[muhs-tash, muh-stash]
For the Swedish heavy metal band, see Mustasch.
A moustache (or mustache) is facial hair grown on the upper lip. Often the term implies that the wearer grows only upper-lip hair while shaving the hair on his chin and cheeks. Growth of all facial hair would constitute a beard.


The word Moustache comes to the English language via the Middle French Moustache which in turn is derived from the Old Italian Mustacchio which originates from the Middle Greek Moustaki, a diminutive of Greek mystak-, mystax upper lip, mustache.


Shaving with stone razors was technologically possible from Neolithic times but the oldest portrait showing a shaved man with a mustache is a Scythian horseman from 300 BC.

In more modern history, moustaches have been worn by military men. The number of nations, regiments and ranks were equalled only by the number of styles and variations. Generally, the younger men and lower ranks wore the smaller and less elaborate moustaches. As a man advanced in rank, his moustache would become thicker and bushier, until he was permitted to wear a full beard.

In Western cultures women generally avoid the growth of facial hair; though many are capable, the majority of these women would use some form of depilation to remove it. However there are some women who choose to embrace this growth, often in the form of thin moustaches. The artist Frida Kahlo famously depicted herself with both a moustache and a unibrow. This tradition is followed by some contemporary women in the arts.

An English moustache was formerly used in melodramas, movies and comic books as a shorthand indication of villainy. Snidely Whiplash, for example, was characterized by his moustache and his cape.

In male adolescence

The moustache forms its own stage in the development of facial hair in adolescent males. Facial hair in males normally appears in a specific order during puberty:

  • The first facial hair to appear tends to grow at the corners of the upper lip,
  • It then spreads to form a moustache over the entire upper lip,
  • This is followed by the appearance of hair on the upper part of the cheeks, and the area under the lower lip,
  • It eventually spreads to the sides and lower border of the chin, and the rest of the lower face to form a full beard.

As with most human biological processes, this specific order may vary among some individuals depending on one's genetic heritage and although less prominent, one's environment which can also play a role in development.


Most men with a normal or strong beard tend it daily, by shaving the hair of the chin and cheeks, to prevent it from becoming a full beard. A variety of tools have been developed for the care of moustachees, including moustache wax, moustache nets (snoods), moustache brushes, moustache combs and moustache scissors.


At the World Beard and Moustache Championships 2007 there were 6 subcategories in the moustache category:

  • Natural – Moustache may be styled but without aids. The hairs are allowed to start growing from up to a maximum of 1.5 cm beyond the end of the upper lip. No aids are allowed.
  • Hungarian – Big and bushy, beginning from the middle of the upper lip and pulled to the side. The hairs are allowed to start growing from up to a maximum of 1.5 cm beyond the end of the upper lip. Aids are allowed.
  • Dalí – narrow, long points bent or curved steeply upward; areas past the corner of the mouth must be shaved. Artificial styling aids needed. Named after Salvador Dalí who was known to sport such a style in his later days.
  • English – narrow, beginning at the middle of the upper lip the whiskers are very long and pulled to the side, slightly curled; the ends are pointed slightly upward; areas past the corner of the mouth usually shaved. Artificial styling may be needed.
  • Imperial – whiskers growing from both the upper lip and cheeks, curled upward (distinct from the royale, or impériale)
  • Freestyle – All moustaches that do not match other classes. The hairs are allowed to start growing from up to a maximum of 1.5 cm beyond the end of the upper lip. Aids are allowed.

Other types of moustache include:

  • Fu Manchu – long, downward pointing ends, generally beyond the chin;
  • 'Pancho Villa' moustache – similar to the Fu Manchu but thicker; also known as a "droopy moustache", generally much more so than that normally worn by the historical Pancho Villa.
  • Handlebar – bushy, with small upward pointing ends. See baseball pitcher Rollie Fingers. Also known as a "spaghetti moustache", because of its stereotypical association with Italian men.
  • Horseshoe – Often confused with the Fu Manchu style, the horseshoe was possibly popularized by modern cowboys and consists of a full moustache with vertical extensions from the corners of the lips down to the jawline and resembling an upside-down horseshoe.
  • Taylor moustache – a thin row of fine dark hairs along the upper lip. Sometimes known as the Lilibrow.
  • Pencil moustache – narrow, straight and thin like a pencil, closely clipped, outlining the upper lip, with a wide shaven gap between the nose and moustache. Also known as a Mouthbrow, worn by John Waters.
  • Toothbrush – thick, but shaved except for about an inch (2.5 cm) in the center; associated with Adolf Hitler, Charlie Chaplin, Oliver Hardy, and Robert Mugabe.
  • Walrus – bushy, hanging down over the lips, often entirely covering the mouth. Worn by Wilford Brimley and Jamie Hyneman
  • The GG – bushy hair grown only over the corners of the mouth, shaved in the middle. Named after musician and performing artist GG Allin, the most well-known wearer of the style. It is a shortened version of the one worn by Ghengis Khan.
  • The 'Chops' – similar to the horseshoe, varying from somewhat thin to somewhat bushy, with a more pronounced open-bottomed-square shape. This style is often seen on characterizations of police and highway patrolmen.
  • The 'Lowrider'-Similar to the mouthbrow moustache except has no wide shaven gap and curves upward to the nose and kind of square and rounded at the ends, frequently worn by lowriders of mexican origin.

