Mustaches are growing on everyone, whether it be on their faces or in their wardrobes. Francesca’s, a national retail boutique with three stores in Austin, recently started selling mustache iPhone cases, handlebar mustache watches, mustache bottle openers and notable mustache disguises in the styles of Hulk Hogan and Salvador Dalí. It appears, as a trend in pop culture, the ’stache is back.
Shirts can be seen around campus with slogans that read “I mustache you a question, but I’ll shave it for later” and “come and shave it,” a la the notable Texas Revolution flag reading “come and take it.” A simple search for “mustache” on Pinterest results in tutorials on how to paint mustaches on fingernails and how to bake mustache cupcakes. Mustaches are even reappearing where they originated, on men’s faces.
The surge of mustache popularity has not gone unnoticed among UT students. While many female students sport mustache accessories, many males choose to embrace the facial-hair-friendly culture in Austin.
“My high school had a ‘no facial hair’ policy, so I started growing out my mustache when I came to UT,” said computer science sophomore Dan Rutledge.
Mustaches have clearly grown in popularity. What is unclear is exactly what spurred the renewed interest in hair above the lip. Janet Davis, an American studies associate professor who specializes in pop culture, noted that while the mustache is making a comeback, it is still not part of the mainstream culture.
“Having a mustache is a marker of difference,” Davis said. “It is bohemian chic, a kind of eclectic retro cool.”
Mustaches and facial hair have only appealed to a niche of the population for the majority of the 20th and 21st centuries, said Bryan Nelson, president of the Austin Facial Hair Club. He cites the Industrial Revolution as the last time facial hair was widely accepted in mainstream culture.
“Throughout history, prior to the Industrial Revolution, men around the world celebrated their facial hair with unique creations and styles,” Nelson said.
Davis noted that the last U.S. president to sport facial hair of any kind was William Taft, who left office in 1913. Nelson and Davis both used U.S. presidents as an indicator of cultural norms, a reflection of American society at the time they served in office.
After Taft’s presidency, Davis points to increasing immigration from Eastern Europe and an association of facial hair with radicalism as a potential cause for the decline of the mustache.
“Many Polish, Italian and Jewish immigrants, who were not really perceived as white, had long ethnic traditions of very prominent facial hair,” Davis said. “This marked them as different and alienated them in America.”
Additionally, American sentiments were not aligned with radical political figures, such as Karl Marx and Hitler, who had very distinctive facial hair.
Though mustaches and facial hair made brief comebacks in the 1960s and 1970s, they maintained an association with counter-cultural movements, Davis said. She suggested that much of the consumer-oriented mustache products play off of society’s perception of mustaches as offbeat and quirky.
“Society probably sees [mustaches] in many different lights: anything from evil, to hippie, to lazy, to scary, to weird, to funny, to interesting,” said Taylor Welden, a mustached member of the Austin Facial Hair Club. “For me, it’s not really about how other people see it. I feel natural with my mustache. I feel naked without one.”
The growth in appreciation of the mustache among consumers signals a slight shift in America’s acceptance of facial hair. Retailers such as Francesca’s and websites like Pinterest have found a national audience for mustache merchandise. All the better for facial hair enthusiasts in Austin like Nelson, who thinks “that bald-faced men are akin to the 90-pound supermodel. Much like the supermodel is not a representation of a real, desirable woman, the smooth, uber-exfoliated man is not a realistic or desirable man.”
Printed on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 as: Must-Have Trend