A Treatise on the Mustache

by Brett & Kate McKay on September 8, 2009 · 44 comments

in Dress & Grooming, Hair


Editor’s note: This impassioned (and fun to read!) article on the virtues of mustache-manship comes from Abdul R. Chaballout. Enjoy.

For those of us who have forgotten life in the United States before the 1980′s, the sudden appearance of Brad Pitt and Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi, parading with freshly blossomed mustaches may seem random and unorthodox. Having spent the past year in the Middle East, where this particular expression of facial hair is very much a conventional display, I began to question whether we as Americans have forgotten an important element of human nature that many cultures globally have preserved. It was only after I embraced life with a mustache myself that I have come to transcend my initial prejudices on the matter.

I have found in this current age, men generally fall into two camps: those who tote and understand the mustache, and those who do not tote and do not understand the “hirsute appendage of the upper lip.” The latter community perceives the mustache to be an arcane ornament, a male accessory that is often displeasing to the common eye. This is a group that also believes in the clean-shaven status quo of modernity, subsequently casting the mustache into the dark abyss of the past. The former community, however, can naturally delineate the je ne sais quoi importance of the mustache, which has everything to do with manhood, and nothing to do with fashion. This is a group that fully apprehends the dying state of masculinity and seeks to rekindle the art of manliness through a reawakening of the mustache. At the core of this movement lays the belief that within every mustache lies ancient tradition, virtuous character, and resonant fellowship.

On Male Tradition

Every strand of hair found above a man’s lips serves as a tribute to the pantheon of mustache holders throughout history, an ode to the testosterone that has driven every strand of every male’s facial hair since the first man roamed Planet Earth. Historically speaking, the first record of man’s extravagant display of his mustache goes back to a painting of a Scythian horseman from 300 BC. Fast forward to the current age, where societies by and large have maintained their bond to the mustache, as evident in Egyptian society today, where a man’s honor is measured by the size of his mustache. Truth be told, an Egyptian clan elder was stripped of his honor in recent years when an unfortunate scuffle led to his kidnapping  and the subsequent humiliation of seeing his mustache shaved, packaged, and sent home.

It is only in recent times that the mustache has become a ubiquitous trademark of villains, pimps, and scalawags. One can easily find himself perplexed at how such a bona fide expression of man can so suddenly find itself disparaged. While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact source of this evolution, one must remember we live in a time where manhood itself has become a trivial matter. As such, it is up to the vigilant and the wise to bring the youth of today back to the straight path.

On Male Character


Prince Hussein Pacha of Egypt… and his mustache.

The outward display of any mustache ostensibly indicates the presence of attributes that have most effectively driven the survival of the male race: virility and masculinity. Biologically speaking, release of testosterone in the development of all males drives the development of secondary sex characteristics, physical features that eventually sustain the holy blessing of procreation. One can appropriately compare the mustache to the feathers of a male peacock. Those peacocks that can flaunt the most impressive feathers are most likely to produce robust offspring. Similarly, those men with the fullest and cleanest mustaches are most likely to share their lives with women of the highest caliber.

Upstanding character in males holds honor as its nucleus. Only with strong honor can other positive attributes such as integrity, loyalty, and sincerity surface to the exterior of any man. That said, many societies hinge the honor of their males on the mustaches on their face. In Syrian society today, men build trust by swearing by their mustache and even go as far as offering their mustache as ransom in the event their integrity is compromised. And old Arab proverb once professed “every mustache has its scissors,” an indication that behind every mustache is a respectable male deserving of the utmost respect.

On Male Fellowship

Unlike women, who bond primarily through face to face discussions, males bond best through shared activities, namely through those performed side by side. Two men embarking on the road to friendship do so with a mutual appreciation of one another’s machismo. Such activities include logging, hunting, war, etc. At a more primordial stage however, the process begins with the most fundamental element of human bonding: similarity. When two men meet, bonding prospects are significantly enhanced when both tote a well groomed mustache. The reason for this goes back to the ancestral nature of this patch of hair, as it integrates both tradition and character, which provides an invariably solid foundation any two men can find relevant.

