New Yorkers hope for moustache renaissance

“I think it’s sexy,” Donald Bradford (26) says of the bushy growth that has adorned his upper lip for the past two months.

Largely shunned since the 1980s, moustaches are enjoying something of a renaissance among young New Yorkers, following a comeback trail blazed by such hip role models as actor Nicolas Cage and the ultra-trendy fashion photographer Terry Richardson.

“It’s just cool, right? And it’s fun,” says Bradford, a tall man with blonde highlights in his hair to match his silver jacket.

Jay Della Vale verges on the evangelical in his praise of the moustache’s attributes that, according to the 26-year-old DJ, include intimations of virility, a relaxed style and a healthy sense of humour.

“You walk differently. You’re more laid-back. You dress differently,” Della Vale said.
“We’re on a mission to bring it back.”

Della Vale’s devotion to facial hair prompted him to make a documentary, The Glorious Moustache Challenge, in which he persuaded 30 men to grow moustaches for a month to see what difference it made in their lives and the reactions of those around them.

“For the first month, everybody is against it, especially the women,” he said. “They say, ‘Please don’t do that, you remind me of my father ... or a Seventies porn star.’”

According to Della Vale, most of his moustachioed guinea pigs weathered the early critical storm and actually became quite fond of their new accessory.

Love of “the ‘stache” was taken for granted at the recent New York City Beard and Moustache Championships, which saw hundreds of hirsute aficionados turn out to root for their favourite styles.

Iconic images of movie stars and characters who championed the moustache—Clark Gable, Sean Connery, Inspector Clouseau, Marlon Brando in The Godfather—were projected on to a giant screen to appreciative applause.

But the real adulation was reserved for a photo of the contestants’ main hero, Tom Selleck, who brought ‘stache-style to the masses in the early 1980s with the television cop series Magnum.

Not long after those heady days, the moustache’s fortunes took a dive in the popularity stakes—its fall from grace best summed up by the makeover forced on the “Brawny Man”.

A brand icon whose lumberjack shirt and heavy moustache had promoted Brawny kitchen towels for decades, the Brawny Man was replaced in 2003 by a clean-shaven hunk who was seen as more in tune with the times.

For all the efforts of Della Vale and his cohorts, bringing back the old style is proving a tough sell to the average man in the street.

“I feel less confident, more insecure,” says Graham Veysey (24), who grew his moustache and entered the New York contest in a response to a dare from his friends.

“It’s just not me,” Veysey says. “I didn’t understand how much it would dominate the conversation. It’s like 25 times a day!”

New York-based French fashion designer Thomas Vasseur finds his moustache—complemented with prominent sideburns—serves as an open invitation to comment from just about everybody.

“For some of my friends, it suggests I’m looking for a new identity,” says Vasseur (32). “My mother tells me I remind her of my father who she divorced 25 years ago, my nephews tell me it scratches, and then there are also those, happily, who say that it suits me.”

No matter what the reaction, Vasseur insists he has no intention of taking a razor to his upper lip.

“It’s a male accessory, just like highlights or make-up for women,” he says. “I would feel naked without it.”

As for the future, zealots like Della Vale optimistically predict an “epidemic” of moustaches spreading across the country, while other fashion arbiters are more cautious.

“It’s almost like a tongue-in-cheek kind of style,” says James Bassil, editor-in-chief of the male lifestyle website

“The general impression that women have of moustaches is either they love them or they are absolutely repulsed by them, and there’s no real middle ground,” Bassil says.

“And there needs to be a middle ground for a fashion or a facial hair trend to be adopted en masse permanently,” he adds.—AFP

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