As we move towards the end of Movember, a campaign that encourages men across the world to grow moustaches every November to raise awareness for male health issues, many of our friends will be sporting luxuriant lip warmers, or in some cases, wispy but well-meaning whiskers.
Men have worn Moustaches since the dawn of time, although the first to catapult them to fame were the Gauls, whose gloriously thatched upper lips terrified the clean-shaven Romans. The Romans were indeed so terrified, that they resorted to superior military tactics, organisation, and equipment to defeat them, rather than simply growing more impressive facial hair.
Moustaches would long be associated with military men. The Black Prince, Edward of Woodstock, wore one, and led the vanguard at the Battle of Crécy, sacked France, and captured the French King at Poitiers. Imagine how hard it would be to wear a helmet with a moustache, but at least he looked “manly”.
This association between thatched lips and military might, would be cemented under the British Empire. By the 1840s, moustaches were already popular among soldiers serving in the East India Company, and would become compulsory in the company in 1854. When soldiers in the army went away to the Crimean War in 1854, they took with them the first ever war reporters. People back home in Britain read with fascination the stories of doomed cavalry charges and battle-hardened Scots. Soldiers faced appalling conditions in the Russian winter and returned not just heroes, but celebrities. Many had grown facial hair, to keep themselves a little warmer. With this, the moustache craze began, and the army made them compulsory. George V wore a fabulous moustache and beard, and eight 20th-century Prime Ministers, Balfour, Campbell-Bannerman, Lloyd George, Bonar Law, Chamberlain, Attlee, Eden, and Macmillan, sported a wonderful diversity of upper-lip hair.
Moustaches remained popular right up until the 1970s, however the 80s all but killed them off. This was, without doubt, a great loss for all mankind (literally).
Okay, let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room. They all looked ridiculous. But that’s good. If they didn’t, then people wouldn’t sponsor men to grow moustaches for Movember, and money wouldn’t be raised for causes like the fight against testicular and prostate cancer. So, gentleman, grow your moustaches with pride, and make sure you donate to the Movember campaign.