Face fuzz may be enjoying a fashion renaissance, but if you ask any true ‘tache connoisseur, a well-groomed upper lip never goes out of style. Crumb catchers, caterpillars, flavour savers… whatever you call them, sporting one makes a statement.
Whether for their menfolk’s bold lip plumage or bountiful hairy events, these spots have achieved moustache excellence.
A man without a moustache is a rare sight in India’s largest state, as having a full-bodied nose neighbour is an age-old symbol of virility here. Which may explain why local gents grow fantastically long ‘staches: size matters. It’s no surprise the world record holder for lengthiest moustache lives in Rajasthan. If you run into him – and many do in Jaipur – you’ll recognise him by his 4m-long mouth brow. Another hot spot for free-flowing facial hair is the annual Pushkar Camel Fair. After some 200,000 Rajasthani farmers finish trading livestock, they vie for follicular superiority in the Moustache Competition.
Lip warmers are on display year-round in Portland, Maine, but they ramp up bigtime during the week-long Facial Hair Fest in March. The world’s only Moustache Film Festival (stachefilmfest.com) is a star component, screening movies about Salvador Dali, Jesus, hippies and mountain men, among others. There’s a Stash of the Titans contest between ámoustachioed bands, and a Facial Hair Farmers Market to shop for grooming products. The fest culminates with the Moustache Pageant, where daring noses hit the catwalk and compete in categories such as the Magnum PI (natural ’stache, no wax) for the fuzzy trophy.
This hard-drinking city of seafarers has an epic moustache history. It was Norway’s capital in Viking times – home of the very dudes who originated badass whiskers. Viking kings ruled from Trondheim a thousand years ago. Walk around the ancient buildings and walled fortress and you can almost feel facial hair sprout (though it should be pointed out: archaeologists now think the stereotype of wild-bearded Vikings was a myth, as they’ve found abundant grooming tools in burial sites). Trondheim is also the headquarters of the powerful Norwegian Moustache Club, and it’s the only city to host the World Championships twice.
Hungarian crumb catchers are so iconic they get their own category at the World Beard and Moustache Championship (worldbeardchampionships.com). You know the type: big and bushy, starting in the middle of the lip and then sweeping up to the sides. Even the nation’s currency celebrates the look, specifically the 20,000-forint note that shows statesman Ferenc Deák in all his hirsute majesty. Budapest remains the centre of the scene and home to the Hungarian Moustache Fellowship. As it notes in its slogan: the Hungarian moustache isn’t only hair. Incidentally, paprika – the country’s favourite spice – is said to stimulate moustache growth.
The Turkish moustache is the envy of the world. It’s so significant it plays a role in national politics: a large, walrus-style nose accoutrement can indicate left-wing sympathies, while a neat, almond-shape is a sign of a conservative. Around a third of Turkish men have a cookie duster. But what about the guy who can’t grow one? There’s a moustache implant for that. Istanbul has become the globe’s top spot for the procedure. The city also holds the mother lode of tea gardens, where ’staches of all types congregate to sip from tulip-shaped glasses and play backgammon.
Mexico City, Mexico
We can’t overlook the lady ’stache, and no-one represents it better than Frida Kahlo. The renegade artist painted her bold unibrow and moustache in many self-portraits, not giving a fig what anyone thought. The blue house where she lived most of her life sits in the bohemian, cobblestoned Coyoacán. It’s now a museum and pilgrimage site to the heroine of womanly whiskers (museofridakahlo.org). Wander through and you’ll see Kahlo’s outfits, books and paints, as well as the bed where she often was confined due to illness. Under the canopy is a mirror facing down that she used to render her bristled image.
Black Forest, Germany
The region is more than cuckoo clocks, deep dark woods and chocolate-cherry cakes: it’s also the cradle of competitive moustache growing. The World Championships were born in the hamlet of Höfen. The nearby town of Pforzheim hosted the second global event, and has long been the home of Germany’s national contest. Moustache clubs proliferate and encourage an anything-goes style among members – the Fu Manchu, the pencil-thin villain effect, or mind-blowing freestyle arrangements. Perhaps that’s why winners of the world contest so often hail from these parts.
Do you have a hirsute appendage of the upper lip, with graspable extremities? That’s the qualification for membership in London’s Handlebar Club (handlebarclub.co.uk). The group formed in 1947 to mark mastery of the wide, thick, ends curved up look (think industrialist JP Morgan or his cartoon alter-ego, Mr Monopoly). The club meets monthly in a Marylebone pub to chew over topics such waxing techniques, moustache cups bodacious soup strain (specially designed to prevent soup messiness) and snoods (a band to keep the ’stache in place when sleeping). The chaps even publish a sassy calendar showing off their lady ticklers.
Austin, Texas, USA
Austin is home to lots of whiskered dudes who can be seen around town drinking beer and wiping barbecue out of their bodacious soup strainers. Most are members of the Austin Facial Hair Club (austinfacialhairclub.com), a ferocious band of competitors that sends more ’staches to world events than any other city. And this year you’ll see more of them growing than ever, preparing to twist, curl and wax their hairy regalia into spectacular formations for the 2017 World Beard and Moustache Association’s biennial international championships, which will be held here.
Liverpool offers a mash-up of moustachery. First, there’s the Beatles. The lads famously started out in Liverpool, and the Beatles Story museum tells the tale (beatlesstory.com). View their upper lips through the years and consider whether it’s a mere coincidence that their musical peak matches their moustache peak (lookin’ at you, Sgt Pepper). Nearby the Merseyside Maritime Museum (liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/maritime) is all about Liverpool’s ships and port history, with a bonus of lip toupees. The online ‘Moustaches from the Past’ exhibit shows company workers who embraced the ‘stache, a hardy breed who knew how to ‘shave at sea in a gale’.
The article first appeared on www.lonelyplanet.com.