The prevalence of unironic mustaches is growing. By “unironic,” I mean mustaches grown in earnest without self-conscious consideration, self-parody, critique or “cool.” By mustaches, I mean hair facial growth above the lip, unaccompanied by a goatee, beard, chinstrap, soul patch or fashion sense.
Banished as relics from the ’70s (when only hippies and rock stars were permitted to grow them), those who came of age in the ’80s like myself have long perceived lone mustaches as suspect markers of machismo and Marlboro cigarettes. We recall a decade of bare faces and eurocentric undercuts, occasionally underscored by eyeliner (and later, pink eye).
The Reagan era was not only clean shaven; men’s hair fashions were a veritable throwback to the ’50s, thanks to a nostalgia fest exploding at the box office (Back to the Future, Peggy Sue Got Married, Stand By Me, etc.).
Sure, there were outliers, rogue mustachioed loners like Sam Elliott or Wilfred Brimley and the occasional cowboy flick that found a pretty mug like Val Kilmer’s festooned with a Guy Fawkes’ mustache (looking at you, Doc Holliday). But by and large, the ’80s were a good time to own stock in Gillette.
Then it all began to change within a few distinct outgrowths: First, there was the designer stubble of the ’80s, courtesy of Miami Vice and post-Wham George Michael. Then came an outbreak of grungy Van Dykes in the early ’90s that persisted in various forms (and lengths) until the relatively clean-shaven aughts.
This was the calm before the storm that arrived in the form of the so-called “hipster beards” that have blown in the winds of time since 2010. They come, they go, they have blogs and Instagram accounts, and sprout from the faces of those who identify as men, in part, I suppose, to remind them that they are.
I’ve personally worn all the above and more (I starred in a werewolf movie, after all), but I’m three days into the week and have yet to shave, which is an inflection point for relatively hirsute gents like myself. Should I shave or should I grow?
Generally, this quandary is answered by whether or not a fresh blade is on hand. Thanks to the proliferation of razor subscription services, they usually are (first rule of Dollar Shave Club, you do not talk about Dollar Shave Club).
My wife says, “shave.” My boys say “grow”—they’re young teens, still enamored of the possibilities of male grooming, blissfully unaware of the tedious ritual that will be their own soon enough. The compromise, of course, would be a mustache—grown as a gesture of goodwill.
Editor Daedalus Howell cuts it close at DaedalusHowell.com.