If ever ‘twas the season for mustaches, the time is nigh. The night breeze blows brisk; we’ve shaken out our fuzzier raiments. The Friday before Halloween the American Mustache Institute is calling for a national ‘Stache Bash — whatever that is — and over in Tulsa on Nov. 3 is a Mustache Dash 5K to mark “Movember,” that little-known, month-long celebration of the mustache that, uh, also raises awareness of prostate cancer and men’s health issues? 70s mustache styles.
But, oh, how far the mustache has fallen out of fashion. I myself have test driven this thing lo’ these last three months and been told I look “terrible,” look “so old,” look “creepy.” I was told I bore a “porn ‘stache” from my own aunt. Another woman, a colleague, my age, attractive — married, of course — said, “Bobby, you have such a handsome face, why? Why would you do that?”
I ran my concerns by Daniel Haney, a lawyer and, once upon a time, bearer of perhaps the finest under-40 mustache in the capital city. He grew it before his finals his first year at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Bowen School of Law, and he tested so exquisitely it made him superstitious. Each year’s end, the mustache returned and “people stopped seeing it as humorous.” Then, before he took the bar exam, he styled his ‘stache into a classic Handlebar and told people, “There’s no better way to handle the bar, than with a...” Next, he drew up a business card: the scales of justice hanging from a Handlebar mustache.
“It’s risen above its novelty,” he says.
Yet, when he got married Saturday, “for my family — for my bride’s family — I said I’d go clean shaven.”
Unlike bell-bottoms or monocles, the mustache for so long seemed outside the vagaries of fashion. It grew like a bandage out of the blood of the Civil War on men like Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard and Joshua Chamberlain. It rose above the fin de siecle of the 19th Century on the stiff upper lips of Theodore Roosevelt and German Gen. Paul von Hindenburg. These and other men are the reason stylized mustaches assumed august names like the Imperial, the Fantastico, the Kaiser. An abbreviated version called the Toothbrush was popularized by the greatest funnyman of the early 20th century, Charlie Chaplin, until a very unfunny man buried it forever in 1945. But the mustache carried on, and I was born into the last heyday of the facial hair. Burt Reynolds was the top box office draw, boxing heavyweight Ken Norton sported one in his title fight with Muhammad Ali. Mutton chop sideburns and fu manchus were big then, in both senses of the word.
My decision to grow a mustache now is no doubt influenced by my earliest memories of manhood. And my father.
It was nothing for my old man to grow his mustache in the mid-70s. In fact, circumstances made it advisable. For one, he was a cop. For another, he was, at 145-pounds, the smallest cop on the force. As much as it could, the ‘stache lent him an air of enforceability. Now, my own vivid memory from that time is chiefly the different ways my parents tucked us in at night. She sang us an a cappella “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” or Helen Reddy’s “You and Me Against the World,” while he just ground his whiskers into our cheeks and dusted our noses with his pushbroom.
I asked if it bothers him that among the under-40 set, mustaches are pretty nearly punchlines.
“It doesn’t bother me. Does it bother you?”
Mustache styles for face shape
“The Tom Selleck era, that was the era I was in. You had the longer hair, and you had the mustache.”
He struggled to make a comparison.
“In the ‘70s and ‘80s, if anyone had shaved their heads, even if they were losing their hair, you would not have walked around that way. Now, shaved heads are just not a big thing. Michael Jordan started that.”
What about Telly Savalas?
“Yeah, Telly Savalas was a freak thing, and he pulled it off, but nobody copied it. It seemed like when Michael Jordan did it, then it became cool. Now, no one would say anything about it.”
The mustache has become so certainly a closed chapter in our evolution of style that the chief website for mustaches in this country is the satirical American Mustache Institute, which last year “published” a white paper on America’s Most Mustache-Friendly Cities based on criteria including a high percentage of Miller Lite taps, relief pitchers and GED or high-school equivalency certificates. Meanwhile, places with Toyota Priuses, “fern bars” and women in positions of influence compose mustache-hostile environments.
Not surprisingly, five of the top 10 cities are all Rust Belt metropolises. My hometown of Detroit ranks fifth nationally. Why? Men who are hyperstimulated sexually grow mustaches, and “high jobless rates here have spurned a boom in prostitution and condom sales,” the AMI asserts.
Little Rock came in at No. 44. No reasons given, though presumably our preference for arriving clean shaven to church on Sunday is more widely regarded than our affinity for cowboy hats and farmer’s tans.
“It’s weird to say, but living where we do in the middle of the country, the mustache is ‘ironic’, but if you go to big cities it’s normal now to see young men with mustaches,” says Brian Bailey, the 35-year-old owner of The Mustache Goods & Wears in Fayetteville and Bentonville.
He himself sports a saloon keeper’s beard which he promises to trim into a mustache for Movember.
“I’ve had guys in the store from the Austin Facial Hair Club. Is it mainstream yet? No. But I think we’ve passed that ‘90s time where it’s universally called ‘a porn ‘stache.’”
In an effort to stir up a little inertia for Movember and beyond I started a Facebook group, Little Rock Mustaches. Though public, no one’s asked in. So far I’ve stacked it with acquaintances. Half are women. They are vastly more vocal and circumspect about the subject of men’s mustaches.
And now, I’ve shaved my mustache.
I’m not silly enough to think my laissez-faire Facebook effort or my three-month mustache will affect local change, but brothers and sisters, I’ve been to the mountaintop...
That’s as far as I’ll repurpose that allusion, made famous as it was by our nation’s greatest affecter of social change, who, additionally, did as much as anyone to dignify and normalize the mustache.
The silly photo booth, to some, has replaced birdseed and sparklers as the must-have wedding reception gimmick. One of the most popular accessories for these photo booths is a mustache-on-a-stick, often accompanied by some pouty red lips-on-a-stick for the ladies. But isn’t it so much sillier for the girl to wear the mustache?
The best drinking games are simple ones. Tape a cut-out of a mustache (or two, or three) to your screen, start a movie, sit back, and take a sip every time one of the mustaches lands on a character’s upper lip. Hilarity ensues.
The genius who thought up the mustache tattoo (you know, the one on the inside of your finger) must have been very pleased with himself. But by now, the tattoo is a little less-than-unique, so before going under the needle, consider a temporary option. Gama Go’s Fingerstache tats come with 19 different styles for your ‘stache-sporting pleasure.
2016 moustache styles
The idea of a baby with a mustache brings to mind those creepy talking E-trade babies, doesn’t it? That hasn’t stopped people from covering birth announcements, nurseries, baby clothes, pacifiers, shower decorations — you name it — in mustaches. It’s a nice reminder that babies don’t stay babies forever. They grow up and, sometimes, grow mustaches.
There are millions of T-shirt designs available with the “Mustache you a question/ Shave it for later” line, but how about something a little different? Like, a piggy bank wearing a mustache that reads “My Stache,” or an ornament that recommends “Stashing through the snow” in a one-horse open sleigh.
Coffee mugs and pint glasses that give the illusion of a mustache while drinking are becoming kitchen cabinet classics. Also, look for straws that provide a similar effect for parties.
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