As the month of ‘Movember’ draws to a close-
with its emphasis on men’s health concerns
and the moustache as rallying symbol-
the question of isolating when the moustache became
facial hair fashion begs an answer.
A whisk down whisker way
Dating back to classical antiquity of Greco-Roman times,
men sported facial hair.
For the Greeks, facial hair was a symbol of
masculinity, virility, strength, manhood.
A clean shaven face was considered an indication
of effeminacy and weakness.
The militaristic Spartans marked cowards
by shaving off a part of their beards.
(image from listverse.com):
Famed Greek physician (Classical Athens), Hippocrates
featured with full facial hair
Yet, seemingly in an effort to distinguish themselves
from the Greeks, the Romans favoured a clean-shaven look:
noble, fearless and facial hairless seemed more the Roman norm.
(image from biography.com):
Roman emperor, Julius Ceasar
The Romans regarded facial hair
as a sign of slovenliness
The debate on points for or against the fashion of men’s facial hair
has been contested through millennia.
Leonardo da Vinci, the esteemed Renaissance polymath
also weighed in, voicing an opinion in defense of facial hair.
He once stated, “Hair is essential to a face as a frame is to a picture.”
Indeed, as is evident from his many self portraits,
da Vinci proudly sported an abundance of hair,
which more than simply outlined his face.
(image from bbc.com):
Consummate thinker and doer
Renaissance man, Facial hair enthusiast
Leonardo da Vinci
Yet, although Western civilization of Greco-Roman culture,
was divided on the facial hair issue,
there is evidence that an ancient Eastern culture demonstrated
a moustache – only appreciation.
There is an image of a Saka horseman from the Pazyryk
culture of ancient Iran, which shows a mustachioed warrior-horseman.
The depiction dates back to 300 BC.
However, it will be a considerable length of time
before the moustache comes into its full glory.
The Victorians: Innovators of great and small
The Victorian era spans the reign of the
British monarch, Queen Victoria, 1837 – 1901.
During this period, Britain was the world superpower nation.
To this day, we remain indebted to the Victorian Achievement,
which chronicles an impressive list of firsts:
advancements in engineering, communication, steamship and rail travel.
Yet, one area of accomplishment is often overlooked-
the establishing of the moustache as facial fashion feature.
Victorian Era tache types
(image from estsy.com):
A Victorian gent sporting a walrus moustache
During the Victorian period, the moustache became a
well-placed fashion accessory.
An unadorned upper lip was simply unacceptable.
Some men went to great lengths to ensure that their moustaches
kept its shape, even using wooden frames at night
to secure the desired result.
(image from liverpoolmuseums.org.uk):
Moustache wax was used to sculpt and
to keep every hair in place
Writer, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
(image from top10films.co.uk):
Composer, Edward Elgar
a bushy trim
(image from todaysengineer.org):
Alexander Graham Bell
inventor of the telephone
(image from arthurlloyd.co.uk):
Actor, James Fernandez
Victorian men took great pride in coiffing their moustache,
to create distinct style structures.
(image from paradoxplaza.com):
Italian politician, Silvestro Marconi
well turned out, then up: a handlebar moustache
(image from victorianfanguide.tumblr.com):
M & M: moustache and mutton chop whiskers
(image from express.co.uk):
Metropolitan police inspector, George Clarke
a neatly done lampshade moustache
(image from cnn.com):
Boxer, Peter Jackson
wears a pencil tache
(image from victorianweb.org):
Sir John Tenniel
Illustrator, Alice in Wonderland
upper lip covered
Like all fashion trends, the moustache eventually fell out of popular favour.
By the late 1880s, early 1890s the cult of the clean-shaven face
began its resurgence.
Yet as during the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans,
men’s facial hair fashion continues to be influenced by several factors.
The ultimate determinant is a matter of personal taste:
which is far from a “hairy” situation.