See a man with a moustache (but no beard), and you’re likely to conclude that they’re from the army, or assume they are serious, arrogant or unapproachable, dominating or should be feared. But then there’s also the likes of creative people like Salvador Dalí or Charlie Chaplin who’ve given edgier variations of the look. Often deemed as a sign of power, protest, courage, or unconventionality, the moustache has had a controversial journey throughout history. While the trend of keeping just the ‘tache had faded away, recently, it has seen a resurgence. On-screen men are bringing it back and this time, it’s the younger generation that’s cottoned on. You can love it or hate it, but you can’t ignore it. Celebrities are sporting the ‘tache on-screen and are owning it.
While many watched Top Gun: Maverick for Tom Cruise, I watched it for Miles Teller. His great performance aside, it was that beautiful face bearing a moustache that caught everyone’s (and my) attention. The look certainly suited him. And right after the film, the spy-action film The Gray Man followed with Chris Evans sporting a moustache. Fans are so used to seeing both the stars in clean shaven looks that when they both pulled off a thick moustache with so much ease, people were encouraged to try it too. Google searches saw a massive rise in moustaches after both the stars carried it so effortlessly on screen. Aaron Taylor Johnson in Bullet Train and Zac Efron in his upcoming film, The Greatest Beer Run Ever also sport a moustache, which proves the trend is gaining momentum.
Tracing The Trend
“I’ve been seeing the return of the ‘tache for a year and a half. A few years ago, beards had made a comeback. But just like any other trend, when you sport something for a long time, you eventually get bored of it and people want to try something new. So I believe the moustache is the next big thing. Soon enough, Bollywood will follow,” says celebrity hairstylist and founder of D shave, Darshan Yewalekar. “But what happens in Bollywood is that the moustache is stereotyped. You’ll mostly see an actor who plays a cop on screen sporting a moustache. But after big Hollywood stars like Miles Teller and Chris Evans’ looks became a sensation, I’m sure even stars in India will pick up these trends and not limit themselves,” he adds.
In India, the moustache is seen as a symbol of masculinity. Many communities, for instance the Rajputs, where military prowess is linked to power, are historically depicted with moustaches because it a norm for them. Different military services and regiments have different rules today–some are asked to have a clean shaven face whereas others are allowed to keep just a moustache. This largely takes into account the individual’s culture and roots.
We have been conditioned to seeing men from the military or army keeping the moustache – even the media depicts them in that manner. That’s why you’ll see the moustache confined to characters such as cops, spies, men from the armed forces, villains or gangsters. You’ll also see it when an actor plays the role of a real life personality. Case in point–Rami Malek who played Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody or the upcoming film Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, wherein Daniel Radcliffe plays the titular lead and singer Yankovic. Both musicians had clean shaven faces with just their upper lip sporting facial hair.
On the contrary, most of the South films have portrayed the heroes with moustaches as opposed to those in Bollywood films, right from Dilip Kumar to Amitabh Bachchan to Shah Rukh Khan. It is only now that the trend is slowly coming back with younger stars choosing to experiment with the look. Take for instance, Ranveer Singh in films Singham and 83, or Naga Chaitanya in Lal Singh Chaddha. But again, there are only a select few and there’s a long way to go.
Will The Moustache Ever Go Beyond The Stereotypical Macho Men Characters?
We often see cops, spies and agents, army men and sometimes villains associated with the moustache. However Jason Sudeikis in Ted Lasso and Ranveer Singh in Jayeshbhai Jordaar are exceptions. The former plays the role of a football coach, but not the kind who’s strict or harsh but someone who is witty and caring about the team and its players. Similarly, Ranveer is a simple, innocent Gujarati boy Jayesh, who believes in equal rights for women despite being brought up in a patriarchal family. It is rather refreshing to see younger and innocent male characters carry this rugged look as it gives so much authenticity and paves the way for positive masculinity. The count of your facial hair strands doesn’t depict how masculine you are.
The Way Forward
It is the responsibility of writers and filmmakers to break this stereotype of having men portray a moustache just from the perspective of what the norm is or from making the”cool dude” or “hunk” a fashionable look. With characters like Ted and Jayesh, we’re moving towards a path where this won’t be an exception but be more democratic, just like the beard.