The moustache of legend is a sign of strength and manliness but beyond the bravado, is the ritual of moustache cultivation more powerful than we realise?
Why through history has overt personal grooming been seen as effeminate, while the cultivation of a moustache is revered as the very symbol of masculinity? I posit that what is missing from men’s lives is the ceremony of grooming that a moustache brings.
Yes there has been resurgence in the moustache lately but where once the moustache was described as having a “wonderfully powerful effect upon a man’s whole expression” it now most usually adorns the ironic lip of hipsters of Dalston or Williamsberg.
before the oldest recorded moustaches of the Scythian horseman, in
moustache has been a symbol of strength, pride and individuality. Men
like Panayot Hitov the Belgian hajduk and voivode opposing the Ottoman Empire to “farmer,
teamster, sometime buffalo hunter, officer of the law, gambler,
saloon-keeper, miner, and boxing referee” Wyatt Earp the moustache has
symbolised people who have changed the culture around them, and been
characterised for it, but what unites men like these, and Einstein,
Dali, Freddie Mercury, Burt Reynolds, Hulk Hogan is the ritual of
“You take longer to get ready than I do”, she said.
I have had a moustache for 6 months now, something I didn’t realise I’d take to but gave it a try and it stuck. I’ve enjoyed the comments from strangers (“Nice ‘tache!”), the banter from friends (“cockduster”) and the parental disapproval (“oh Mark, what have you done”) but it was my better half who articulated the importance of the ceremony of the moustache that I had missed.
She was right. Each morning I shower with a special beard conditioner to soften the moustache, then once dry, trim extraneous hairs before applying wax with a specialist comb (its tiny, makes you feel like a giant). Sometimes I curl the ends up ludicrously, imagining Dali or a vaudeville villain, sometimes down - a mini Fu Manchu, and devious. Each morning I do this and you know what? I love it.
Owning a moustache allows you grooming the way only women have had an excuse to do, it gives a man special time each morning to focus only on a single personal satisfaction. There is nothing quite like staring at yourself in the mirror each morning doing something almost ludicrously frivolous as twisting the ends of a moustache to make you look at life in a different way each day.
Is it any wonder then that great men of history (and women) have adorned themselves proudly with the moustache and given themselves the excuse, joy and time of moustache cultivation?
There are many great examples of the effects of moustache cultivation through the years but none so glorious than that of seven-time Olympic gold medal winner Mark Spitz. While swimmers usually shave their body hair to reduce drag Spitz kept his for the 1972 Munich Olympics. “I had some fun with a Russian coach who asked me if my moustache slowed me down. I said, 'No, as a matter of fact, it deflects water away from my mouth, allows my rear end to rise and make me bullet-shaped in the water, and that's what had allowed me to swim so great.' He's translating as fast as he can for the other coaches, and the following year every Russian male swimmer had a moustache.”
Moustaches are not just the "appurtenances of terror" as they were during the Napoleonic Wars they are a chance for men to start their day at peace. We keep hearing that we are in crisis and surely what helps a crisis is “virility, spirit, and manliness” as Mrs. C. E. Humphrey put it. Will it change your life? There is only one way to find out.
It doesn’t matter if you started growing a mo for Movember, or just for a laugh: take it seriously and keep it long after Movember. I implore you to reclaim the ‘tache from the hipsters – without irony or apology, for neither charity nor humour, not just for a month but for life.
Oh, and if you are in London, I can't recommend highly enough Murdock - the boutique chain of barbers: Ryan in Liberty has a mean moustache and can sort you out the perfect trim.
About the writer
"When not standing on his soapbox about moustaches Mark Jennings loves cycling, though not on a fixie, and helping organisations make the internet better. He can be found on Twitter @markofrespect"
This article is a repost from an article I wrote for ThemePark in 2012, republished with kind permission