The proverbial mustache is not only a male prerogative, but a bastion of the male presence. Pushing for its elimination from the zeitgeist of any era carries no meaning but a denial of the source of manhood itself. Toting the mustache with the right intentions is a God-given right that even the English recognized when they declared: “a man without a mustache is like a cup of tea without sugar.”

{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Playstead September 8, 2009 at 2:53 am

Best line of the piece was: ” … one must remember we live in a time where manhood itself has become a trivial matter. As such, it is up to the vigilant and the wise to bring the youth of today back to the straight path.”

I totally agree and I’m teaching my boys to be proud that they get to grow up to be men.

Of course, I couldn’t grow a decent ‘stache to save my life. And it kills me.

2 Brew September 8, 2009 at 2:56 am

The revitalization is slow, but hopeful, on my college campus. Our Moustache Bash immediately follows No-Shave November every year and is mostly for irony and amusement. A few friends sport staches year-round, however, and are given nods of respect when the topic comes up.

3 Robert September 8, 2009 at 8:59 am

The mustache was popular in days of old because of practical purposes, not really for looks.

Shaving with a straight razor is tricky, and the most sensitive skin is actually under your nose. It’s also the tightest spot thanks to your nose. Not shaving this part saves time, and blood. Not to mention if you go back further infections were more common (they didn’t know about keeping your blade clean). Nor did they have good mirrors, lather, or even lighting to make it easy.

Fast forward to the early 1900′s and King Gillette making the safety razor popular. Suddenly it was a lot easier to shave, though for most a safety razor was a luxury as disposable razor blades got expensive.

Fast forward to the 1970′s and those carbon steel blades used because they rusted quick fell out of favor as stainless became the new game. Now you needed less blades per year… making it easier for everyone to afford. Then you had the disposable plastic ones making it even cheaper. Plus electric razors made your cost fixed.

Notice when Mustaches started to fall out of favor, and when they really started to become extinct.

Btw, if you do grow a mustache, learn how to groom yourself. Way to many people who sport them don’t realize that food can get stuck in them. Nothing looks more sloppy than a man walking around with parts of his lunch stuck in his mustache.

4 Ray September 8, 2009 at 9:06 am

My father has been a mustacher (or is that mustacheer) my whole life. I remember as a child being fascinated with his seeming ability to grow one over night. I still never know from one week to the next if he will show up with a mustache or a full beard or some other formation of manly facial hair. It is a fine art that he has cultivated and inspired me, from time to time, to do the same.

5 Greg Throne September 8, 2009 at 9:13 am

The fashion for the ‘stache comes & goes. 17th & 18th century Europeans (& descendents) didn’t go in for the ‘stache. The mustache shows up full time about 1850, then seems to fade about 1915…something about gasmasks in France and Flanders, I believe. I do not have a mustache, much less one of those magnificent late 19th century “soup strainers”, but that’s mostly due to the unfortunate combination of a ‘stache that comes in wispy and pale blond…with a thick bright red beard!

6 Phil September 8, 2009 at 11:11 am

I wouldn’t lose any sleep if my ‘stache fell out tomorrow.

7 Brian September 8, 2009 at 11:52 am

I have the problem of any possible ‘stache I grow being a “reverse Hitler”. In other words I have a spot about 3/4 of an inch wide on the center of my upper lip that grows no hair.

8 k2000k September 8, 2009 at 12:07 pm

If I could grow a decent ‘stache I would, unfortunately, I can’t and I look much better clean shaven.

9 Wayne Key September 8, 2009 at 1:32 pm

I have a question for the readers of this article. I have been wearing a mustache for some time now. I like it and my wife likes it. But, and it is a substantial but it scratches her sigificantly when we kiss… sigh…lol… sadly the predictable consquence has happened. We kiss a lot less. Any thoughts or ideas especially from the Ladies… this conundrum seems without a solution.

