Subject: An inquiry into the likeability, usefulness and ultimately, the possible acceptance of moustaches on a man’s face.
I must admit, not all women like it. In fact, all the internet articles that I read reported that majority of the women are not turned on by moustaches (not to mention that majority of those articles are written by educated women). Having spent the better half of my life’s first quarter in the obscurity of my moustaches and quite diligently so, I’ve earned a nick-name among my male compatriots, ‘Muchhi’, a benign spinoff from the grotesque sounding ‘Mucchad’. What people don’t know is that it was coined by a perceived (and hairless at the time, male) adversary as a tease. The moustaches have kind of ‘grown on me’ since then. So when Madame Purba offered me an opportunity of “defending men's right to keep a moustache”, my moustaches bristled up like a distressed porcupine and nose-picked me until I acquiesced and took up this herculean task of redeeming the staches.
There seems to be a furor against moustaches and beards from all camps championing different causes. Especially in India, the trend tells that many women who are technologically able, abhor moustaches on their men. We’ve witnessed movements like ‘shave or crave’ which have only added oil into haired men’s WOES. Ironically, WOES stands for “Women Oppose Evening Stubble”. Not only they insist that men should shave in the evening too, to make his woman feel special (after working his arse to please his boss) but do so in an effing running metro. Pfft, I’d rather quit being with such cantankerous women who might next ask us to shave while bungee jumping or skydiving or anything, than compromising with my peace of mind! It seems that if men have a notion of carrying their pride on their faces in the symbolic form of moustaches, women carry an intangible sense of material self-possessiveness on their noses and you cannot cut what you can’t see. But women! In this rage to get rid of what is not yours (you might not want it either), you are blithely unaware of what we are losing out on, moustaches! Above all, the above stated perception isn’t your fault except for the fault of ignorance that you all are just towing in line with the whims of a powerful dozens, while all I do is sigh and say “This too shall pass!” We will get back to it again, just like history.
However! I am not here to defend any man’s right to keep a moustache. What ‘right’? Keeping a moustache isn’t a matter of right, it is a matter of choice and preference. I am here to establish the sporting of moustache as a personal choice and by doing that, I hence seek to clinch that freedom of expression for men (which, incidentally happens to be a fundamental right). While beards have often shared a common trend with moustaches, their associations with religion run rather deep and making a distinction between making a lifestyle statement and a religious statement is rather tedious. So, let us leave them for someone else to explore for a major part of this inquiry and focus on moustaches. Since the shunning of moustaches by the fairer sex and also a large part of the ‘unfair’ males (as many of you believe) in the open is a thing of post millennial era, I’d like to delve into the possible reasons of dissent from those quarters, the validity of those arguments and presenting a counter argument in case of difference of opinion. So, here I present to you a dialectical diatribe about moustaches. But be forewarned, for I’m trying to show a different kind of picture and I humbly appeal to your sense of rationality as well as emotion. I’ve tried my best to refrain from castigating cult practices like feminism, equality yada yada … and revealing the flaccidness of many of their arguments (they are after all trying to make things better for someone); I’ve tried to stay my hand from lashing out at people by not reasoning with them about my cause, but by belittling their efforts at what they do even though that forms a large part of the debate arsenal. I understand that it is wrong on my part to make you see the mirror which is tainted by the way I see through it, for it is my honest intention, that you see the world through your own eyes and not through your mothers, or fathers, or friends, or lovers, or that magazine’s editor, or society’s instead. Above all, I want you to make up your own mind, and know the reason why you think what you think. Despite of this, I do not guarantee a fair treatment to the topic, I am a fairly young guy, driven by my sense of this world, and my senses (not to mention, groins).
It is important that we track this trend from as long as we can, since styles for facial hair tell a story of changing ideas about men and masculinity and in a way, society. What seems to be missing from this evaluation is the study of women’s position through these ages which is kind of unfair. But I’ll not deter from this lack of resource and will make certain observations as we pass along. Please feel free to draw your own conclusions.
