Sunday, August 14, 2016

'Moustaches' by K.J.S.Chatrath

There are two types of men in this world- those who have moustaches and those who dont have moustaches.

Moustaches are fascinating and the  keepers with good or unusual moustaches do get a second look. 

In India, more in the South than in the North, it has long been popular. However one has to concede that keeping moustaches has, by and large, gone out of fashion in India as well as abroad.

The most impressive moustaches that I have seen belong to Shukla Ji whom I met in Allahabad three years back. We had a little chat wherein I told him about my interest in, and fascination for moustaches, and he gladly and somewhat proudly posed for my photographs. He told me that he retired from UP Police where he was in the Police Band.

   Pranam Shukla Ji. 

Now a little backgrounder about moustaches collected from the internet. 

Since the Napoleonic times and throughout the 19th century, sappers (combat engineers) of the French army could wear full beards. √Člite troops, such as grenadiers, had to wear large moustaches. Infantry chasseurs were required to wear moustaches and goatees; and hussars, in addition to their moustache, usually wore two braids in front of each ear, to protect their neck from sword slashes. These traditions were gradually abandoned since the beginning of the 20th century, 

And the British seemed to have followed the French, on this one at least. Initially adopted towards the very  end of the 1700s from the French, moustaches became compulsory for the troops of the East India Company’s Bombay Army in 1854.  By the 1860s, moustaches were finally compulsory for all the Armed Forces and they became as much an emblem for the Armed Forces as the army uniform.

In 1916, the regulation was dropped and troops were allowed to be clean-shaven again. This was largely because such a superficial requirement was getting ignored in the trenches of WWI, especially as they could sometimes get in the way of a good gas mask seal.

Beard and moustache growth was common in India where bare faces were seen as being juvenile and un-manly, as well as in Arab countries where moustaches and beards were likewise associated with power.

Moustache got out of fashion by the 1950s. It had become a joke thanks to Charlie Chaplin and Groucho Marx and an international symbol of villainy thanks to Hitler's toothbrush and "the huge laughing cockroaches" under Stalin's nose - the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam paid.

‘In one P.G. Wodehouse novel of 1954, Bertie Wooster tries cultivating one to give himself a dashing air. It is stigmatized by Jeeves, that infallible arbiter of fashion, as a "dark stain like mulligatawny soup".’

‘Moustaches were religiously cultivated and subjected to severe discipline, enforced by Queen's Regulations which by the 1860s had made them obligatory. They were brushed and pomaded. The follicles were fertilised with patent unguents such as Ayre's Formula, Elliott's Tonic Lotion and Oldridge's Balm of Columbia. The topiary luxuriance was trained with iron curling tongs.’*

In the present day's strong media penetration, one needs an honest international survey amongst women to find out if they prefer men with or without moustaches.. ....

Take a look at my collection of photographs of men with moustaches- good, bad and the ugly!

I met this gentleman on the Mall Road, Mussoorie about 4 years back. We talked about his impressive mosustaches and he told me that they are an integral part of him and he can not imagine himself without these moustaches.

I met Shri Balwant Singh outside the town park in Sector 5 of Panchkula. He gladly agreed to pose for me.

I met the soft spoken Shri Sukhu Rai in Varanasi on 3rd March, 2016.

  An old statue indicating that moustaches were kept in the historical past too.

Travelling in Himachal Pradesh last year, our vehicle stopped at a petrol pump to fill it up. I saw this impressive gentleman and quickly but quietly clicked him. Since the vehicle was about to move, I had no time to seek his permission before taking the photo. Sorry, Sir!

This smart army man posted at the Kargil war memorial explained the Kargil War to our travelling group in 2015, with an amazing mix of  enthusiasm and calmness.

I met this smartly turned out guard opposite Qutab Minar in New Delhi, in 2016.
Photo of an army  recruitment poster in Landsdowne, India.

Moustaches do need regular care and attention. Mumbai Police gives a monthly allowance to those in the force who sport big moustaches.

Some men with moustaches who changed the world:

Mahatama Gandhi-This most extraordinary man sported ordinary moustaches

Albert Einstein - The e=mc2 superman with lazy looking moustaches

Martin Luther King (Jr.) 