Growing competitions

In North America and the UK, many groups of men (co-workers, friends, and students) sometimes partake in moustache growing competitions. The ultimate goal is to grow the most full and well-groomed moustache in the least amount of time, or over a fixed period.

In more serious competitions, the moustaches are seen as a symbol of male virility and the winner is usually seen as the most manly of the competitors. Some competitions are run as charity fund-raising events, with participants being sponsored for their moustache-growing and the money raised being donated to a selected cause. The rules for such competitions vary, but often include "forfeits" (eg donation-matching) for competitors who shave off their moustaches before the end of the competition.

In the early 1970s, Major League Baseball players seldom, if ever, wore facial hair. The practice had been widespread in the 19th Century, but by the early 20th Century it was rare for a player to sport a mustache or beard. As detailed in the book Mustache Gang, Oakland Athletics' eccentric owner Charlie Finley decided to hold a mustache-growing contest within his team. When the A's faced the Cincinnati Reds, whose team rules forbade facial hair, in the 1972 World Series, facial hair was still sufficiently unusual in baseball that the Series was dubbed by media as "The hairs vs. the squares". Thanks in part to the on-field success of the A's in the early 1970s, along with changing fashions, facial hair has again become very common among baseball players in the intervening years.

Notable examples

In some cases, the moustaches are so prominently identified with a single individual that it could be identified with them without any further identifying traits, such as in the case of Adolf Hitler or Friedrich Nietzsche. In some cases, such as with Groucho Marx and Charlie Chaplin, the moustache in question was not even real for most of their lives. Mahatma Gandhi also sported a moustache for most of his life.

The American composer and musician Frank Zappa is also very closely associated with his trademark imperial moustache. Zappa became so identifiable by his moustache that after his death its image was actually copyrighted by the Zappa Family Trust.

Other famous and praised musicians famous for sporting moustaches at some time include George Harrison, Dennis DeYoung, Steve Perry, Freddie Mercury, John Oates, Chuck Panozzo, and James Young (JY).

The longest recorded moustache belongs to Bajansinh Juwansinh Gurjar of Ahmedabad, India. It had not been cut for 22 years and was 12 feet 6 inches long in 2004.

U.S. Air Force ace Robin Olds became celebrated for a flowing handlebar moustache he grew while commanding the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing "Wolfpack" during the Vietnam War, and when forced to shave it by his superior became the source of an Air Force tradition known as "Moustache March".

Another famous moustache is the one of former Gonzaga basketball player and current Charlotte Bobcat Adam Morrison. He is actually nicknamed The Stache for it.

Billionaire-aviator Howard Hughes was known for his iconic pencil moustache, which he grew after a 1946 plane crash.

John L. Sullivan, the last bare knuckle heavyweight boxing champion and first gloved boxing heavyweight champion, was well known for sporting a handlebar mustache. Many iconic photos and paintings of Sullivan feature him with a handlebar mustache.

In art and fiction

Moustaches have long been used by artists to make characters distinctive as with Snidely Whiplash and Dick Dastardly, the video game character Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog villain Dr. Robotnik, and Agatha Christie's fictional detective Hercule Poirot. They have also been used to make a social or political point as with Marcel Duchamp's parody of the Mona Lisa which adds a goatee and moustache or the moustachioed self portraits of Frida Kahlo. At least one fictional moustache has been so notable that a whole style has been named after it, the Fu Manchu moustache. However, the most notable moustache in art, and history for that matter, belonged to Salvador Dalí. He dedicated paintings to it, and even published a book of just his moustache.

In Sport

The Liverpool sides of the late 1970s to late 1980s were famously notable for numbers of moustachio players, notably Mark Lawrenson, Graham Souness, Bruce Grobelaar, Terry McDermott and Ian Rush.

The 2008 Croatian water polo team grew mustaches in honor of their coach Ratko Rudić, who had a very thick mustache similar to that of Joseph Stalin.

Hall of Fame relief pitchers Rollie Fingers, Rich "Goose" Gossage, and Dennis Eckersley all sported mustaches during their playing days.

Jason Giambi, the New York Yankees firstbasemen, grew an incredibly thick mustache throughout the first half of the 2008 season, which he claimed would bring him luck with his batting performance. So far it seems to have worked. Giambi started the "Support the Stache" campaign to help him get voted into the 2008 all star game. However he still fell short and was not elected. Later in the season, Giambi shaved his mustache mid-game during a losing game against the Anaheim Angels. The Yankees came back against all odds to win the game.

Swimmer Mark Spitz won a world record 7 gold medals while sporting a mustache when swimmers usually shaved all their body hair to decrease drag. When other competitors question the mustache and the potential increased drag, he claimed that it helped create a pocket of air to breathe. After the Olympics, many European swimmers began growing mustaches.

See also



External links

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