The moustache and it’s owner are a funny pair. They belong to a time when smoking jackets were de rigueur, when oranges were an exotic treat and when aviation was in it’s infancy. How on earth they found their way to London, 2012 is anybody’s guess.
I was once of the belief that if they weren’t white, bushy and adorning elderly Italian gentlemen (the sort of thing one see’s in a wholesome advert for pasta sauce), then moustaches should be regarded with a whole barrel-load of suspicion.
Perhaps they still should. But I can’t help liking the moustacheoed men of London. Gone is the moustache sleaziness that I was familiar with in the provinces (you know, the sort accompanied by a pallid complexion, nervous twitch and wandering hands) and in its place is the moustache rogue – straight from a bygone era and full of rakish charm. I much prefer rogues to sleazes.
For those uninitiated in the world of upper-lip topiary, here’s a quick summary of my favourites:
- waxed ends twirl upward
- gradual lengthening at the sides
- can make drinking frothy substances a challenge
- very Victorian
- short, clipped and neat
- usually accompanied by oiled hair
- only noticeable on those blessed with darker shades of facial hair
- had its heyday in the first half of the 20th century
- moustache joins sideburns in a wild, eccentric manner
- usually reserved for the older gentleman
- looks best when accompanied by a beige explorer’s hat
Although there’s no beating an expertly waxed Handlebar moustache, I’m noticing a growing trend for the Pencil. Lower maintenance and a dating little bit later, the Pencil moustache is to the Handlebar what the speakeasy is to the music hall, the motor car to the steam train, the New York penthouse to the townhouse with fussy wallpaper. Altogether a bit more 20th Century.
Before embarking on ANY moustache cultivation, a gentleman must firstly consider whether he has sufficient raw material. You see, no Victorian dandy or Jazz Age crooner worth his salt would ever have presented himself to the public with some wispy thread of a moustache. It’s just not nice. In fact, ladies dislike this on a man more than anything.
A dense thatch of upper-lip hair is not the only thing needed for a successful entrance into the world of moustaches. One must also have the right mindset. If you’re aiming for a Handlebar, are you prepared to play the bounder? A Pencil moustache will only work if you have a slick, sophisticated personality – is this you? And Mutton Chops simply have to be accompanied by a jovial disposition. Your cheeks must be rosy and you must be prone to chortling.
Another thing to consider before cultivating your Handlebar, Pencil or Mutton Chops is the fact that you’re about to create a look that cannot be hidden. Facial hair is not something you can whip on and off for an evening (well, you can whip it off, but you can’t very well whip it back on again… ). A moustache is a commitment and must be worn with confidence and pizzazz every day.
There are some activities that are undeniably going to prove a challenge for the moustacheoed man. Wearing any sort of tracksuit should be avoided at all costs. You’ll immediately come within a gnat’s whisker of the aforementioned ‘sleaze’ if you attempt to combine anything elasticated at the waist and ankle with a moustache. And not many people can differentiate either side of a gnat’s whisker. If you must exercise, it should take place outdoors and be limited to dumb-bells and track-running.
Coffee culture is also a danger for the moustacheoed man. When trying to woo a lady, stick to Americanos, espressos and flat whites. As soon as you start going down the latté and cappuccino route, your moustache is in danger of becoming an object of ridicule rather than a distinguishing feature and mark of a fine gentleman.
On that note, I bid you go forth, dear men of London (if you can comply with the above criteria) and embrace the facial hair of yesteryear!