two well-groomed beards with precision and photographed with skill.

While most bearded men struggle to keep lint and crumbs and leftovers out of their beards, best friends Brian and Johnathan, who live in Portland, Oregon, strive for the opposite—they’re putting everything they can into their beards. From flowers to paint to glitter to cheesy poofs, they’ve amassed a following with each new spin they take pushing their beards further into a creative extension of themselves.

The beard, for those of us who are lucky enough to grow one, is typically seen as a symbol of masculinity, though throughout history societal attitudes towards beards have shifted widely depending on numerous cultural, social, and religious factors. Which is probably what make this project so appealing, as Brian and Johnathan challenge those social precognitions and demonstrate that the strength of their beards lies in the versatility of expression.

The Portland duo have declared on The Gay Beards website that while this is a chance to bring their beards to life, it is also a chance to try and fill the world with a little more love. Certainly, their collection of photographs excites a sense of childlike joy and wonder—if not only because they keep you guessing; whatever will they do next?

The Gay Beards are underlined with sometimes witty, sometimes insightful captions that accompany each of the Instagram posts. You know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words, and that beauty is in the eye of the beholder? Well, both of those idioms are true here and whatever can be said of Brian and Johnathan’s eyes can also be said about their facial hair.

It should be emphasized that we are not just talking about beard art here, we are also talking about photography. The Gay Beards—and the men who grew them—are presented in a portrait form that informs a natural readiness for a contemporary art exhibit. Thankfully, the existence of the “prints” section on their website almost promises that this is part of the plan.