10 Ataloce September 8, 2009 at 1:58 pm

This site is missing one important thing; a sense of humor. Which, inadvertently, shows up in these ‘manly macho men’ posts.

11 Uberhack September 8, 2009 at 3:06 pm

Not to be a stickler but Giambi didn’t have a ‘stache while with the Yankees. Steinbrenner prohibited all facial hair. Even Don Mattingly had to shave his signature cookie-duster while he was the batting coach.
Giambi is now with the Rockies and is re-cultivating his lip-topper.

12 Steve September 8, 2009 at 4:17 pm

A response to Wayne’s question about scratchy kisses. I had a mustache in 1977 when I met the girl I would marry . Although she complained about the tickles and scratches, it didn’t interfere with a lusty courtship. I kept the mustache and added a full beard in 1986. Through all our years together, my wife would complain about the tickles. Then in 2004 I took a job that required I be clean shaven. My wife couldn’t wait to kiss my naked lips. Six weeks later, she told me how much she missed my whiskers!

Just last night when I kissed her goodnight, she commented about the stubble, saying that I was scratchy whether I had a ‘stache or not. She still complains but she still kisses me. C’est la vie!

Just tell your wife the old adage akin to the one in the article, “Kissing a man without a mustache is like eating an egg without salt.”

13 Justin September 8, 2009 at 6:23 pm

I used to have a mustache. Everyone I knew at the time told me to shave it, or told me I looked better without it. I’ve never looked back. It doesn’t help that my facial hair is a mix of blonde and dark brown, causing the outer edges of my mustache to not be very visible. Result looks like a toothbrush mustache, even though it is full.

14 Biggyrat September 8, 2009 at 10:06 pm

I’ve had a mustache ever since I could grow whiskers, and my wife of twenty four years loves it. I shaved it off for a short time, giving in to the whims of fashion, only to be informed by the lady of the house, that I would be growing it back imediately, if not sooner!

15 Brew September 8, 2009 at 11:24 pm

Wayne, my sincerest condolences. Women hold sway when loving’s on the line. Have you considered conditioning your stache?

16 Daniel September 9, 2009 at 2:17 am

An excellent treatise.

There are two particular moustaches I’d like to draw your attention to. Although their fame may not extend to your North American shores, they have reached folklore status in Australia.

Firstly, cricketer David Boon has possibly the most celebrated mo in Australian sport: http://static.cricinfo.com/db/PICTURES/DB/061999/005258.jpg.

Before Boon’s legendary ‘tache was an equally legendary piece belonging to the cricketer and fast bowler Merv Hughes: http://about.theage.com.au/150images/1989_04b.jpg. He was scary enough to face but with the hair he must have struck even more fear into the hearts of any batsmen he bowled to.

17 Mac September 9, 2009 at 2:30 am

I’m closing in on 21 and recently shaved a mustache I had let grow wild for two years. Sadly, its the only facial hair I can grow, other than an inch wide strip of whiskers starting at my chin all the way past my adam’s apple.
I have very black hair and my mustache looked thick and full, but when I tried to trim it, I could see that it was not very thick at all. Then after shortening one side to match the other, and then the other to match the first botched side, I ended up with a toothpick thick line across the top of my lip. This I had to shave to save the embarrasment. I look much cleaner now, and actually 20 yr old rather than 28. I hear a lot of people say I look better and cleaner, but I miss it. Especially reading these stories I can’t help but want it back. I need some advice to the matter. I want the mustache back, but it will take me about six months to get it back to looking strong and full. Is there anything I can use, (rogaine?) to speed up the process? And what are some good techniques to having a mustache that will not make me less attractive to girls my age? Because lets face it…you never see twenty or twenty one year old heart throbs out there with just a mustache. I never knew how much I would miss it but I guess its true what they say….”mustaches grow on you”

18 Jared September 9, 2009 at 3:17 am

I’ve been sporting a mustache for nearly two years now. At first I kept a clean upper lip for the woman I was with. After we parted ways, I decided to take a stand against the “norm” and soon I was sporting a very nice mustache. I do have to trim it each month for National Guard duty, but it has become a part of me, a part of my identity. I feel I look very strange without it.

