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America’s Next Top NCAA Mascot: Crowning a Champion…on the Grounds of Good Grooming

There are countless methodologies for filling out your bracket. When faced with a crowded field and no clear standout, many brash bracketologists turn to mascots as arbitrary arbiters of a team’s potential success. However, most of these furry creature-driven brackets simply pit them against each other in a battle of brawn—it’s the most ferocious mascot that always wins the day. We decided to turn that on its head.

Why not base your picks on which team’s mascot is most convincing with a martini in his, her, or (as is most often the case) its hand? Birchbox gathered as an office to play out the tournament according to each mascot’s style and grooming. 68 mascots started with static facial expressions and big dreams, but only one was dubbed “best groomed.” You could never have scripted the Cinderella story that unfolded over six boxes of Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins. Here’s how it went down.

The Midwest

Coming out of the Midwest, Cam the Ram was lauded for his green pullover, superior manscaping abilities, and his well-styled horn curls. Oregon’s Puddles the Duck stood no chance whatsoever against Pistol Pete, jaunty hat tilt is befitting of a Greenpoint mixologist. Saint Louis’ ‘Billican’ (whatever that is!) won points for his turtleneck and sly wink, even if he did look a lot like the Grinch. Valpo beat out the Spartan for nice color coordination. The Great Dane’s pearly whites were a feather in his cap while toppling the Duke Blue Devil. In the end, St. Mary’s Gaelic warrior was just too much man.

The South

The western Kentucky Big red hill topper pulled off an early upset for his smooth and even skin tone—even if he is just a formless red blob. The Michigan Bear got a lot of attention for being “fierce” but unfortunately our judges didn’t mean this in the Tim Gunn sense of the word. The UCLA Bruin advanced for nice outfit coordination despite having that just rolled out of bed look. We all agreed that the Florida Gator needs to see an orthodontist. The Georgetown bulldog’s snazzy cap beat out the Florida State Gulf Eagle. Despite the UNC Ramses’ harsh laugh lines and lack of pants, his fitted sweater and indescribable moxy led him to total domination.

The West

We saw a lot of bulldogs in this tournament. Some are ferocious, some are cute, and some are just crotchety. With a pretty rough under bite, Gonzaga’s ‘Spike’ wasn’t making it past the first round. The Wichita State Wushock toppled Rock the Panther even if his wheat mane needed a little combing. The Wisconsin Badger won big points for his well-combed sideburns. With his ruddy complexion, ‘John Harvard’ brought to mind the often repeated Camus quote: “After a certain age every man is responsible for his face.” In the end, the precisely shaved Van Dyked La Salle Explorer ran away with the West. Killian the Gael put up a good fight with his winning smile and fetching waistcoat, but in the end there was just no denying The Explorer’s supremacy.

The East

The Duke Dog made it through the first round on the grounds of his purple royalty. In the face-off between Mr. Woof and Hootie the Owl, the owl won for his kicks. Otto Orangeman beat out Griz. Illinois’ Chief’s nobility was too much for Chip the Buffalo. But UNLV’s Rebel coasted to victory in the East on the quality of his mustache.

The Final Four

The battle for Best Groomed mascot came down to these fiercely refined characters:

Final Four

While these were close games, there were no upsets from here on out. Despite a shiny Jay Leno chin, the Gaelic warrior beat out UNC. It was the battle of no pants versus no shirt, and no shirt won handily.

And there was no way that La Salle’s Explorer, based on their school’s namesake, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, wasn’t going to play in the championship game. We liked the Rebel’s mustache enough that we could overlook the fact that it covers his eyes, but in the end. La Salle’s Explorer appeared unbeatable. Dude looks like he just stepped out of a Gillette ad alongside Adrien Brody, Gael García Bernal, and André 3000.

The Championship

From play-in longshot to champ, the La Salle Explorer had the trophy in its spy glass sights from the beginning. Despite being little more than a just a minimalist outline of an explorer, he took the crown easily. Was it his arched eyebrow that seduced us? The plume in his hat that made this 13-seed a shoe-in? His spy glass surely had a lot to do with his success.


We can’t wholeheartedly agree with The New Yorker’s assessment that The Explorer looks “like a member of the Village People.” He’s a little flamboyant, but it’s working for him. Congratulations to the La Salle Explorer! Though we can tell from that piercing gaze that you won’t take much time to revel in your conquest. Your sights are already on the next challenge.

Remember to keep it classy this college hoops season. Follow our Gentlemen’s Guide to the NCAA tournament. and read up on The 8 Best College Basketball Haircuts of All Time.

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