by Thomas Anania
Moustache, mustache, or ’stache–the word stirs a powerful feeling of pride in those brave enough to affect them. Many a man, (and perhaps some women) have sported mustaches: Tom Selleck, Mahatma Ghandi, Mr. Moneybags. The community has been swelling in numbers recently, perhaps due to the shaggy romanticism sweeping the nation. With television programs like IFC’s Whisker Wars, we’re undoubtedly entering a renaissance of facial hair as self-expression.
Braided beards and waxed ’staches aren’t over the hump of stigma yet, however. The American Mustache Institute released a report in 2013 pertaining to the lack of workplace advancement for hairy-lipped employees. The AMI claimed that the “mustache ceiling,” or the lack of whiskers at the upper echelons of the corporate world, was due to the “ESPN factor.” ESPN, a network largely consumed by males aged 21-45, features many correspondents, most of whom have smooth faces. Constantly being subjected to these correspondents sends the message to guys everywhere that to be professional one must be clean-shaven, wear a suit, and have a terminally vanilla sense of humor.
While society has slowly started to accept beards and even man buns, resistance on the upper lip front has been stiff. For the longest time facial hair was considered taboo in the workplace. Whiskers just weren’t professional; there was no room for them between luncheon whiskeys and grabbing the secretary’s ass. Disney only started allowing employees to wear beards in 2012.
In addition to the baby-faced workplace, mustaches have come to be associated with “that creepy guy down the street who watches everyone through his blinds.” The entertainment industry reinforces this ridiculous notion by portraying many sleazy antagonists with mustaches. Think Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones or “Pornstache” in Netflix’s Orange is the New Black.
I myself was recently subjected to mustache prejudice. When meeting someone for the first time there is a script that almost everyone observes. “Hello, I’m… It’s nice to meet you…yada yada.” Well, what do you say when the first thing out of someone’s mouth is: “Nice mustache, you look a lot like a pedophile.” You can respond in two ways. Lower yourself similarly and offer, “Nice forehead. You look like a billboard.” Or you can ignore it: “Yeah, nice to meet you too.” I chose the latter because, let’s face it, there is a double standard. It is perfectly acceptable to deride people based on their facial hair but not on any other facet of their outward appearance.
As a society we may like to believe that we have moved past the notion of judging by outward appearance, but I say: nonsense. Electing the first black man to the Oval Office has not made this a post-racial country, so why would a television show about facial hair change everyone’s attitudes toward the mustache? A lot of work has yet to be done with the attitudes of the general public, which is wary of any change, unless, of course, it’s been repackaged with “20 percent more” and smothered in barbeque sauce. Whether we acknowledge our prejudices or not, they have to come to an end. I invite everyone to put down your razors, join the hairy horde, and stand for bewhiskered equality.
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Thomas Anania studies Economics at Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts.