Thought Catalog
December 9, 2011

In Defense Of The Mustache

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What is the issue?

My uncle and my dad have had mustaches since my earliest memories. I remember when I was in middle school — it was summer and I was in the tractor, as a 12-year-old farm boy is wont to do. I had probably spent the day listening to country, Diamond Rio maybe, and driving the tractor a little too fast, every so often inching the throttle forward to see what I could get away with. Chewing sunflower seeds. Drinking Mountain Dew.

When the roughening was done for the day, my father still planting or plowing, elsewhere anyway, I saw my Uncle’s red and white two-tone (the white stripe in the middle) 1979 Chevy Silverado come to the end of the field and stop. Beyond him to the west the sun was setting behind the Scotts Bluff National Monument, all that flatland holding up the sky. I idled down and stopped the tractor. My legs were stiff but otherwise it felt good to be getting down and going home. Going home meant chores with my brother, then maybe some Nintendo or reading, then playing basketball until dark.

I was excited until I got in the truck and sat down next to a man I didn’t know. He was in my uncle’s truck, in my uncle’s clothes, spoke like him, held the steering wheel like him, even had the same lumps in his arm. But he had shaved, and without his mustache he wasn’t him. I wasn’t comfortable around him until it grew back.

The other day I asked FB: “In the interest of research, Facebook-friends-who-are-girls, can someone articulate to me what it is about mustaches that freaks out females in our generation so much?

This is how that went:

  • I believe it might be the correlation between the mustache and child molesters/porn stars…either way, not a great situation…
  • By “freaks out” do you mean gets girls excited or scares them into hiding?
  • Mustache is not bad if it’s accompanied by a scruffy beard, but that might just be me…
  • I don’t think that I can articulate it but I think it is creepy and entertaining at the same time. Does that help? I will try and think of a better reason and get back to you.
  • Maybe it is like fashion. Certain things are “in style” and “appeal” to us more than others??? Maybe a mustache is a kind of like wearing flip flops with socks… but worse.
  • Maybe it is because my mother (and her generation) was so obsessed with Magnum PI, we feel the need to swing the pendulum the other way…
  • Our generation has been scarred for life by the Three Men and a Baby days. Fancy ‘staches like the Dali, Handlebar or even the Hogan are creepy but prefered to the cop ‘stache.
  • lol. i almost pasted a picture of tom selleck. we are a generation that grew up surrounded by media. child molesters from pictures in the news or hallmark tv and porn stars from video and i guess now blu ray or net flix. On Baudrillard’s analysis, advertising, packaging, display, fashion, “emancipated” sexuality, mass media and culture, and the proliferation of commodities multiplied the quantity of signs and spectacles, and produced a proliferation of sign-value. His argument is that in a society where everything is a commodity that can be bought and sold, alienation is total. are women starting to call you names they didn’t before? : )
  • Bart, this isn’t a story about your generation but it happened during calving time. One night our neighbor man was helping a young heifer who was having difficulty so he had to pull the calf. He got back into the house just about bedtime. Didn’t notice but he had lots of afterbirth attached to his mustache. Before his wife would get in bed with him, she made him shave the mustache off. Said she couldn’t get that picture out of her mind.
  • I find mustaches non-creepy if they’re well-groomed/worn with intention. And the guy has to be put-together in that slightly hipster-stylish way to pull it off. And be relatively attractive to start off—who are we kidding? Or maybe it’s just that our Dads’ generation grew them. Ew.
  • My dad has a mustache. i feel very weird about kissing a beardless-but-mustachioed man as a result. on a larger scale, i’ve never been much of a fan of men’s facial hair because, in younger circles, it’s so often patchy or poorly groomed.
  • (This one is from a dude.) Intriguing question, Bart. I had a mustache for several months and I loved it. Lots of women would be really freaked out by it, which I found kind of weird. Some women genuinely liked it (cool ones) and some humored me. The same went for men. I actually almost got into a fight over it with some meathead. They would say the same things to me over and over, “it’s creepy” and “you look like a child molester.” I would say, “I am trying to look like a cop.” In the end, I think it comes down to this cultural stigma that has been attached to the mustache, like tight-rolled jeans or something. The savvy realize that those are immature hangups, leftover from our childhood and they are fun to challenge. Isn’t that why mustaches have come back? To challenge their taboo-ness? It’s kind of similar to how everyone is afraid of clowns. People will tell you how they think clowns are creepy, but everyone our age does for the most part. It’s barely worth mentioning. It’s like a baby boomer going up to someone their age and saying, “Wasn’t Nixon a bad president?”
  • I thought facebook stopped at 420 characters? “My girlfriend has a mustache. Any problems!?” (She’s tough, watch out now)
  • I am still hung up on the easy comment, “worn with intention”. Either elab or retract because it seems that the 20-30 female age set here has decided that the intention is… to creep us out.

I ended up conceding to my former kindergarten teacher that the potential for getting afterbirth in your mustache is a damn good reason not to have one. But for me, just because our Dads and our Dads’ generation wore them isn’t strong enough to justify this generational repulsion. Women dress and groom themselves in ways that remind us men of our mothers all the time and that doesn’t seem to bother us. Plus, there’s also the idea that our fathers are men we look up to and following their traditions is a way of honoring them.

Someone else suggested to me that this is a result of our generational infantilism, that adult life means adult problems, and looking too much like the adults that raised us is unsettling, and therefore resisted. That also seems true.

Some of us have stronger daddy issues than others. Guys have trouble looking into the mirror and seeing their dads looking back at them. I don’t have any problems with my father; I actually like him. Wouldn’t want him to look any other way.

One of my co-workers in a mustache-growing contest said he tried to grow one but he couldn’t take himself seriously when he looked in the mirror. Though I have never chosen irony as a lifestyle, a mode of thought, or a guiding fashion principle, maybe we could all benefit from taking ourselves less seriously.

There is also the fear of not being able to get laid many men cite when they give their reasons against mustaches. That’s a pretty legit reason. There’s a certain proprietary attitude some women have toward men and fashion. Maybe because some men are incapable of dressing themselves properly. But whose face is it? I don’t know if men are trying to creep anyone out. Sometimes it’s just fun to play around with how you look. Females have untold numbers of ways to alter their appearances. Shaving or not shaving is an innocuous way to keep from getting bored or burned out.

Some men have weak upper lips and deficiencies in their side profiles that benefit from a little extra hair. It squares them up. There’s a reason the mustache has persisted over the years. It actually improves upon the looks of some men. I’m probably never going to be a guy that always has a mustache, though I might from time to time. As far as they go, I can grow a solid one. Nothing wrong with that at all. TC mark

image – ©iStockphoto.com/ ivar