And Mac, as long as you control your mustache and don’t let your mustache control you, you’ll find a nice lady friend that appreciates it. And if she doesn’t, how compatible could you two really be?

19 Marcus September 9, 2009 at 10:01 am

Gotta be honest, this Treatise left me a little lost. While it mentioned the association of the mustache with negatives, it didn’t explain how this happened, or even comment on the fact that for the mustache to truly be brought back, it must be disassociated with such villainy. There will be no resurgence for the mustache until it is seen as something honorable to be worn. Last night during the US Open, World Champion swimmer Michael Phelps was interviewed – while sporting a ‘stache. While he is still of somewhat questionable character, he is a fantastic athelete, and his determinination to be the best at what he does does make him admirable, but his dress was shabby, his hat crooked – and worst of all, his mustache was soured by the rest of his stubble. If the mustache is to be brought back, it needs to be brought back by men of virtue – and on an otherwise clean face so that it doesn’t look like an accident!

20 Brew September 9, 2009 at 11:19 am

You’re spot on, Marcus. Attempting the two-day stubble and a well-manicured stache only works on the set of a Western. Mac, if you’re uncertain whether you want to wait six months for a meager stache to mature, consider guys who go for the full-sweep handlebar:


It usually takes a year for hair in the center to be long enough to wax into the tips. Meanwhile they endure criticism from every woman. I met a guy about eight months into a full-sweep and no visible mouth. How he resisted chewing on it, I can’t guess.. You can do it, and in six quick months you’ll love the results.

21 mike September 9, 2009 at 12:10 pm

For wayne: My wife complains from time to time as well about how my stache scratches her. But I have noticed that he longer my stache is the softer it becomes. Conditioning it on occasion also helps, although it sounds a little silly.

22 Bernie Franks September 9, 2009 at 12:48 pm

I think it’s mostly a question of how one grows it, as others have pointed out already. I, for example, can grow a rather fine beard but when I grow just a mustache (as I actually started doing just a couple days ago) it’s too a little too flat and uninteresting for that thin Steinbeck look, and I don’t have enough upper-lip area to grow a Daniel Plainview. Right now, it’s really a matter of trying to get a sort of James Joyce going, as I’ve never really had the balls to dedicate myself to simply a mustache (have a habit of changing the facial hair style every couple months).

23 Trevor B September 9, 2009 at 5:02 pm

just moved to a stache’ I get a lot of crap at work,but the wife loves it. Problem is at the moment people tell me my weak mustache looks like a 80′s pornstar stache’.

24 Kevin September 9, 2009 at 11:35 pm

For a little more inspiration check out Daniel Day Lewis in “Gangs of New York” or “There Will Be Blood.” This guy is a mustache Jedi!

25 Conor September 10, 2009 at 9:57 am

” While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact source of this evolution, one must remember we live in a time where manhood itself has become a trivial matter. As such, it is up to the vigilant and the wise to bring the youth of today back to the straight path.”

Can someone tell me what exactly this means?

26 Greg September 10, 2009 at 1:56 pm


I actually thought those lines were the clearest out of this whole thing.

These days manhood is treated with a snicker. Men are stereotyped as being dumb brutes who only like burping and grilling and bagging chicks. Manhood is not treated as a serious matter, as something that has much value and importance. So it’s up to those who are wise to help young people embrace a honorable manhood where they start living values of responsibility and honesty and courage.

27 Justin from Bitchin' Lifestyle September 10, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Ah, the ol’ soup-strainer. While these things were quite fashionable in olden-times, I have to agree that they just sort of look silly today. It may have once been considered cool to sit around and wax your mustachio into hilarious little points, but today it’s just kind of gross. I stand by two things. 1) The only man that I have ever witnessed pull off a mustache with total success is Tom Selleck. Props to him. 2) If you can grow a mustache, why stop there? Go for the full beard, it’ll ensure that you actually have the chance to be found attractive by the opposite sex. If you don’t want a full beard, at least go for sideburns over ‘stache.

