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:
Was there really such a widespread, if subtle, taboo on mustaches? Assuming the answer is yes…
When was it in force?
What circles was in force for?
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.