Jim BBQ is my hero. He gets the message of mo out there, and gently and amusingly taunts the general prejudices about moustaches. (You can find his MoTV on YouTube easily)
He is the face of Movember too – an annual campaign to raise money and awareness for men’s health, which started in Australia but has spread to the UK, the USA, NZ, Ireland and Spain. (It raised $14 million in Australia last year).
Wanting to take part in a good cause, I grew a moustache for Movember in 2006 and then again in 2007 (Men start the 1st of Movember with a clean shave and grow a mo for the next four weeks).
But after the month was over, and men all around were relishing ‘getting rid of it’, I decided to keep it on.
Without fail, people comment on the moustache. It is always the same, albeit gradually thicker, yet people’s reactions vary from
[woman]:”Ewww, why do you have that gross thing still on your face?”
[man] : “Dude, awesome mo!”
[man or woman] : “Movember’s over, mate!”
[woman] : “My last boyfriend had a mo for Movember and wouldn’t shave it off, so we broke up. I hate mos”
[man] : “You should trim those side bits”
*I wonder why he has that strange moustache. He must be a weirdo.*
[man]: “I would have gone in Movember but my wife wouldn’t let me”
My moustache almost always draws a reaction. Generally, women hate it, and men either generously comment on it or decide that it means I am fair game to heckle.
So what does a moustache really symbolise? Why do people vary in their attitude towards it, and feel they have a right to comment on it? It is unfashionable, generally, so why might that be?
Could a moustache demonstrate that a man isn’t frightened of what other people think, in particular women? Deep down, many men mould their appearance to fit what they think women want, and most women claim they don’t like moustaches. Many married men confirm this in their opt-out from Movember – it’s just the same as their excuses for not buying a motorbike or doing the other things that their wife forbids.
A moustache physically demonstrates this maleness. It represents the hairy maleness that all men have in common. A moustache is more or less cultivated and trimmed, but it hints at the Wild Man that is found in fairy tales like Eisenhans.
The moustache reminds that however much school, university, the company, or the army wishes to make men conform to a pattern, the wildness still lives within. The glorious variety of maleness is on display: every moustache is different, the hairs often rebelliously red, the whiskers straggly and untamed. The plethora of styles and the great natural variety of hair accentuate this individuality. It is uniquely male, it is uniquely individual and it guides a man away from the uniforms he’s worn his whole life: school, army, company. Why do we all wear black or grey suits? When did men lose the joy of looking like an individual?
The moustache bucks the trend in our youth-deifying society. Without the Zeus or Jehovah overtones of a full-length beard, the moustache nevertheless shows age. It makes a man look older, is a hint at experience, wisdom and has the individuality and weathered-toughness that bland smooth young faces never have. A moustache hints that a man might have been initiated; he is calm and stands tall, is not a boy in a man’s body.
Moustaches are the flowering of male sexual ripening. A moustache reminds of the controlled but powerful male sexuality more or less latent in men. A moustache might well have the same texture as pubic hair, but regardless it is a subtle reminder of the same. Both sprout at the same time!
I believe there is a relationship between how men are portrayed, and how they are expected to conform with regards to their outward appearance. The packaging and blandising of young men as objects of envy or desire saps their potency, such as you might find with flawless male fashion models. Their unblemished, hairless faces are bland and shallow. They are uninitiated, unmentored, ready for the workforce or for following orders. Look at the face of an interesting old man and it is (particularly with Australia’s harsh sun) often full of crevices and valleys, and interesting contour map of his life. Crows feet crinkle mischievously when he smiles.
Pop culture likes airbrushed, patterned young men as much as it likes perfect young women. Both are sold as much as a commodity as oil or wood. A moustache breaks this because it is imperfect, individual, difficult to photograph and pointless to photoshop. Why else are election posters augmented with a twirly moustache worthy of Dali?
Growing a moustache is a small but active step towards the rethinking and reliving that men must make. It is for the man, it might be for other men too. If a man’s father or grandfather has a moustache or beard, when he grows one himself, this could be saying “I appreciate you, and am taking my place with you”. Like it or not, they are our proto-man, they have shaped the mould that we call ourselves.
The moustache is more than what meets the eye. What do you think?