In the last two posts, Part 1 - Origins and Part 2 - History, we explored the rich history and trends of popularity of moustaches in societies. Now, we turn our attention to the perceptions that people in the last decade have held on to, various arguments that they give, their validity and in some cases, their futility. We also try to examine how the 'nature of the job' may also determine the acceptability of moustaches and in a way affecting the perceptions of an observer. We then start to move towards the last part of this journey where we discuss how moustaches affect things and why it should be a matter of own choices rather than someone else's.
Many women, as I said are not turned on by the moustaches, some of them might even find them repulsive [More]. Indian women's magazines have printed letters to the editor saying how happy they are that the great Indian moustache may be trimmed, a sentiment that many young women here say they agree with. "No guy I liked ever had a moustache," said Vaishnavi Viraj, 18, a student at Delhi University. "My mum, though, thinks that moustaches are a sign of royalty and represent elegance and pride. As for me, I just don't like very hairy men." "I relate them to 'uncles' and 'dads,' " Adishree Panda, 18, chimed in. [More]
While this kind of reactions are to be expected in the light of increased fashion trending and the confluence of cultures, ‘liking’ a person isn’t determined just by the moustache alone. Okay so what does that mean for such guys? That could possibly mean that such guys will have a little more time to think about their life and the kind of women they would NOT want to be with. Agreed, guys do look beyond their age but that does not mean that people tell them to shovel off their little goatees and other signs of adolescence? Besides, young boys are also undergoing the same hormonal imbalance as girls do, which levels off in early twenties since boys usually mature a little later than girls. So, they deserve a break, they didn’t even have had a chance to see how they’d look like if they grew some facial hair and girls (their girlfriends or girl-friends) have already started caviling about their looks. And based on what? At this age, we often cannot differentiate between what we genuinely like and what is a result of induction from our friends. Each individual is different. But people with similar traits tend to flock together and yet, there is always a leader of the pack; there can be different leaders at different times albeit. When someone in the group swoons over the manly features of Daniel Craig or the handsomeness of Hritik Roshan’s masculine and yet agile six pack, or Virat Kohli’s loquacious middle finger, there is little left for the rest of the herd to decide on, for the fear of falling out of the group, it is akin to having an female version of an alpha male. While a girl may harbor a secret crush over the next door guy whom her clique often ridicules for his emerging masculine traits like a half grown moustache or disappearing sideburns, she has to be one voice when together. If anyone thinks that they’ve figured out how attraction works, they are clearly mistaken [More].
As one research claims “What we find attractive is a complex mixture of biology, cultural values, upbringing, beliefs, and individuality. In some respects we are mere animals, unconsciously seeking likely and sound mates in order to procreate our species with healthy, hardy offspring. We are swayed by the 'smell' of pheromones (they don't actually have an odor); we perform mating dances (flirting) that are remarkably alike the world over; and we subconsciously choose mates for their reproductive potential. But the qualities that separate us from the animals also have an important part in determining who we try to ensnare in our intricately woven love traps. Birds of a feather flock together and so we narrow our mating pool based on subculture, work, interests, religion, ethnicity, and other affiliations. Society takes its toll on who we prefer, but we are still individuals, and our self-perception also influences who we deem a potential lover…For humans to subsist we must keep having sex and making babies. But since relationships and sex have long since been divorced from procreation, there are other reasons for finding a partner. For one, sex is downright pleasurable. Secondly, an amorous suitor makes us feel good about ourselves. And of equal importance is the comfort that emotional support, financial input and steady company provides.”
A reason that boys state, other than that their girlfriends hate it, goes like: "Our fathers thought they were not men without their moustaches. But 'hairy Hindustan' is over," said Kumar, using a time-honoured nickname for the subcontinent. "It's old India. The moustache is for my father, not for me." A recent book by Author Richard McCallum, titled “Hair India - A Guide to the Bizarre Beards and Magnificent Moustaches of Hindustan" warns that India's extravagant beards and moustaches - proudly sported by generations of Indian men - are being trimmed as the country becomes more clean-shaven and urban in the absence of role models sporting beards or moustaches. Modern boys like to be clean shaven (perhaps their girlfriends like it that way.) For some, it is yet again a symbol of revolt against the hegemony of their fathers’ moustaches, and for others a way to show their love, that they care. He notes "no one wants to look like their parents." Which unfortunately is the truth even for the girls who clearly have an opinion which is poles apart from their mothers’. It is funny, because the youth is actively trying to not look like their parents and yet, many studies report that men subconsciously tend to be attracted to girls who exhibit the traits of their mothers [More].
