‘Tache

Momentous times require momentous moustaches.

Look at Hitler and Chamberlain.

And Einstein. And Groucho Marx.

I have had occasion, over the last 24 hours, to investigate some of the most outrageous coiffure the upper lip ever known to mankind.

From world famous leaders to nobodies requiring a little status, men- and the occasional woman – have used moustaches to create an unforgettable persona.

The Eastern Europeans are very good at statement lipwear, day in, day out. It’s all very well bringing a Gilliamesque showpiece ‘tache out for a special occasion: but you’ve got to admire a revolutionary who sports a piece of face sculpture, day in, day out.

Take Panayot Hitov, a fiery Bulgarian revolutionary and leader of several key bands in the mid to late 19th century.

At thirty years old he became leader of one of the most significant bands of revolutionaries against the Ottoman Empire based in south eastern Bulgaria. He was feared and respected in equal measure, a charismatic figure to be reckoned with, a leader, soldier and politician.

And what a moustache he sported. Stretching like a pair of handlebars out past the parameters of his head and way out yonder, so that from behind, two pointed protrusions showed as he walked. Powerful man. Powerful moustache.

One of the most chilling moustaches of all time sat on the lip of a fascist speaker whose attempt at world domination met its end ignominiously in a bunker in Berlin.

But there’s a prequel to that moustache: and it comes from a writer who died in 1957.

It reveals that the origin of Adolf Hitler’s trademark  ‘toothbrush’ might be not a fashion choice: but ignominiously utilitarian.

Alexander Moritz Frey was a private who served alongside Hitler in the Bavarian light infantry division during the first world war: and with the publication of his biography in 2007, an essay came to light which had lain unnoticed for half a century.

When he first met Hitler in 1915, he did not warm to him. An article from The Telegraph covering the revelations quotes Frey:

“A pale, tall man tumbled down into the cellar after the first shells of the daily evening attacks had begun to fall, fear and rage glowing in his eyes,” he writes.

“At that time he looked tall because he was so thin. A full moustache, which had to be trimmed later because of the new gas masks, covered the ugly slit of his mouth.”

Photographs bear it out: HItler had a very full Prussian moustache, right up until the moment his army superiors ordered him to clip it short to fit under the regulation gas masks, so he would be protected form British mustard gas.

From the utilitarian to the ridiculous: how could we leave out Senior Dali and the nexus of his self expression?

This grandiose surrealist Spanish artist of the twentieth century  gave his moustache a life of its own. It was, often, his art. It fuelled his theatrical exhibitionism; it was the most extreme form of Dali’s incorrigible attention seeking.

So much so that he and friend Philippe Halsman published a book in 1954 called ‘Dali’s Mustache’.

It was crammed with images of the face-sculpture, accompanied with anecdotes and snatches of Dali’s singular philosophy: on one page:”Why do you wear a moustache?” And Dali’s wry response: “In order to pass unobserved.”

One day Stravinsky and his wife were walking along the corridor of an upmarket New York hotel when they came upon Dali. And he was carrying a little silver bell.

“Bonjour, Igor!”, he exclaimed: and “Bonjour, Madame!”

There was a pregnant pause while the composer and his wife smiled politely and said nothing: then they made as if to move on.

But Dali couldn’t have that. He rang his little bell.

Stravinsky did the polite thing. He did what was expected of him; he enquired politely: “What is that little silver bell you are carrying?”

Delighted, the Spanish exhibitionist  delivered his punchline: I carry and ring it”, he said, “so that people will notice my moustache.”

My husband carries no bell. But this morning, as we returned from a very nice Sunday lunch at my parent’s house, I noticed a shadow over his upper lip.

On enquiry I was informed that this is his contribution to Movember: and that it is more than just a few-days wonder. Together with a group of colleagues from work, he is growing a moustache not for utility, nor exhibitionism, but for charity: specifically,research into Non Hodgkins Lymphoma.

I’m not thrilled.

Moustaches are scratchy.

But who was it said:  momentous times require momentous moustaches?

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44 thoughts on “‘Tache

  1. So Hitler’s moustache was a symbol of defiance against the British?

    The Hub once shaved off his moustache. I told him I would leave him if he ever did it again. Some lips are meant to be hairy.

  2. ah yes, Kate, the hirsute top lip coverage.. I have a hatred.. (my ex… he grew one and a beard, despite my saying it was uncomfortable… methinks this was his way of saying no kissing? 😉 hence ex ) … Just reminded me of the scenario when he was feeling rather sartorial, beard and mustache combed and shining, and we were walking into a shop,. a loud voice was heard saying ‘isn’t that Bill Oddie?’ oh did I laugh? Yes!!
    Kudos to Phil, charity wise, but once it’s over get the shaving foam and razor ready!! 😀 xPenx

  3. Tom has a moustache. He grew it right after we were married, now 38 years. I wasn’t so sure, at first, but, he’s had it so long, I’m not sure I’d recognize him without it. His is rather debonair and conservative. Hint, wink, wink – it doesn’t stop the kisses once it’s grown in. Good for Phil. A good guy for a good cause.

  4. What glorious pictures and stories to accompany them. For your sake, Kate, I hope Movember passes quickly. One of my friends decided to do this last year and turned it into a set of pretty hilarious pictures on Facebook. I think his wife threw a party when he finally shaved the thing. 🙂

  5. Love the pics – some of those moustaches are downright ridiculous… As for Mr. Einstein, I like it and can’t even imagine him without one. Best of luck to Phil, and you. 🙂

  6. Over on this side of the pond we call it a ‘stache! All that aside, I love moustaches – certain moustaches. My Hubs’, for example. He has had one on and off throughout our marriage, but the times he shaved it off was because some of the little old church ladies at whatever church we were serving didn’t like it! It didn’t matter, of course, what his wife wanted – No! Of course not! Only what those little blue-haired ladies thought!

