reply to post by Chadwickus
Before the razor was invented, male facial hair was an important secondary sexual characteristic, a defining aspect of the visual image of human
masculinity. No doubt its luxuriant appearance is the result of sexual selection. The important question for evolutionary psychology is, of course:
was it selected to tickle the ladies or to scare off the competition?
Whatever the answer, it is clearly evident that men's relationships with their facial hair are fraught with psycho-sexual dynamics and tension. A
man's physiognomic foliaton sends complex messages concerning his masculinity, his sexuality, his status, his confidence and his vulnerabilities. The
messages are not always those the sender intends. Facial hair, like every other aspect of the persona, often contains unintended revelations about the
Of course, these subliminal messages are always couched in the language of the cultural milieu. In South Asia, where moustaches appear to have
originated, they are de rigeur
in most societies and personal expression is barely afforded by variations in shape and size. Aside from Sikhs,
whose religion forbids them to trim their facial hair, beards in South Asia are generally reserved for religious figures and career criminals.
In the West, where pretty much anything goes (and comes, and goes), facial hair enjoys full freedom of expression. Here, the moustache has come to
denote many often incompatible things: present or former military rank, hippiehood, conservatism, Marxist leanings, a man on whom a woman can rely, a
dastardly seducer, a homosexual, etc, etc. Theoretically, then, there is much scope for confusion; but so subtle are human powers of discrimination
when it comes to judging conspecifics' reproductive fitness that in practice errors are rarely made. The variations in appearance of the moustache,
combined with other cues, are easily interpreted. Thus we see at a glance that Groucho Marx's moustache encoded no plans for world domination, unlike,
for example, Joseph Stalin's or Adolf Hitler's. Similarly, Freddie Mercury's moustache was a trumpet-blast of flamboyant gay self-identification,
while everybody understood that Burt Reynolds' 'tache was worn for the benefit of the ladies. Whether any ladies actually benefited from it is a
question that lies beyond the scope of this treatise.
This broad, complex yet subtle semiology places unusual demands on the moustache-cultivator in Western society. Nothing can be undertaken without
first considering with care the effects, both desired and undesired, of a particular style. Since in moustaches style is to a great extent determined
by the owner's natural endowment and distribution of facial hair, this is a tricky problem. Sometimes the desired effect cannot be achieved and a
compromise has to be sought. Here there is great potential for mishap. The cultivator of the new moustache may be deluded by hope, self-approbation or
despair into thinking the desired effect has been achieved, while in fact the message sent is at great variance with the sender's intentions. An
analogy may be made with the comb-over, another common example of tonsorial self-delusion.
Even if Nature cooperates, however, it is still all too likely that the appearance of the moustache-wearer to others will bear little resemblance to
his subjective perception of it. This is because few men know what they really look like (an evolutionary adaptation to help reduce the likelihood of
suicide and self-harm) and are therefore quite incapable of appreciating the effect of a moustache on their neighbours. Thus the wearer may be
convinced that his moustache makes him appear dashing, manly and attractive to women, while others regard him in a somewhat different light. This is
an ever-present danger to the moustache-wearer. Lamentably, it would seem that experience is no deterrent here; many a man, having developed the
moustache habit, will continue to sport one for years, attributing the loss of his wife, children, jobs, sobriety and other possessions to any number
of factors, yet failing to identify the real one, which is obvious to all but him – his moustache.
There is yet another factor which he who wishes to assume a moustache must consider. It is in fact the gravest deterrent of all. Moustaches grow
dictators. Personalities as various as those of Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Castro, Ho Chi Minh and Genghis Khan were all observed to turn
dictatorial after they had grown their moustaches. The risk is admittedly small, yet it is statistically significant, and the prospective
moustacheteer would be well advised to consider it.
Should one advise another to grow a moustache, or keep one that has been grown? It is a very delicate question and can only be decided on the merits
of the particular case. Show us your fungus and we will decide.
edit on 8/4/12 by Astyanax because: of that damned character limit.