My love and appreciation of the mustache began at a young age, when I came across a picture of my dad taken in the early '70s. The photo was probably shot somewhere in New England, and Dad was leaning casually against the post of a wooden fence, decked out in bell-bottoms and a classic -- yet slightly unkempt -- handlebar mustache. A different incarnation of that mustache would show up a decade later when he was working in politics; groomed and polished, it had an air of seriousness, but was no less exuberant.
My dad wasn't the pioneer of expression through facial hair, even if he was the one who introduced me to its joys. Men (and more than a few women) have used mustaches as a form of expression -- and personality definition -- throughout history.
Clark Gable's iconic 'stache defined the time period, and him as an actor. Charlie Chaplin rocked "the toothbrush," a popular style in the '20's, until Hitler made it impossible for anyone to stomach it. Albert Einstein set the tone for mad scientists everywhere. Neitzsche's wild, walrus-style flavor-saver has it's own Facebook page.
Frida Kahlo, anyone?
In terms of the more contemporary pop culture mustaches, have you ever seen anything like Sam Elliot's mustache in the Big Lebowski? or Rollie Fingers' perfectly waxed handlebar? What about Dustin Hoffman's twitchy mustache when he played Captain Hook? There are too many to list, and each one excites me more than the last.
Al Pacino paved the way for the casual beard-and-mustache combo that we see so often today in Serpico. Burt Reynolds, who sported a mustache for a nude photo shoot. Tom Selleck, arguably the best mustache of the 1980's, and the king of my heart, looked good in everything he ever did.
These mustaches, and future mustaches, deserve to be celebrated. Yes, they are popular now, having made a mainstream comeback. Your bartender probably has one on any given night -- but so does your uncle. And it's important to remember why. We have traditions because they've been carried on from generation to generation, so even if people have disdain toward something that seems like a passing and overdone trend, it's important in order to keep traditions alive.
Sure, mustaches aren't for everyone. I know more than a few people who don't enjoy kissing a pair of lips that come with fur -- but they can still be admired from a distance. Resisting admiration of a good mustache is like disrespecting Dolly Parton's famous top-section, Erykah Badu's afro, or Elvis' pompadour.
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Trends and preferences will come and go, but classic style choices always make their way back. In the case of the mustache, it looks like the torch will continue to be passed.