    When our boys were babies, they always had a little rash on their cheeks (the ones on their faces). It was a ‘stache burn, that they got from being hugged and kissed by their Daddy!

    Salvador Dali and his ‘stache. . .it suited his oversized personality, I guess.

    American composer, Stephen Foster, wrote a great little ditty called “If You’ve Only got a Moustache.” Here are the lyrics, along with a YouTube that includes some photos and a woman singing the song.

    Oh, all of you poor single men,
    Don’t ever give up in despair,
    For there’s always a chance while there’s life
    To capture the hearts of the fair.
    No matter what may be your age,
    You always may cut a fine dash,
    You will suit all the girls to a hair,
    If you’ve only got a moustache!
    A moustache, a moustache,
    If you’ve only got a moustache!

    No matter for manners or style,
    No matter for birth or for fame,
    All these used to have something to do
    With young ladies changing their name,
    There’s no reason now to despond,
    Or go and do any thing rash,
    For you’ll do though you can’t raise a cent,
    If you’ll only raise a moustache!
    A moustache, a moustache,
    If you’ll only raise a moustache.

    Your head may be thick as a block,
    And empty as any football,
    Oh! your eyes may be green as the grass
    Your heart just as hard as a wall.
    Yet take the advice that I give,
    You’ll soon gain affection and cash,
    And will be all the rage with the girls,
    If you’ll only get a moustache,
    A moustache, a moustache,
    If you’ll only get a moustache.

    I once was in sorrow and tears
    Because I was jilted you know,
    So right down to the river I ran
    To quickly dispose of my woe,
    A good friend he gave me advice
    And timely prevented the splash,
    Now at home I’ve a wife and ten heirs,
    And all through a handsome moustache,
    A moustache, a moustache,
    And all through a handsome a moustache

    Another of my extended comments. . .*sigh*

  7. Hirsute suits my man.
    Bearded for all the time I have known him, except for a stage production once when he played a clean shaven aneasthetist and more recently he shaved it all off on the morning of the eclipse. Confused Scout!
    The worst stage is the spiky regrowth stage… which only lasts a short while!

  8. Quelle horreur! But what a good effort… However, looking on the bright side… perhaps in a month it won’t get to the size of Dali’s?

  9. Was married to a mustache for years and thought nothing of it. Now my son has one, along with a short beard. Not sure I’d recognize him without it. I think it’s just what you’re used to. Cheer up, Kate. It’s for a good cause, and it will all be over soon.

  10. You omitted to mention the key role it played in World War II – bomber command would never have functioned without the handlebar moustache to provide extra lift 😉 Interesting post Kate 🙂

  11. With one possible exception, I think every important male in my life either currently sports or has sported a moustache. Both of my sons (and my grand-dog, Charlie) are moustachioed gents. Take heart, Kate, it’s only a bit like kissing a porcupine while it’s becoming a total presence — moustaches DO soften up. Besides, you might decide you like the look once it’s fully accomplished. 🙂

  12. Some men are so much more attractive with a little facial hair. Especially when they are well groomed and everything is past the prickle stage.

    My hat’s off to the cause!

  13. Yowsa! That guy with the loop-de-loops made me laugh out loud! A bit like some of the hats worn to Will and Kate’s wedding.

    Best of luck to Phil . . . and to you in managing with the mustache until December arrives.

  14. Oh, sympathies, Kate – my husband shaved his off years ago and will be served with his marching orders if he evers regrows it (Movember or no) – yuk, yuk and double-yuk to facial hair

  15. Your moustache twirls are most interesting!
    I think I look ridiculous without one. Like a friend in Rotary – he always seemed a handsome chap until he shed his moustache, after which his face simply went out of proportion. For many men, the face fungus is just part of the personality.
    I tried a beard once. That always looked as if it had been infested with moths.

  16. First off good for your husband! On growing the mustache I mean, cancersmancer I always say.

    Also, Teddy Roosevelt should be on any least of men or mustaches. My country only sits where it does in this world because every couple generations we manage to produce a mustache like him.

  17. Jack had a moustache when we got married and for several years thereafter (ala Tom Selleck), and I just accepted it as part of his face. When he decided to shave it off, he looked so foreign to me that for a week or two I had nothing to do with him. Now, I prefer his clean shaven look and hope he will not take it into his head to experiment with his facial hair! Good on Phil, though, for contributing to the cause (though my sympathy is with you).

  18. I wish I had met Dali in a previous life 😉 Movember is a great excuse for men to wear the moustache they always wanted! Who are we to stand in the way of creative lip gear – haha. Very entertaining post Kate (as always) – they are scratchy those damn moustachios.

  19. Never understood the moustache thing. Either have a beard or don’t have a beard. Mine was not always white you know. Ah, it used to be a rich chestnut brown with tiny flashes of auburn, red and black. What is interesting is that my Age Director had me skip the gray and silver stage and go right to white. Hey if you are going to get old, why waste time at it?

  20. I grewmy first one (and a goatee) as soon as I left school. I was a soul brother see, and my favourite musical arranger was the black American Thom Bell, who wore a tache and goatee. The fact that I was twenty years younger and white passed me by. The resulting name I often received for my facial handiwork was Catweazel. Rather a different cup of tea I think you’ll agree. I was even punched in the mouth for it in a disco. And only the most discerning girls went for it. Well that’s what I used to say anyway. So I became a hairy biker.

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