Mustaches taboo?

Any of us who were around in the 1960s remember that long hair on men was associated with being liberal/countercultural. Schools were constantly skirmishing with boys who wanted to grow their hair, and many jobs strictly limited the length a man could grow his hair. I was fired without warning in 1977 from a fast food job for letting my hair get too long.

For a culture that has revered icons like George Washington and Ben Franklin on its money, and portraits of Jesus everywhere, it always seemed like an odd thing to associate with being subversive. And thankfully, it’s been a long time since most people gave a damn how long a man’s hair was. Today, nobody raises an eyebrow at long-haired country singers, bankers or Republican political consultants.

But it appears that mustaches had a similar (if less heatedly controversial) taboo in America, for a much longer time than long hair did.

I was recently reading “I Told You I Wasn’t Perfect”, the autobiography of baseball great/trainwreck Denny McLain. He talked a little about the growing power the players union was obtaining in the late 60s-early 70s, and one item that the players managed to win was the right to grow mustaches. There apparently had been a ban on mustaches in major league baseball since before 1920. I’m a huge fan of baseball from that era, and I honestly had never noticed it. I read “A Well Paid Slave”, the biography of Curt Flood (the man at the very center of the breaking of the owners oligopoly) without becoming aware of this ban.

OK, but baseball is a very tradition-bound institution, and at the time was ruled by a few dozen aristocratic dictators. But the antipathy for mustaches goes beyond baseball.

In “Lies My Teacher Told Me” James Loewen points out that there hasn’t been a mustachioed mainstream presidential candidate since Thomas Dewey in 1948. He also claimed that faculty at conservative Brigham Young University were forbidden to wear mustaches (the book was written around 1991 - I don’t know if this is current). I expect BYU to be conservative. But so is the military, and they let men grow mustaches.

I find bans/taboos on mustaches much more baffling than the relatively brief antipathy for long hair. Facial hair on American men was on display through history. As long as I can remember, there were mainstream and conservative authority figures (police, teachers, military officers) with mustaches.

I guess my questions are:

  1. Was there really such a widespread, if subtle, taboo on mustaches? Assuming the answer is yes…

  2. When was it in force?

  3. What circles was in force for?

  4. What associations caused it? Was it a reaction to the mustached Soviet icons during the Cold War? Hippies often sported facial hair along with their long hair, but they came along after the above-mentioned mustache bans.

FTR, I’ve always shaved my face, so I would have never been subject to whatever pressure there may have been to do so.

Also, while I hope the question is definitively answerable, if the discussion takes more of a GD or IMHO tone, mods, move as you wish.

Facial hair in the US underwent various changes as time went on. At the time of the Revolution, no one had any; men started wearing mustaches and beards around the time of the Civil War, beards went out of fashion around 1900, and mustaches by around 1930 or so (with some notable exceptions). When clean-shaving was the fashion, those who wore facial hair were ridiculed (I recall reading someone showing up in town around 1810 with a beard and being forcibly shaved).

By the 1950s, men didn’t wear facial hair (except for Clark Gable and other older movie stars, but they were grandfathered in. :)). When men started rebelling in the 60s, they started wearing mustaches. Probably that trend started around WWI, but it took awhile to become 100% (again, movie stars of the 30s – Gable, William Powell, Ronald Coleman, Don Ameci – could have mustaches but no beards). But by 1960, no one outside of a few fading movie stars did have facial hair.

It was a combination of style and social pressure. If you went outside the norm, people would call attention to it and eventually you’d give up. The youth culture of the 60s started wearing beards and mustaches and were ridiculed by the older generation, but they didn’t care.

I doubt it has anything other than tangential connections with Stalin (who was long dead when mustaches came back in the US; later Soviet leaders were clean shaven). People might have commented on the connection, but the style was what took precedence.

This reminds me of an old Popeye cartoon (original).

Colour version.

Most casinos in Las Vegas still don’t allow men to wear mustaches … only one allows them to have a beard … and no hair over the collar. Ask why and some might tell you that mustaches are unlucky, the rest have no real explanation other than that is the way it is.