28 Alfaj0r September 10, 2009 at 5:12 pm

I really hope you guys post more of these for MOvember.
You should really contact the fine folks at movember.com for some materials, and to hear about all the wonderful things they’re doing for men, and their prostates.

29 Mac September 10, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Thanks to Jared and Brew for the encouragement on my journey back to manhood. I wonder though, will trimming it along the way make it grow faster? Should I just let it grow unadultered and then trim it up once it is full? I”m looking for the Daniel-Day Lewis type stach….not the Bill the Butcher but the Daniel Plainview type. I’m not going for the walrus mustache. And this question doesn’t have to do with the topic of mustache’s but I’m just curious of everyone’s opinion….which is the most manly form of tobacco use…cigars, pipe tobacco, chew, or dip?

30 Brew September 11, 2009 at 8:10 pm

Mac: I’ve had to trim my stache before it reaches the target to avoid disproportionate length (bottom hairs in mouth, top hairs still too short). Trimming it won’t make it grow any faster, though. If you’re shooting for this look:
…then letting everything grow out before ever trimming will leave you a ton to chew on. I’ve had both the Daniel Plainview and Bill the Butcher staches at one time and I say you’re right to go for the one that doesn’t require daily waxing. As far as smoke, it’s hard to beat a pipe. Less risk for addiction, less tar in the lungs, less money spent than any other. It also can smell quite nice on your clothes and breath rather than acrid and foul. My girlfriend always says good things after smelling it on my stache.

31 Conor September 11, 2009 at 9:27 pm

Thank you Greg for clearing that up for me.

32 gordon September 12, 2009 at 7:44 am

Not to be a stickler myself but you should check your facts before you try to correct someone. He did indeed have a moustache with the Yanks.


33 James Clark September 12, 2009 at 8:48 pm

I think it is important to remember that before mustaches were popular, it was a real sign of manliness to grow a full beard. This is not particularly fashionable, unless you are of a middle eastern religion (there are like 4 over there that never shave). Bring back beards – I’ve been told lately that from about 20 feet away with my aviators on I look like john lennon in the early 70s. I took that as a very major compliment, and I’ve had that full beard since about 6th grade.

I recently “trimmed” it down (really really down) to a 1/2 (on my wahl clippers) because I was afraid all the hair was getting in the way of my mind, and I do feel like I can think more clearly without it, but maybe that is a weakness I must overcome.

The full beard has always been the sign of wisdom in almost every culture. In america it’s different ONLY because America didn’t exist until after the fashion of shaving. And the locals who were here before didn’t grow beards at all (as far as I know, I hope I don’t come across as ignorant by saying that – yikes…)

Point is – Mustache = important, but don’t neglect to grow out the parts *below* and to the *sides* of your mouth. Plus, it keeps you warm in the winter time! It’s like an extra scarf!!!

34 gentscheatsheet September 13, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Ah, this explains so much–the real reason everyone in the Middle East hates us is because we have no honor! Perhaps we should all grow mustaches, if only for the sake of our country and world peace! :)

35 Rick September 13, 2009 at 5:37 pm

Yes, the fashion comes and goes, and it’s affected by what’s (and who’s) in the news. Villainous mobsters with facial hair leads to suspicion of those with facial hair.

As to “America not existing until after the fashion of shaving,” I’d encourage you to explore the expansive presence of Civil War facial hair. You’ll note that pretty much all of the great Civil War leaders sported impressive whiskers, and Burnsides lent his name.

Finally, on the “silly sounding” question of conditioning your whiskers, what’s silly about it? It’s hair. Try washing your hair for a week with Dial or Irish Spring, and see if your intimate friend finds the texture of it appealing. Likely not, because the drying effect of basic soap on your hair leaves it feeling like straw.

