What is revealed by the size of a man’s moustache?


And lo, Movember is upon us.

As gents around the nation compete to cultivate the most fabulous whiskers, the question is, ladies: the moustachioed man, yea or nay?

Between the meticulously sculpted facial decoration of the Restoration era and the bushy luxuriance of the nineteenth-century sideburn combo, facial hair was rather out of fashion. Contravening the Georgian codes of politeness and the preference for an open – and therefore trustworthy – countenance, beards and moustaches fell into the realm of the wildman, the lunatic, and the foreigner. The print above suggests that even in the 1820s, before the ‘Beard Movement’ took the country by storm, excessive hair was considered  uncouth and strange – it is subtitled “They look not like the inhabitants o’the Earth and yet are on’t.”

However, I have been able to find a cheeky eighteenth-century reference to the benefits of sporting a “stiff pair of whiskers”, and why the practice might stir a bit of interest from the laydeez:

“If you find him with Mustachios, he’s certainly a Size above ordinary in his own Conceit; aye, and is fancied so too by the Women, who wisely infer, that a stiff Pair of Whiskers must needs spring from some secret stiffening Cause or other.”

So, the debate goes on. Grab your bear’s grease, boys, and let me know how you get on.


– Ned Ward, The Wooden World Dissected (c.1707)


Image (top): Detail from ‘The Rival Whiskers’ (c.1824)

One thought on “What is revealed by the size of a man’s moustache?

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  1. Nonsense, the mark is higher than that. A mustache means nothing; a majestic nose signifies great things.


    Tristram Shandy, L. Sterne
    Chapter 2.XXIV.

    –I think it a very unreasonable demand–cried my great-grandfather, twisting up the paper, and throwing it upon the table. –By this account, madam, you have but two thousand pounds fortune, and not a shilling more — and you insist upon having three hundred pounds a year jointure for it.–

    –‘Because,’ replied my great-grandmother, ‘you have little or no nose, Sir.’–


    Another inch or so, though trivial in itself, must have been accounted something in those days. I am happy to have inherited and bequeathed such an organ.

    I remain, Madam, yr most humble and ob’t svt

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