Men’s facial hair has always been a defining symbol of masculinity. However, while women’s hairstyles change and are celebrated throughout the waxing and waning of different ages, the moustache as a symbol of person style has a much more chequered history.
During the 1500’s, the beard and moustache were considered the epitome of masculinity. However, in Russia towards the end of the 17th century, Peter the Greats notorious beard tax at least partially reversed this trend. As far that is, as the beard itself was concerned.
The Rise of the Moustache as a Style Symbol
Being exempt from the tax, standalone moustaches began to flourish throughout the 18th century. Moreover, rather than represent raw masculinity like their beard accompanied predecessors, the moustaches of the era became trend setting style symbols in their own right.
From the pencil thin and immaculately maintained moustache of the infamous Lord Byron to the elaborately sculptured curls of the era’s nobility, moustaches were for the first time all about fashion and individual identity, not just testosterone.
War & Peace
However, just like all design and style trends, the moustache was forced to evolve again in the mid-1800’s due specifically to the end of the Crimean war, this and a new trend for unkempt bushy beards and moustaches which reflected the visual notoriety of returning soldiers.
Once again, the moustache, it seemed, had become a defining symbol of raw masculinity. However, unlike in previous ages, the moustache became more about displaying a fashion inspired perception of manliness, not true war weariness.
With clean shaven faces then becoming the norm at the start if the 20th century, the twenties onwards saw a resurgence of the pencil thin moustache. Rather, however, than symbolizing just style, the moustache became a status symbol among early Hollywood greats. This was then followed by a second resurgence of the moustache in its more full upper lip form, among 1960’s to 1980’s members of both gay and then growing counter culture movement members.
Celebrating the Moustache as a Modern day Status Symbol
Since the 1980’s the moustache has wavered in popularity. However, resurgences in popularity are becoming more frequent. Moreover, for the most part, renewed interest in the moustache as a personal design statement can be attributed to the now international Australian Movember movement. This and contemporary reprisal in interest in regard to 1960’s and 1970’s social movements.
The only question, in this case, is how will men around the world celebrate their next upcoming Movember? By looking to Hollywood and small screen legends such as Tom Selleck for moustache inspiration, or more discernibly eccentric characters such as the ever recognizable Salvador Dali?