The origin of… Mustache

“We can’t be lovers because we both have mustaches. But since you’re a lady, and I’m a gentleman, I’ll shave mine off.” Jarod Kintz

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For all the men who are growing their mustache for Movember, this time a post on the word mustache (or moustache as written outside of the US). For those who don’t know what Movember is, it’s an annual event in November when men try to raise awareness of and raise money for prostate and testicular cancer by growing their mustache.

The World Beard & Moustache Championships are held every two years at which men with mustaches compete mustaches in the following six categories:

1. Natural: Mustache as it grows and left natural. All hair growing from more than 1.5 cm past the corner of the mouth must be shaved and no styling aids are permitted.
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2. English: Slender with the hair extending outward from the middle of the upper lip. The tips may be slightly raised and hairs growing from beyond the corner of the mouth must be shaved.
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3. Dalí: Slender with the tips curled upward which may not extend above the level of the eyebrows. Hairs growing from beyond the corner of the mouth must be shaved. Named after the Spanish artist Salvador Dalí.
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4. Imperial: Small and bushy with the tips curled upward. Hairs growing from beyond the corner of the mouth must be shaved.
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5. Hungarian: Big and bushy with the hair extending outward from the middle of the upper lip. All hair growing from more than 1.5 cm past the past the corner of the mouth must be shaved.
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6. Freestyle:  Free design and styling of the mustache. All mustaches not meeting the criteria for other categories may compete in this category. All hair growing from more than 1.5 cm past the corner of the mouth must be shaved.
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Although the WBMC only lists 6 categories, there are many other types of mustaches, such as the Fu Manchu. This type of mustache is long with the ends pointing downwards, normally beyond the chin. The name of this mustache comes from the character Dr. Fu Manchu (an evil criminal genius) of the novels by British author Sax Rohmer in the first half of the 20th century. The Fu Manchu mustache then became a stereotype of Chinese criminals.
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Another famous mustache is the handlebar (bushy with small upward pointing ends) of which a shorter version is called the petit handlebar. The handlebar is also named the spaghetti mustache for its stereotypical association with Italian men. Famous handlebar mustaches are Rollie Fingers, Wilhelm II and Joseph Stalin. Want to grow one yourself? Here you can find out how: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2012/11/01/how-to-grow-a-handlebar-mustache/.
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In Western countries, mustaches have been subject to fashion trends and its popularity has shifted over time. At the beginning of the 19th century the mustache was seen as something for artists or revolutionaries and certainly not to be worn by men of higher social classes. By the 1860’s mustaches had become very popular and donning a mustache was seen as a sign that the man in question had money (and time) to groom his facial hair. The popularity of the mustache only lasted until the end of the century. By then facial hair was seen as an outdated sign of manhood and clean-shaven became the trend.

The mustache is still very popular in Asia and the Middle East for its association with manhood. In India the mustache is considered a symbol of virility and power and in Arab countries it is a sign of masculinity. Men in the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein were even forced to wear them (also men in the British army were not permitted to shave their upper lip until 1916). Many politicians and presidents in Arab countries wear mustaches, which they now can have implanted in Turkey where they offer hair follicle implants.
The last American president with a mustache was William Howard Taft at the beginning of the 20th century, but this doesn’t mean that the mustache has exited the political arena. The American Mustache Institute, a lobbying group in the US that hopes to offer tax benefits to Americans sporting a mustache, has been trying to have The Stache Act (or The Stimulus To Allow Critical Hair Expenses) pass in Congress. This act would give mustached Americans a tax benefit of up to USD 250 a year; a benefit they deserve ´Given the clear link between the growing and maintenance of mustaches and incremental income … mustache maintenance costs qualify for and should be considered as a deductible expense …,” (Dr. Yeutter on the AMI website).

And for those women who can appreciate some facial hair, check out stachepassions.com to find your guy. “Oh yeah, it’s all about the ‘stache!”.

Mustache:
hair growing on a man’s upper lip (source: Merriam Webster).

The English word mustache comes from French moustache, from Old Italian mustaccio from Middle Greek moustaki, which is a diminutive of mystakos (upper lip/mustache).
Dutch snor is probably short for snorbaard (hair on the upper lip), from Low German snurbaard or High German Schnurrbart. Low German snurre meant snout.
The Spanish word bigote could possibly come from English “By God” or German “Bei Gott”. When taking an oath, some men used to say “By God” while aiming at their upper lip with the index finger, symbolizing forming a cross.
It is uncertain where the Italian baffi comes from. It possibly finds its origins in bap or baf, a word in old German meaning lip.

Mustache in other languages:
Dutch: snor
Spanish: el bigote
Italian: i baffi

Check these links if you want to read more on mustaches:
American Mustache Institute
World Beard & Moustache Championships

All drawings on this page are taken from:
http://society6.com/exquisitegraphics/Types-of-Moustache–Mustache-Poster_Print

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