The earliest picture of a man with groomed moustache is of around 300BC, of a warrior on a horse, with a shaven face, and a moustache.[Ref] In the Renaissance period, beard-wearing was a sign of masculinity and almost a rite of passage which almost every boy went through has he crossed the threshold of being a boy and was ushered into manhood. Will Fisher described Renaissance England as, “beards maketh the man” [More]. It was more of a health concern back then rather than a style statement. People believed that the body consisted of “four fluid humours in a perpetually precarious state of balance”, and there were different ideas on getting rid of excesses – from bloodletting to growing beards, everything was prevalent. [This much prevalent practice for at least 2000 years could be the reason why we have Vampire stories.] It was widely believed that “facial hair was actually a form of excreta generated by the body as a result of heat in the testicles!” Since the beard was linked to the genitals, it was also an outward sign of virility and masculinity. Apparently, the Khap elders have shown much confidence in this theory of heat and testicles, and chow mien.
Then, things began to change, probably because of the development of less barbaric societies. The eighteenth-century culture of politeness projected the ‘man of letters’ as clean-shaven; “Having an ‘open countenance’ was also a metaphor for an open mind” which made thinkers shed their scruffy beards. It was also the time of increased industry and businesses. New shaving technologies like the invention of cast steel made shaving a less uncomfortable experience and blades more trustworthy. “As newspaper advertising expanded, and razor makers capitalised on this new vogue for shaving, offering … new types of razors ‘on philosophical principles’.” Other complementary appurtenances which ushered the Georgian male into the era of pampering included ‘razor strops’ to keep the shiny new razor sharp, face creams, shaving powders and scents.
This was probably the time when the businessmen started to tap the immense potential of profit out of grooming the society, by starting trends through advertisements, marketing and grapevine while spreading different kinds of notions about grooming as per the liking of their pockets. It was the time of Renaissance which was marked by increased awareness in people, but that does not imply increased intelligence and may also hint at increased susceptibility to new kinds of prejudices. As Casanova had once hinted when he asked Voltaire, "Suppose that you succeed in destroying superstition. With what will you replace it?" he understood that “the people need to live in ignorance for the general peace of the nation". Now that people were finally shedding their yoke of religious gambits and trying to fit into the uncomfortable looking truths of science, an emotional appeal to the common sentiment with convoluted reasoning which looked just like science, only a little more appealing than real science, served the industrialists and businessmen well. It still works today, and more openly so where people no longer check the facts when something appeals to their prejudices or is sympathetic for their cause, a “whatever sells” technique. Why this happens could also be linked to the way education is imparted, which has made science for the scientists, philosophy for the philosophers and abstract for the surrealists, in short, by experts for experts. Common men tend to like them more for the awe that they bring rather than the deep understanding of how things work, how simple they could be and hence, they still shied from being face to face with uncomfortable questions. What Albert Einstein called ‘the happy childhood of science’ was the early renaissance period when men like Galileo, Newton and Darwin were not averse to being read by specialists in their field nor to the lay people. As Charles Van Doren writes in ‘How to read a book’, “Intelligent and well-read persons were expected to read scientific books as well as history and philosophy; there were no hard and fast distinctions, no boundaries that could not be crossed.” The path of least resistance is what the nature seems to follow on the surface. Adding to that, the media is and always has been designed to make thinking seem unnecessary. “The packaging of intellectual positions and views is one of the most active enterprises of some of the best minds of our day. The viewer of television, the listener to radio, the reader of magazines, is presented with a whole complex elements – all the way from ingenious rhetoric to carefully selected data and statistics – to make it easy for him to ‘make up his own mind’ with the minimum of difficulty and effort. But the packaging is often done so effectively that the viewer, listener, or reader does not make up his own mind at all. Instead, he inserts a packaged opinion into his mind, somewhat like inserting a cassette into a cassette player. He then pushes a button and ‘plays back’ the opinion whenever it seems appropriate to do so. He has performed acceptably without having to think”. While quoting this verbatim, I am tempted to think of having fallen for the very same trap this short excerpt debunks.
We shall continue with this article in part two - History.
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