Really? If I came in with a full beard but lots of cash, the casinos will turn me away?

I believe he meant employees.


Mustaches in the 18th c. were worn by soldiers (and if the soldier could not grow one himself, a false one was required). Gentlemen distingushed themselves above these ruffians by frequent shaving, to display that they had the time and money to do so.

After the quarter-century of militarization during the Napoleonic Wars, men wanted to look like dashing hussars, not marble statues, so they grew mustaches. Along with this, they greased their hair and combed it to look like wind-swept men of action.

Americans stopped wearing mustaches after the Spanish American War. They represented a new, virtuous dynamic on the world scene: clean-cut and righteous. The colonial powers of Europe were stodgy old men with facial hair: Americans were going to improve the world but not rule it, [a fresh face with a fresh approach.]( faces with)

There were mustaches on American men during those years, pencil-thin to show sophistication or bushy but groomed to show culture; but, considering how the clean-shaven man’s image was linked to the USA’s overall self-image between 1898 when it assumed its place among the world powers and the 1960 when it had vanqushed Facism and stood against Communism, you can see how subversive it was to go hairy-faced.

At such a place you should expect a ban on all facial hair and sideburns past a certain point. with hair length restrictions. Don’t be surprised by the included clothing requirements.

People have an unreasoning prejudice against electing President Snidely Whiplash.

Jackmannii, proudly mustachioed (and bearded) since the Carter Administration.

Dialectic is at work here, as in so many things.

Hitler and Stalin killed the stache. The counterculture brought it back. Authority culture then reclaimed it, as men who had lived thru the 60s and 70s grew more conservative.

Don’t forget the saftey razos a relatively recent thing. Before then men routinely went days before they shaved or had the barber shave them. Close grooming wasn’t the norm. After WWII many of the military styles such as the T-Shirt replacing the A-Shirt for underneath the shirt, became popular.

Hmm, I thought that BYU still banned all facial hair for men… but they seem to have lightened some of the restrictions. Here is the relevant section of the Honor Code:

So moustaches [sp] are currently acceptable at BYU. Evidently Clark Gable’s “modesty and cleanliness… reflected personal dignity and integrity.” While the Presidents of the LDS Church from 1847 to 1951 lacked these qualities. :wink:

Many Peace Corps programs ban facial hair for all or part of volunteer’s service, with the explanation being that other countries may not have the same enlightened view of facial hair that we have.

I don’t know how much it has to do with the social taboo, but British soldiers were required to have mustaches up until 1915 or 1916. And there were a lot of officers who resented the requirement. So I would think that after getting out of the service, they ‘rebelled’ by nixing facial hair altogether.

How that came into play with baseball, I will never know, but many old ballplayers had mustaches. One day I guess they decided that mustaches were for ruffians and killed them.

As a moustache wearing man*, I find this thread fascinating… :slight_smile:

I seem to recall a fair number of them around in the early 1970’s, (because of Burt Reynolds?) although I hope you’ll forgive me if my recollection is also fuzzy, as I was busy graduating from kindergarten to elementary at the time…

For some reasons, it seems from my observation that firemen and police officers have resisted the moustache’s retreat from popular fashion. Now, with so many men waxing their chest and backs, it seems even less likely to return. Oh well, fashion was never a big deal for me.


  • who wears a moustache as a tribute to his Dad, who had one all his life, and as a reminder when he looks in the mirror to try to be as good a Dad as he was…

trupa! That’s a wonderful tribute.

I knew it! I just knew it! Too much of the rascal in you.

When I was dating my husband, he made the mistake of shaving off his mustache and beard without warning me. I took one look and told him to come back when it had grown out again. We’ve been married almost twenty-four years and he hasn’t shaved it off again.

God, the poor ballplayers! What happened to their families after they were killed?

From the 1950s through the 1990s, Disneyland employees were not allowed to have facial hair. Neatly trimmed mustaches have been allowed since 2000.

That’s odd, considering Walt Disney himself had a mustache. I’m sure he still does in his cryogenic chamber.