Movember is here! In honour of Movember and its importance in raising awareness and funds for men’s health, Findmypast decided to do our bit for the cause.
We scoured our collection of historic newspapers to source some mo-tivation. Among the millions of newspapers lurk interesting tips, advice and musings on all things moustache, providing some insight into the facial hair fashions of yesteryear – not to mention the styles of mo’ our ancestors may have sported.
Here we present five historically great reasons, in the words of writers from yesteryear, to grow a marvellous moustache. While we can’t guarantee that each argument is medically or even logically sound, we hope the list inspires at least some to donate or don a mo’ for this great cause.
Without any further ado, here are findmypast’s top 5 historic reasons to get mo-ing on a moustache for Movember:
Reason #1: The humble moustache demonstrates virility and manliness
According to an 1894 edition of the Edinburgh Evening News (7 August), the moustache “has a wonderfully powerful effect upon a man’s whole expression”.
To quote: “The idea of virility, spirit and manliness that it conveys is so great that it was a long time the special privilege of officers of the army to wear it, as characteristics of the profession of arms. It has now become general in almost all classes, and is approved on more important grounds than those connected with appearance or good looks.”
We have to agree. Certainly many men sporting mo’s for Movember can relate to the experience of wearing a moustache being for reasons greater than appearance’s sake.
Reason #2: The (supposed) health benefits of moustaches
The same article goes on to argue that a respectable moustache can help protect its wearer from dust, sand, infection and even illness:
“It is a well-known fact that travellers in Syria and Egypt find it expedient, and even necessary, to wait until their moustaches have grown to a sufficient length to defend their mouths against the admission of the burning sands of the desert.
Upon the same principle this appendage would be of service to labourers in all dusty trades, such as millers, bakers, masons &c; to workmen employed in grinding steel and iron, and to travellers on dusty roads, the dust being prevented by this natural respirator from finding its way into the lungs… Numerous other instances are on record of persons susceptible of taking cold and sore throats who have been relieved from that inconvenience by permitting the growth of hair on the upper lip and beneath the chin.
In cases too where those organs are so constantly used as to induce ailment from overwork and susceptibility to injury from sudden changes in the atmosphere as with singers, clergymen, &c;, the protection of the beard and moustache is the best means to employ as preventive of such injury.”
There you have it: mo-tection from ill health. While this is perhaps not the most medically sound advice ever given – you may want to consult your healthcare professional before relying on a moustache to protect you from respiratory illness - at least moustaches sported in honour of Movember do make a valued contribution to improving health.
Reason #3: To woo the womenfolk with a luscious mo’
In the Coventry Herald (29 April), we learn that women – at least in 1904 - appeared to love the moustache. Any moustache.
“But there exists a belief that women find some extraordinary fascination in the moustache… Indeed Mr Kipling has stated that (from a girl’s point of view) ‘to kiss a man without a moustache is like eating an egg without salt’” and I fancy that this dictum was in general circulation before the Victorian era.”
Sure, it’s perhaps not one of Kipling’s most poetic analogies. But women and men alike are impressed by the dedication of Movember-inspired moustache-growing.
Reason #4: The sheer variety of moustaches available
As a writer in the Wells Journal (19 May) opined – or should that be mo-pined? – in 1898 there are many moustache styles on the market:
“There are something like eight different ways of training the moustache alone. There is the ‘Albert’, which ends in two elegant circular curls; the Emperor, which is of a captivating and heavy military type; and the Sardinian, which, our young readers must understand, requires quite a profusion of hair; but when you have developed a quantity sufficient for this style you wave it with curling irons and comb and brush it out; this gives you the Sardinian pattern. The latest idea is the ‘Butterfly’ pattern. It is butterfly shaped, the solidly compact arrangement in the centre representing the body, and the ends the wings. These are brushed out in a fringe, each hair of which is distinct, and this fringe takes an upward direction and rests on the cheek. The effect is said to be unique.”
Butterfly or Albert, pencil thin or handlebar, the dizzying variety of moustache styles means there’s sure to be one to suit every fellow and flatter every face.
Reason #5: Moustaches boost self-confidence
Our next attempt at moustachely persuasion dates from 1935 - well after the heyday of handlebars and other mo’ varieties – when the well-known writer KRG Browne declared in the Lincolnshire Echo (26 September) that moustaches can help you “gain in dignity and self-confidence thereby”.
Writing about an International Moustache (and Beard) club recently founded in Japan, Browne duly noted:
“With beards we are not at the moment concerned, for these take time to grow and undoubtedly harbour moths, etc. All beauty-lovers, however, must welcome this attempt to put the moustache back on its feet and restore it to its former high position – immediately south of the nose – in the masculine scheme of things.”
We concur, KRG Browne. And what better time to restore the mo to its former glory than Movember?