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‘Hackney uniform’ — how the moustache became a male status symbol (again)

Moustaches are back   (ES composite )
Moustaches are back (ES composite )

“My moustache gets so many questions, he’s got his own agent now,” Tom Selleck famously told the Radio Times in 2011. It’s a running joke he’s kept up ever since.

Ironically, at that point in time, moustaches couldn’t have been less talked about: it was the advent of the hipster beard and man bun era, when meticulously groomed yet sprawling facial hair reigned supreme, emphasised by its accompanying up-do. Selleck’s was purely cherished due to its historical significance as the coolest moustache of the 80s (and then, thanks to his appearance in Friends, briefly, in the 90s).

Despite Selleck’s 2011 quip, it would take another decade before moustaches came back into the conversation. In fact, it took approximately 11 years — until May 2022, when Top Gun: Maverick hit cinemas. The fashionable facial hair in question belonged to Miles Teller, as part of his portrayal as Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, the son of the original Top Gun’s beloved US Navy pilot Nick “Goose” Bradshaw. In order to emphasise the likeness between the two, Teller sported a classic Chevron moustache in the film — and, boy, was it well received.

Miles Teller in Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount Pictures via AP)
Miles Teller in Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount Pictures via AP)

Best known for the scene where he’s playing American football topless on a beach wearing only his aviators, cut-off denim jorts, and upper lipholstery, Teller was a picture-perfect pin-up of trad-masculinity in the 2020s. TikToks under the “Top Gun moustache” search reached up to 800,000 views individually and amassed 1.4 billion views collectively, proving that Gen Z was truly sold on the trend.

More than a year later, moustaches are everywhere — and not just on the likely suspects ie old men in boozers, people selling bratwurst, that guy on the Moretti bottles. Stylish celebs like Paul Mescal, Ncuti Gatwa, Pedro Pascal, Jude Law, and Jacob Elordi have all been snapped sporting mousers recently, and long-term moustache-owners like Héctor Bellerín and Christian Bale have even gone so far as to double down on their upper-lip facial hair, letting it be known they were the ones to do it first.

Ncuti Gatwa (Tristan Fewings / Getty Images)
Ncuti Gatwa (Tristan Fewings / Getty Images)

They’ve moved off the red carpet and Instagram grid, too. Having recently attended three festivals over the course of three weeks, I couldn’t escape the furry facial feature for the life of me: every man between 19 to 39 appeared to be sporting one.

One of those men is 33-year-old Hackney resident Cem Ibrahim, who grew a moustache during Movember 2021 and says he “used it as a bit of an excuse” after wanting to try one for quite a while. “I’ve got a bit of a baby face, I always have had, and I’ve always grown a bit of a patchy beard so I didn’t think it would turn out that great,” he says, “but I guess it’s acceptable to have a bit of a sh** ’tache in Movember. Then it turned out quite well and I decided to keep it.” Cem blames his love of 80s music, especially Hall & Oates, on why he kept it for so long after Movember.

Cem, 33, says he can’t imagine living without a moustache now (Cem Ibrahim)
Cem, 33, says he can’t imagine living without a moustache now (Cem Ibrahim)

“I do tend to get a lot of compliments on my ’tache as well,” he admits, “I get [compared to] Paul Mescal and Billy from Stranger Things a lot, which I don’t think is true, I think it’s just the mullet and ’tache combo.”

Cem also describes it as a “Hackney uniform”, saying every man he walks past in his area has a moustache now, even though he initially grew it to differentiate himself from the bearded Hackney dwellers, but they’ve sadly caught on. “I can’t imagine myself without it now,” he says, “I don’t think I can do it. It’s become part of the furniture of my face.”

Paul Mescal (Jeff Spicer / Getty Images for SOLT)
Paul Mescal (Jeff Spicer / Getty Images for SOLT)

Hair stylist Lisa Farrall believes that, “A moustache shows confidence”. Farrall, who’s worked on the hair of Harry Styles, Kendrick Lamar, Ed Sheeran, and Stormzy, says: “They can be anything — from really heavy and masculine, to quite flicky, quirky, and feminine,” which is perhaps what makes a moustache so perfect for the androgynous, gender-bending 2020s.

Farrall makes the point that moustaches never truly went away but were just “in disguise”, hidden among all those elaborate beards and other facial hair trends.

Harry Styles (CBS)
Harry Styles (CBS)

Now, though, they’re having a solo moment in the sun — and they suit a lot of men more than they initially realise. “A moustache can elevate your face as much as [your] eyebrows can, or a haircut can. It’s why me and my girlfriends used to joke that if you end up marrying a guy with a beard you need to see what he looks like underneath because it can hide a thousand sins.” She highlights Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, as the best person she knows rocking a moustache right now, because he’s “not trying to be too edgy with it, but he’s still making it quirky”.

Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino (Amy Sussman / Getty Images)
Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino (Amy Sussman / Getty Images)

Obviously, not every man can grow a moustache — a tragedy attributable purely to genes. “Growing a moustache is a lot like your hair, it comes down to DNA,” says Farrall, which is a nicer way of saying, ‘If it ain’t gonna happen, it ain’t gonna happen.’ For the fortunate, a well-kept moustache requires work. “You need to ensure you have the correct products so it’s shiny, oily, and smooth,” advises Farrall, recommending Schwarzkopf’s STMNT grooming range for all your moustache-,smoothing needs.

So, if you have the ability, let those upper-lip hairs bristle in the wind — or you can just pass it off as a pre-Movember trial run. The more moustaches out there, the better, if you ask me.