But this is what moustaches have long stood for and we subconsciously connect to what we’ve imbibed. According to Allan Peterkin, ‘The moustache has always been the emblem of the other, in the Western world in particular. …I talk about the three “f’s”: the fop, the foreigner, and fiend. The fop is the effete man who is overly concerned with his appearance. That in itself would suggest not a very godly attribute. The foreigner is the other. So if you’re a WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant), you might refer to someone of Mediterranean extraction with a moustache as being a foreign other. And then the fiend: typically through Hollywood and most representations in books and film, the short-handed symbol that the guy’s a villain is that he’s twirling his moustache, that he’s got evil on his mind.’
Moustaches have served different purposes for different men [more]. From entrepreneurial mandate, religious instruction to deception or accentuated impact, moustaches have been the most displayed and hence most targeted assets on men. The Jesuits are typically clean-shaven (in America). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a guideline that all full-time male missionaries are required to shave each day. If we forget about the ladies for a moment, the aggression with which technology has been making giant leaps has left little time for the fast and the furious men to groom their endowments and with the dearth of such precious resource, what recourse does he have but to shave them off. Many workplaces have not tolerated facial hair, and for a man to be able to get away with it probably means that he has some stature. As Allan Peterkin notes “The two professions in which you don’t dare have a moustache or facial hair, including the beard, are banking and politics. The last American president to have facial hair was Taft, and he had a big ‘stache. Because your clients, voters, public, will misread your facial hair as something nefarious. So bankers and politicians aren’t willing to have their face misread. So they don’t take the chance. They’re clean-shaven — a tabula rasa.”
There are interesting evolutionary theories why it is so. Moustaches are believed to cover up certain emotional expressions. Part of our survival has been a very delicate sensitivity to read facial expressions - quivering lips, pursing lips, etc. So, some people tend to believe that men with facial hair have something to hide; their muscular expressions tend to give signals contrary to what they’re actually thinking. But there is also evidence against it as many people claim that moustached men enhance certain mouth movements to assert their point rather than hiding it. Another theory which has to do with our evolutionary ancestors - Apes - is that when the apes start to fight, the stick their jaws out which symbolizes the flow of testosterone. In human cultures too, a large jaw is considered more masculine and has aggressive connotations[more], probably because of its association to apes getting that ‘jaw jut’. Some researchers have suggested that it is possible that in ecologies in which physical aggressiveness is more adaptive than cooperation, bearded males might be preferred by women. This might partly explain why your mothers and my mother believe that moustaches make men look more royal, since they belong to an age of clashing identities and have borne that brunt of cultural amalgamation and the chaos that it has wrought. The same situations might reappear in the near future, seeing the resurgence of violence in the cities as well as villages as more children rebel against their orthodoxy. Men also use facial hair for cosmetic, aesthetic reasons, to play up strong features and play down weak ones.
An interesting study also proposes a connection between illegitimacy issue and the declining ratio of moustaches at various times in the past. This has something to do with how men with and without moustaches are perceived by other people in general. When the ratio of illegitimate births in comparison to the number of total births is high, the number of moustaches within the population drops. For this negative correlation, it is suggested that as facial expressions are heavily reliant on the mouth, being clean-shaven may give the impression that one's expressions are more readable and therefore more trustworthy; therefore those with no facial hair are perceived as being more trust worthy, which in a time where men outnumber available women, women tend to look for men who appear trustworthy (and get deceived) [More]. Looking at the rise of unwanted pregnancies and abortions today, instances of MMS scandals involving young couples, increasing instances of violence in a fit of rage, either self-inflicted or by the other party, and given than the male to female ratio in India, on average isn’t very good, it might be another empirical validation of this theory.
In the concluding part of this inquiry, we shall see how the entire fashion scene is changing as men continue to shed the 'metrosexual' stereotype and embrace fashion more openly than ever before.
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