Don’t Give Me Any of Your Lip: Thoughts On Moustaches and Men [OPINION]
The beauty of moustaches are on the face of the wearer. Sometimes they work, and sometimes, well let’s try and be nice about things. Writer Todd Barmann gives his thoughts on the look of the lip tickler.
When writing about men’s fashion—indeed, any type of fashion—a writer must remain aware that he is writing about something ephemeral, fleeting, something subject to radical change or even extinction seemingly in the blink of an eye. There are academic disciplines devoted to the history and evolution of fashion, topics surprisingly relevant to commonplace modern matters: how wigs have worked as status symbols, for both sexes, from the 16th century to this very day; or how a 17th century military device to make sure you didn’t get murdered by your own troops became the business power accessory of the modern age.
And yet, to date, no one has come up with a satisfactory explanation of the moustache.
Sure, there are the basics. The area above our lips is the first place facial hair sprouts as we embark on the hilariously inappropriate journey that is puberty. The oldest evidence of someone shaving off all of his facial hair except the part most likely to get into his food is from a Scythian tapestry dated to around 300 BC. Since then, this mystifying configuration of facial topiary has graced the mugs of kings, killers, creeps and kooks.
But more mystifying is the fact that the purposeful configuring of an eyebrow for one’s mouth has gone in and out of fashion like clockwork for several hundred years. Beards, from a strictly practical vantage point, make much more sense. For those of us blessed with round heads, a beard thins and elongates the face. Properly groomed, it can hide the gradual loosening of the skin under the chin (something that will affect all of us one day, rest assured). At the very least, a beard keeps one’s face warm in the winter, which may explain why they were so popular with the Vikings.
But the moustache serves no purpose beyond looking…well, “good” is a subjective term, isn’t it? And, to be sure, some men do benefit from the right type of ‘stache. Perhaps you’re one of those who have been cursed with “too much face” and need to mask the slab-like dimensions of your head. Perhaps you have a nasty hare lip or vicious overbite that needs camouflaging. If so, a robust project on the lines of a Stalin or a Freddy Mercury is definitely in order.
That said, the moustaches you’re most likely to encounter in your day to day experiences are “statements” rather than fashion accessories. These statements will almost always fall into one of two categories: the aggressively ironic and the deadly, humorlessly serious. The former are found nestled above the smirking mouths of the male residents of places like Williamsburg, Brooklyn; Hoboken, New Jersey; Silver Lake and Echo Park, Los Angeles; anyplace where young men in sterilizingly tight pants hoist $0.60 cans of beer they’ve paid $3.00 for while wearing replicas of 35 year old t-shirts and rolling their own cigarettes. The latter are found on the faces of police officers, fire fighters, professional bull riders and very earnest immigrants from the Arabic and Spanish speaking worlds. For these men it is a fundamental symbol of masculinity on par with a roarin’ hog and some killer biceps.
Though I fail to understand the appeal of the moustache, that doesn’t mean I don’t encourage others to experiment with this oldest of male accessories and somehow make it their own. Of course, though the styling possibilities are limited only by one’s imagination, it’s best to try and remain at least somewhat conventional if you’d like to continue doing things like working indoors and talking to women. The following styles vary in level of acceptability, but all have been seen on the streets of major American cities (Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC) within the last year.
The Blow-Dry: The Cadillac of moustaches, in the sense that they’re both much larger than necessary and scream “Look at me!” to passers-by. Like a Caddy, it requires a lot of upkeep to look good. Excellent for attracting Midwestern girls with daddy issues.
The Porn Star: A difficult-to-pin-down cross between the Magnum and a Bandit-era Burt Reynolds. Excellent for attracting women who enjoy watching you fight over them.
The Pencil Moustache: A timeless classic that requires meticulous grooming and an extra-steady hand. Excellent for attracting other men.
The Eternapube: A style that slyly references fleeting youth by looking like the sort of moustache only a 13 year-old could grow. Popularized by Prince and Dave Navarro, neither of whom are terribly popular themselves these days. Still, judging by their track records, the moustaches certainly didn’t seem to hurt them.
As an added bonus, and in the interest of addressing gender disparity, The Eternapube has been adapted for the ladies under its alternate trade name, The Frida Kahlo.
Best of luck. If at first you don’t succeed, just go with a full beard. The ladies will love it.