Some distinguished Indians with moustaches: 

Subramanyam Bharati
Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan- musician
Freedom fighter Chander Shekhar Azad

Sahid Bhagat Singh

Maharana Pratap- the brave fighter king of India.

J.R.D. Tata

Field Marshall Maneckshaw

General Dalbir Singh, current Chief of Indian Army

Latest on the scene- The 'Aam Admi Moustache'

Mr. Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi has thick moustaches. Should we call it the 'Aam Admi' Moustache?

An unusual depiction of Lord Shiva with moustaches- Photo source: Govt. Archeological Museum, Goa.

Bollywood Heroes sporting moustaches:

 Moustaches in Hindi films were worn mostly by villains, and only some times by heroes.


Legendry K.L. Saigal donned a sword cut (talwar cut) moustache in Tansen

Dev Anand looked dashing with these moustaches and a cigarette holder. (Pssst. Smoking is injurious to health!). At some point of time, moustaches were sported by the baddies and the good guys were clean shave.

 Actor Salman Khan in a 'Dabbang' look

Actor Amir Khan

Rajnikant, Rajni Sir to his millions of fans, looks cool, with or without moustaches.


Actor Ranveer Singh has given a new lease of life to moustaches not only in Bollywood, but throughout India.
Madan Mohan- The Emperor of Melodies.

O.P.Nayyar - the Rhythm King initially sported what are called the pencil line moustaches. Later on he switched over to being clean shaven.

Hollywood heroes with moustaches:

Marlon Brando as the Godfather.

The incredibly handsome & moustachioed  Sean Connery

Clarke Gable- He was not called 'The King' for nothing.

These Hitler style moustaches sported by him in the film 'The Dictator' remained with him in some other films also.
French actor of yester-years Alain Delon

Incredibly handsome and talented Marcello Mastrioanni (R) with  charming Sophia Loren

         Groucho Marx made fun of moustaches and contributed in making them un-popular.     

 Walt Disney.

There is an interesting anecdote about Walt Disney. He wore a moustache, but for decades, any man working for Disney Theme Parks was not allowed to have a mustache or beard! That changed only in the last few years

India cricketeer Shikhar Dhawan giving it a twirl.

The moustaches suited Dennis Lillie

Merv Huges- This fast bowler terrified the batsmen with his pace and many of them with just his moustaches.

The deadly World Wars:

Kaiser Wilhelm the German Emperor during the First World War.

Charles De Gaulle - the French

Joseph Stalin - the Russian

Adolf Hitler- the German (WW-II)

Around the world:

Devil with mustache in Michaelangelo’s Il Giudizio Universale.


Salvador Dali's moustaches were, like himself and his works, a class by themselves. 

Oversized moustaches of Bulgarian revolutionary Hitov.

Moustaches have been rare in the White House- President Cleaveland Glover

 Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first President of Banga Desh on its formation.

 Pakistan's past President Mr. Ayub Khan

Pakistan's past President Zia-Ul- Haq

Pakistan's past President Mr. Parwez Musharraf

Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet
Allende, the democratically elected President of Chile, who was ousted and killed in a coup.

The current President of Turkey H.E. Mr. Erdogan
The current President of Zimbabwe H.E. Mr. Robert Mughabe

Shri Sujan Singh Pathania, Honourable  Minister, Government of Himachal Pradesh

Notorious sandalwood smuggler Veerapan who was shot dead, gave a bad name to his  impressive style of  moustaches because of his illegal and unlawful acts.

And now to answer the question that you have been wanting to ask. What are my credentials on writing about moustaches. Well see the photo above. That is me- circa 1982. Hope that answers your question?...

And to end up, imagine what would be the top news in the media if  Mr. Barack Obama or Mr. Putin were suddenly seen with moustaches?

.....     .....

Those who are research oriented may like to read the following books and articles: 

(i) One Thousand Mustaches: A Cultural History of the Mo  by Allan Peterkin, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at the University of Toronto, Arsenal Pulp Press, 2012.