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Publication: The Face, 2001

The Fash Tache

Moustaches: outmoded facial furniture or essential fashion adornment? Kevin Braddock give up shaving and finds out

It's a well-known fact that only a few types of men wear moustaches today:

  • Gay men.
  • Men in the forces.
  • Islamic, Hindu or Latin men.
  • Nutters.

One more category can now be added:

  • Men who are trying too hard to be fashionable.

Flick through the pages of this or any other style magazine and you'll notice that nothing short of a tonsorial revolution is afoot: the rehabilition of the ’tache into the modern male style lexicon. This is all very well if you happened to be the upwards of 6ft tall with a bone structure like cut glass. If you happened to be an anglo-saxon C of E civilian heterosexual who doesn't work in modelling, it's an entirely different matter.

The Fash ’Tache is everywhere, including, for the last month, on my top lip. This relatively outré addition to my face has been a risky business. Where I'm from (near Wales), wearing a moustache is tantamount to etching 'I want to fight you: please punch me now' onto your forehead. Des Lynam notwithstanding, it signals an aggressive, cocksure masculinity - especially on women. What the mullet was to fashion before its recent salvage, the tache is to the gender-neutrality of our times.

Another problem is the confusing signals and associations it gives off. You know where you are with a goatee (which says: ‘I’m hip to the beat of youth culture, er, dude!’) or a full beard (‘I just want to bake bread, take in Dogme films and hide my slumping jawline’). Consider the tache though: will it make me look gay? Or Just Gay Enough? Will anyone attractive want to kiss me ever again? Will I be conscripted on the spot? And why does the girl in Starbucks keep laughing at me all the time?

This being such a chappish moment, you'd imagine that wearing a moustache was a credible tonsorial option, and not just a desperate attempt to cultivate loucheness. If we can now head out in a suit jacket without being laughed at (much), then really, the tache's new cool ought to be a ticket to instant, what-the-hell rakishness, with no more effort required than ignoring your razor for a fortnight. In this era of Total Hair Abandon (think Mullet, bedhead, tramlines), I reason, what's the problem with a few whiskers under the nose?

I grasp the nettle and emerge after a few weeks of intense facial acivity with my own tribute to some of fashion's greats - photographer Terry Richardson, actor Terry-Thomas and Corrie's Terry Duckworth - which I dub 'The Terry'. It lacks the lush density of a Saddam or the flamboyance of a Dali, sure, but neverthless conjures a cross-combination of some well-known character types: Generic Euroman, Recently Demobbed Squaddie, Asian Shopkeeper. A functional, unfussy and, I like to think, plucky take on fashion’s Hairy Lipterpillar ‘vibe’.

‘Are you growing a moustache,’ someone quizzes me. ‘It looks good!’. This person was a colleague, and he appeared to mean it. A beard-wearer, mind, he has a positive disposition. Among women, reactions have ranged from mild amusement (‘You look weird. Do bits get caught in it when you eat?’) to sympathetic (‘Nearly there!’) to full recoiling-in-horror (‘Tssssrrgggh! Get rid of it NOW! You look like a paedophile or something.!’)

Do I look fashionable?


At a bar, Dee, 26, scrutinises me, and then asks if I'm Welsh. I reply that I'm not. She laughs. 'You just looks so... Welsh.' At length, I explain how my 'Terry' is, in fact, the asbolute cutting edge of fashion. She laughs some more. It begins to hurt.

I walk into Old Compton Street, the very coalface of moustache-wearing, one evening to treat London’s gay village to my Terry. Here, I’m regarded with clinical eyes, and my moustache becomes the mark of me for the few other moustachioed ‘guys’ who’ve staggered into a world where the svelte and the hairless now predominate. In fact, I feel even more of a pariah here than in hetero context. When I realise a blond man has been staring fixedly at me for more than ten minutes, I roll up my copy of The Face and split. Not that I’m pejudiced or anything. Hey - some of my best friends are weirdos.

There’s a the basic practicality ensuring that the Terry will remain a minority interest – you might as well glue a sheet of emery paper to you upper lip for all the chance you've got of pulling - but beyond that, there’s still something too: A. try-hard; B. anachronistic; C. ineradicably creepy about the tache to really translate out of the fashion eddy and into real life.

On the way home. I pass an army recruitment office and note that the that man behind the desk inside is wearing a starched-looking tache, along with the standard-issue air  of homicidal stiff-backedness. I walk brisky on. My advice is you should to the same. In fact, walk briskly in the direction of Boots' chemist. For the moment, I’ve decided, Gillette is definitely the best a man can get.

© Kevin Braddock 2001

All content ©2004 Kevin Braddock

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