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The Great Moustache Debate
by David Kenny
I do admit that sometimes I do have some rather strange thoughts in my head but the other day I was sat thinking “What on Earth happened to the moustache??” Yes, you still do see people with beards, goatees, soul patches, etc etc but you never see people with what purists would refer to as a “Moustache” these days?? What happened to the humble moustache? Where did it go and why? Even my Dad has shaved his off nowadays!
The Moustache in recent years has become the subject of mockery, the victim of ridicule and a figure of fun! This once great proclamation of manhood now seems to be the sole preserve of Scandinavian porn stars and the socially inept. However it was not always like this. In fact the moustache was once a sign of power and authority. Throughout history look at the powerful leaders who have sported the moustache. Both the pillars of Russian communism, Stalin and Lenin, wore “Flavour Savers”. Also Hitler, Attila the Hun and Saddam Hussein were all known to have had moustaches. However hairy upper lips were not reserved for homicidal maniacs alone, well known pacifists such as Ghandi and Martin Luther King had moustaches as well.
But the moustache is far more complex than that. Not only can it highlight someone’s authority, it can also mark someone out as a rebel! So many of man kinds famous outsiders, free thinkers and mavericks saw the moustache as just another way to flaunt society’s rules. Look at the likes of Albert Einstein, Salvador Dali, Friedrich Nietzsche, Frank Zappa, Magnum P.I., Burt Reynolds...the list is endless.
But it was during the sixties that the moustache came into its own, becoming an often overlooked and undervalued symbol of the counter-culture. Just look at the cover of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, forget about all the conspiracy theories about Billy Shears, they’ve all got moustaches!! And as for “I am the Walrus”, is it just coincidence that the Walrus has the largest ‘Animal Moustache’ in the natural kingdom?? I’ll let you decide.
The moustache was part of the Hippy dream, part of the Carnaby street ethos, integral to the “Tune in, Turn on and Drop out” philosophy of the times. And that’s the way it stayed until Easy Rider in 1969, in which Dennis Hopper stars, directs and bears a mammoth moustache. The film somewhat prophetically foresaw the death of the Hippy dream and saw the path towards the Heart of Darkness America was hurtling towards as Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda’s “Long haired drop outs” drive towards the Mardi gras in search of America.
And so it was with the demise of Free Love that the moustache was lost to more sinister elements of society. The likes of Charles Manson and members of Baader-Meinhof wearing moustaches, I’m sure, did its popularity no favours and so it slipped into semi obscurity, raising its head now and again spasmodically, awaiting its day of glory once again.
Top 5 Moustaches
This week at Number 5 The Blue Oyster Bar regulars
Yes, they wear dodgy hats, yes they wear leather chaps and yes they may have been vomit inducingly predictable by the time of Police Academy: Mission to Moscow, but never has the trend of collective moustachery been perfected in such an amazing manner. Taking the rudimentary form from the Biker in the Village People and honing it to the next level the Blue Oyster Bar captures the essence of 80’s gay America. Mix and match with various S&M gear and a touch of homo-eroticism and they were onto a winner.
Never has two men tangoing looked so cool!
This week, at number 4 Yosser Hughes
The archetypal Scouser with his bubble perm, sports wear and “take no shit” attitude all contribute to one of the most iconic moustaches of modern times. Not only did he capture the zeitgeist and highlight the hardships and tribulations facing the working class in Thatcher’s Britain, he also popularised the phrase “Giz a job mate” and he carried a mean head butt.
Yosser, we salute you!
This week’s number 3 is Freddy Mercury
Apart from the leotards, the gyrating against the mike stand and the high camp theatrics of Bohemian Rhapsody, Freddy stood for everything manly in the late 70s to the mid 80’s, so much so, thousands were shocked to hear he was gay at the time of his untimely death. My dad being one of them and possibly why he has shaved his off, (although the band was called Queen for crying out loud!). However, undoubtedly the man could “Rock!” Not like these young pretenders today with their floppy haircuts, skinny fit jeans, Converse baseball boots and most importantly, a lack of facial hair! Remember how he stole the show at Live Aid, or rocked Wembley a year later?? Course you do. It’s indelibly left a mark on the nations conscious.
Now ask yourself this: would quite as many people clapped in time to “We will rock you” if the ‘Tash was absent? I think not!
This week’s number 2 is Ming the Merciless
Ming the Merciless’ moustache is quite simply a classic display of facial topiary. Despite owing heavily to Fu Manchu’s moustache, Ming had the wit, charm and personality to carry it off. By adding some sci-fi chic and some Saturday matinee villain campness he really took this look into his own. The sheer amount of time and dedication that has gone into creating such a moustache is staggering, let alone how much time and effort must go into grooming. Washing, combing, trimming etc must use up a lot of time, a commodity an evil Emperor has very little of. Ming was quoted as saying “Some people see facial hair as a fad, a trend to be followed. I see it as an art.”
Rumour has it that Darth Vader only started wearing a mask because he couldn’t grow a moustache as cool as Ming’s. So for his outstanding services to the Moustache, we thank you. You are an inspiration to homicidal Intergalactic Overlords and Victorian Opium den proprietor’s alike!
This week’s Number 1 Seth Armstrong
The man, the myth, the Legend. A true working class hero in every sense. When not found sneaking off to prop up the bar at the Woolpack, he would be off roaming the dales. He was a poacher of great repute and it was said he knew the “Dales like a lover”. He was highly respected the length and breadth of Yorkshire, and by none more so than the notorious Dingle crime family. Dingle clan Patriarch Zak, was noted to have said “It is well known that I have a beard of some magnitude, but that mans moustache is truly magnificent! And for that, I doth my cap.”
It was this respect and his natural stoicism that turned Seth into an unlikely style icon. At one point, Barbour jackets and Deerstalkers were simply De Rigueur for inner city street urchins everywhere. Crime rates across the country fell as joy riders and ram raiders stayed in to see what new fashion coup Seth would pull off next! But like all great men he was dogged by controversy. Rumours were circulated about him being involved in high level criminality such as organising the first illegal rave in Leeds and Greyhound doping, although formal charges were never made. Legend has it when pressed by a local journalist about his chequered history over a pint of ale in the Woolly, Seth simply smiled and said “Stop gassing and get supping.”
To sum up, I’ll simply quote Seth’s Epitaph: - “Beneath this sod, lie’s another”
So there we go. 5 Great men who refused to go with convention and used facial hair as a way to defy social and damned the consequences. They faced the world head on, with pride and with determination. They ditched the latest, vibrating, laser cut, diamond tipped razors and screamed defiantly at the heavens “Gillette is NOT the best a man can get!”
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