From the lustrous whiskers of England’s Medieval Knights to Magnum, PI and Movember —–Lucinda Hawksley charts the changing fashion of the HIRSUTE UPPER LIP.
Throughout History, facial hair has fallen, in and out of fashion. Hairy faces have been lauded, derided, immortalised in art and legislated against. The RISE and the CURL of the MOUSTACHE has never been STRAIGHTFORWARD.
Since the 1st caveman picked up a hinged shell and tweezered whiskers from his face, men have shaped their facial growth. Over the centuries, the MOUSTACHE has been more popular sometimes, less so at others —–but it never disappears entirely.
As Social History goes through new and varied phases, so does POGONOTROPHY (the act of cultivating facial hair). England’s Medieval Knights, had armour made to accommodate their lustrous moustaches. In the 14th Century, Edward, Prince of Wales, was commemorated by an effigy in Canterbury Cathedral. It shows the Prince in full battle-dress, with chain-mail encasing his face and neck, but allowing his long whiskers to flow over the top.
The MOUSTACHE, as a fashion symbol, really came into its own in England following the heavily-bearded Elizabethan Era. King James-I was proud of his DAPPER MOUSTACHE. His son, King Charles -I, made the GOATEE & HANDLEBAR MOUSTACHE ICONIC. Sheer jealousy of the monarch’s magnificent moustache, led Oliver Cromwell to lead a REPUBLICAN REVOLUTION. He not only executed the King, but also one of the King’s loyal followers.
During the late 17th Century, beards fell, spectacularly, out of fashion in Europe —–helped in Russia by Tsar Peter the Great’s BEARD TAX. The younger generation, eventually, kicked out against all this hairy fashion. They wanted to emulate a poet, who was ‘mad, bad, and dangerous to know’. Lord Byron kept his face free of hair, except f or a ROMANTICALLY CURLING SLENDER MOUSTACHE. For several decades, The BYRONIC STYLE was the sexiest look around, and moustaches ruled the roost. But in 1854, with the Crimean War, there was a return of the MASSIVE BEARD.
The moustache had become the symbol of the modern man. In 1920, Agatha Christie, in her 1st crime novel —–THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES, introduced Hercule Poirot and his famous moustache. In Hollywood, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn and Ronald Colman sported moustaches, that could make a heroine swoon. In the 1960s and 1970s, beards were back with a vengeance and the moustache faded into insignificance.
The world’s longest moustache belongs to RAM SINGH CHAUHAN, from India. In 2010, it reached to over 14ft in length, when it was measured for the Guiness Book of Records.
History has shown that FACIAL HAIR FASHION, can be as mercurial as the platform shoe and high-waisted trousers, but for the moment, the moustache is well and truly back.