CALL it a soup-strainer or a handlebar or simply an inch of fur on the upper lip, men and moustaches seem quite inseparable. Right from dictators like Hitler and Castro to our homegrown actors like Anil Kapoor and Jackie Shroff, the hairy upper lip has been sported by all. One wonders about the psychology of a man’s moustache. Does it signal machismo and power?
Recently, to decode the mystery of the moustache, a filmmaker named Jay Della Valle has made The Glorious Moustache Challenge, for which 50 men under the age of 30 were asked to rock the stage as a fashion dare! According to The New York Times, no other style of male grooming sends out so many potent and often mixed signals. Whether it’s authority or just a sense of evil, a moustache has diverse connotations. Think about it, while on the one hand Vlad the Impaler boasted of a moochh and radiated evil, on the other, many men in the armed forces – especially in India – proudly wear a moustache and exude heroism.
Says Col Rajinder Mago, “A moustache adds to your grace and lends an authoritative air to the person who wears it.” However, till recently, there were plenty of those who didn’t take too kindly to a hairy upper lip and even considered it ‘un-cool’. Says hairstylist Sylvie, “Men wanted the clean look. But moustaches look really cool and sexy on some men. Some women find that the ‘lip-fur’, as it’s naughtily referred to, can be highly sensual!”
Though Bollywood prefers the ‘cleanfaced boys’, down South in Tollywood, heroes with ‘bushy moustaches’ are the ones who dish out super-hit movies. In the Hindi film industry, Anil Kapoor’s moustache has inspired many young boys, even though it has never quite become a fashion statement. “The goatee is more of a contemporary fashion statement these days,” adds Sylvie.
Incidentally, women aren’t particularly impressed with moustaches. Says designer Puja Nayyar, “No, I don’t like men with moustaches – I really prefer them without one! But there are certain men who we can’t imagine without their lip hair.” Allan Peterkin, author of One Thousand Beards: A Cultural History of Facial Hair, explains that the moustache has always been identified with, what he calls, the three Fs: fops (extremely wellgroomed gay men), foreigners and fiends. However, the moustache can also be considered manly. The military moustache was a big tradition. In the ’70s, hippie fashion, with its back-to-nature ethos, popularised all types of hair, including long hair, beards, moustaches and sideburns. Says stylist Javed Habib, “Young and glamorous boys prefer not to have lip hair. A moustache may be a sign of strong men as in movies, you’ll see the villains sport a moustache to give a strong and hard look to their faces.”
And how do men look after their mooch? “With constant
trimming, twisting and waxing, this form of facial hair can be a high-maintenance nuisance. If you try to eat soup or drink a beer with a moustache, it’s tough,” adds Habib.
The price of vanity, one may say…