Mustaches are having a heyday. Once exclusive to the face, you can now find mustaches on mugs, wine glasses, as finger tattoos, on Lyft cars, and other kitschy items. Why this obsession with a specific type of facial hair? What has it come to represent?
Society has had an on-off relationship with the mustache. The ability to grow and style one in a super impressive way used to be seen as a sign of virility and power. The helmets of Medieval suits of armor were designed with mustaches in mind, and both King James I and Charles I were famous for their handlebar and goatee styles. After a style resurgence of full beards, the 19th century saw the return of the mustache, as beards were believed to harbor bacteria. Years later, in the 1970’s, a CBS researcher included “men with mustaches” on their list of characters that viewers would never accept as a lead. The lone mustache had become associated with immorality or stuffiness. Tom Selleck changed all that, and the mustache became popular again.
After another dip in popularity, mustaches are back, but why? The creation of “Movember,” which invites men to grow mustaches to raise awareness for men’s health issues, is a big reason, but it goes beyond one month. In short, nostalgia is “in,” and hipsters like to embrace odd trends, like growing a big, curly mustache that makes them look like they were plucked from a barbershop in the 1890’s.
In the last ten years, American logos that include facial hair have become more common. Pairing a mustache with a hat or monocle is a minimalistic visual that represents keywords like “vintage.” It shows that a brand wants to be seen as “old-school,” which customers often associate with “high-quality.” What was once a hipster, a countercultural symbol has been embraced by companies trying to appeal to their consumers. However, once something becomes “in,” it loses its oddness. It can quickly become stale. Case in point: Lyft, which is famous for its fuzzy pink mustaches on the front of their cars, is nixing the ‘stache.