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On Mustaches and Men

By JJ McLaughlin Photos By Alison NarroJake Holt Issue Nov 2009 Neighborhood East Side

It fills rooms with an erotic charge intense enough to revive any rundown red-light district. Hipsters wear it with bravado, ironically accenting their American Apparel garb, so it can be worn with anything – except humility. Attitude and confidence are a must if you have one. It commands the type of stop-in-your-tracks attention that 95 percent off signs and high profile celebrities and sirens warrant.

Above all, it’s inching its way back on upper lips, whether you like it or not. Yes, it’s the advent of le mustache.

Though it’s had a much bumpier ride than its downstairs counterpart (the beard), there’s a new masculine mystique that has men poised at the razor’s edge to make the ‘stache sexy again, or rather, sexy for the first time. Not because it’s the cool thing to do, but because growing a rugged lip sweater is as much a stylistic statement as it is a celebration of manliness.

If wearing a beard is the vehicle for protest, then rocking a mustache is the vehicle for acceptance.

“My mustache is an outward manifestation of what’s going on inside, which is joy and happiness,” local pre-school art teacher and facial hair enthusiast Dave Schwab, 29, says. “You have to take in all of me – with the mustache – because it’s me.”

He began growing it three years ago as a test to see if he’d get fired. “I grew it as a joke but it’s really grown to become a part of who I am now,” Schwab says.

His twisted whiskers are so much a part of him now that he couldn’t imagine life without it.  Though, at times, he said he was tempted to take a razor to his lip.

“It’s both a blessing and a curse to have a mustache, because I get approached all the time.  But at least I don’t ever have to go out of my way to meet people,” he says.

A celebrity in his own right, Allen Demling, 30, said the allure of his massive beard and mustache actually helped him in his recent run for Austin City Council, saying people were able to connect with him on a very down-to-earth level.

Speaking of connecting, Mike Schrader, 32, wears what he calls friendly muttonchops and a robust mustache, because he can’t connect the facial hair on his chin to make a beard. But it’s okay; he makes up for it by connecting other bald face detractors to a world of manly men.

“I grow for every man who can not grow a mustache,” Schrader says.

Schrader says guys commonly ask him how to grow a mustache, and his response is always, “stop shaving.” (It’s important to note that they approach him with a man-crush like zeal too.)

It’s clearly easier said than done. And though many men have endured jabs for growing mustaches because of the shaky associations that include porn stars, villains, and sketchy uncles, it always seems to be grown for comedic effect, until recently, of course. There’s a clear message you’re sending in your mustache, but there’s a right way to say it.

“You just gotta wear it with attitude, man. Go for it! That’s the only way to wear it. And just have fun with it, and it’ll look awesome,” competitive beard and mustache wearer Alex LaRoche, 30, says. Since he applies product to his mustache, it’s safe to call him a ‘stachenista.

The mustache has always been on the cusp of a comeback, but only the cool kids and hipsters could pull it off in a semi-ironic, or post-ironic (whatever) way. A fixed gear bike and an affinity for tiny cutoff jean shorts are not requirements when offering handle bar rides.

Demling, who is a prominent voice in the bicycling community, couldn’t answer why the ‘stache trend is prevalent in biking culture, but he mysteriously makes you believe in it when he simply says, “it looks good.” A man bearing a mustache need not say much in order to deliver a poignant message.

On the other side of the lip, a man wearing a mustache is both respected and feared at the same time. Schwab said he was in L.A. recently when he was approached by a group of tough guys who seemingly wanted to inflict harm on him, but instead they complimented the rolling thunder on his lip. That’s because his mustache is an emblem of rugged masculinity that acts as numchucks when danger lurks.

The only real fear that might emerge from a lip sweater is how the ladies might react to that hairy leech attached to your grill. It’s a vicious misconception that women hate the ‘stache. Schrader met his girlfriend at a beard and mustache competition, while LaRoche said his fair lady encourages his whisker growth. There’s even a growing trend for a ‘Miss-stache’ on the ladies, which is like lip liner.

“It weeds out the girls that you don’t like,” Demling says.

Like fashion trends, grooming styles swing in complete contrast with what came before it. Prior to the unruly beard look that grew with haste and fury, men were girly and glazed in clean-shaven, candy-coated, metrosexual tartness. But the waxed Boy Scout look ended and manhood was restored with the return of stubble, unemployment, and arm wrestling competitions.

Back from a long hiatus, the mustache has become a tool that enhances the characteristics of a person while outwardly displaying them.

Which brings us to the age-old question: Why should I sport a mustache?

“It’s fun, and it suits me,” Schwab says.

So take your index finger, graze your upper lip, and if it’s bare, you’re just not having as much fun.


Comments (5)

  1. Heather says:

    Ah, I can’t wait to go to this competition on Friday! Hilarious article.

  2. Hailey M. says:

    my opinion: mustaches by themselves are kind of creepy. put some other facial hair with it, please!

    those beards are insane… do they shampoo them?

  3. Daniel says:

    dude with the puffy sideburns is my hero.

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