Even if you don’t expressly *condition* your hair or beard, consider washing your face with the soap you use on your body (if you use your bath soap on your face), then, when you shampoo your hair, shampoo your beard, too. You’ll find that even common, economical shampoos have enough conditioners to help, and they are designed to lay down your hair cuticles to soften and smooth the hairs. They’ll do likewise for your facial hair. It’ll tickle/itch you and your partner less.

And if you’re in the process of growing it out, you’ll find that facial moisturizers (you do moisturize, right?), even simple aloe vera gel, worked into your beard once or twice a day will make the interim stubble more bearable.

I generally keep my beard (whatever shape it’s in at the moment) trimmed to about a 3 guard (3/8″), which is enough to see the fullness, but I have, at times, let it grow out to full “Yukon Cornelius” proportions. It’s interesting to note how the growth time and exposure to sunlight will change the predominant color.

36 Romeo Marafiote October 13, 2009 at 5:16 pm

At the tender age of 77 I’m once again growing a well trimmed (shaped, grey, beard). My wife likes it (looks sophisticated {her words, not mine}). I trim it and shape it with adjustable electric and safety razors. I’m retired. My job was as a U.S. and regional sales manager for an office machine manufacturer. I wore the beard through-out my working career. I’m 5′ 6″ tall (short?). By the way, I went to barbers school. and had a barbers liscense .

37 Jay October 23, 2009 at 10:32 pm

I’m 40 and have an old fashioned handlebar moustache. I used to wax it, but it’s gotten trained now so that I just curl it to the desired diameter and hit it with a hair dryer in the morning for a minute and it stays put all day. I started growing it a few years back an homage to a gentleman here in town who passed away, a nice man I worked with for a short stint. Now I just keep it because I’m a bloody oddball and don’t give a fudge what anybody else thinks. Yeah, I wear suspenders and a Homburg hat, and am an inch away from wearing a bowtie. I’ve even pissed of one of the gals at work who accosted me at something-Mart saying my handlebars looked terrible. I simply told her “I’m not growing it for you to like”.

Like Brew said, if you’re going to grow anything, let it grow and resist the urge to trim it. You can trim away, but it takes time to grow back. So you want to start with “too much” then trim away everything that doesn’t look like a moustache. Also ditto on the pipe. Good pipe tobaccos don’t have additives in them, you don’t inhale, and they scent the moustache nicely. Don’t overwash your moustache with soap or you’ll wash away all of the follicular oils and have hair loss.

Remember it was Jack Kennedy who killed the dress hat and Mark McGuire who inspired the horrid looking goatee. If you like the look of the moustache, then wear it, and don’t give a fudge what the “norm” is.

38 Shannon November 6, 2009 at 9:47 pm

Sporting a mustache for at least a few months should be a right of passage.

39 Mad Mike December 9, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Ive done just the “stache”, the van dike (aka stache with a soup catcher) and the full Go-tee.. And I always seem to go back to the full Goat.. whether it personally fits my face / personality or not It just feels right.. I think the Go-tee shows the wisdom and experience of a man without the barbaric look of a full beard..

40 Allen December 18, 2009 at 11:05 am

I have a full handlebar. It will be one year old the day after Christmas. I love it. I teach middle school, and it is the envy of all the boys. Like others, I don’t care what other people think. Most women (including my wife) hate it, men love it. I do it in protest of modern mediocrity.

41 Jon January 19, 2010 at 8:47 am

I like being able to take the last sips of anything liquid in my diet straight from my mustache. Although there are foods I’ve had to give up for the sake of a manstache.

42 LMCA April 2, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Sweet almond oil is supposed to be good for growing hair.

43 JG July 12, 2010 at 8:20 am

You men are lucky. I can’t grow a stache. I have a bald spot between the nostrils of my nose. If I let my hair grow, then it looks ridiculous.

Oh well. Clean shaven I shall remain.

44 Dylan January 9, 2013 at 11:24 am

I have recently forgone the full berd in favor of a handlebar, and the resulting compliments have been great. Keeping the chin and cheeks smooth has also gone over quite well with my special lady friend.

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