When Allan Peterkin released his tabletop book One Thousand Beards in 2001, it would only make sense that he drew some ire from a large part of the facially-hirsute community. His book cleverly and humorously recapitulated the history of the beard: it explained the beard’s meaning, its regal elegance and its rugged boorishness, its symbolism and its lazy frivolity, almost everything, but something was missing. Why was it only for the beards? What about those less fortunate? What about those involuntarily relegated to the backseat of facial frizz? What about that flawed group who desires facial furniture, but with any hope of society’s acceptance, can only rationally accompany their own trodden faces with a thin, upper-lip appendage? What about those (two thumbs pointed at this guy) who don’t have the physical faculty to grow full, thick locks of hair on the outer cheek and jaw? Those who instead sport the “lip lettuce”, “nose bug”, or “upper lipholstery”? What about those incapable of the beard but more than capable of the mo? What about the mustachioed men?
Well, neglected mustachioed comrades, it is time rejoice. Facial hair expert Peterkin, with his One Thousand Mustaches, assures us that we are no inferior beings, but are follicle equals. It will be a book of our own, and it will be glorious.
Due to be published in November, Peterkin’s book (from its back cover) is “both a lighthearted cultural history and an earnest style manual: it’s the story of the ‘stache through the age and its manifestation in politics, war, movies, music, sports, and art, as well as information on various ‘stache styles and how to wear them with pride”. It gives us the ‘stache’s history, its significance, its multitude of varieties, its future, and a great list of nicknames you’ll surely borrow from forever. It reminds us that, like your favorite shirt or pair of pants, a mustache is a statement for fashion, a symbol, and a friend.
The book recounts many famous mustached men —those we love and hate— and makes you think about the impact a mustache could have. I personally found myself thinking about all the people who wouldn’t be as identifiable without their ‘staches. Obviously Hitler (and Michael Jordan), Charlie Chaplin, and Ron Jeremy (depending on your familiarity with a certain type of entertainment) are strongly associated with their signature mouthbrow, but there are also others who I realized aren’t necessarily known for their mustache but certainly wouldn’t be the same without them. I’m not sure if Albert Einstein would be as nutty, my writing idol Ernest Hemingway as resolute, Stan Lee as old and creepy, or Salvador Dali (yes, that’s an ocelot he’s with) as uncanny.
Peterkin’s book will surely begin a couple debates about the world’s most bad-ass, dumb, funny, weird mustaches. And rightfully so. Who is to devalue the importance of a facial friend? After all, Confucius did say “a man without a mustache is a man without a soul”. The book’s a quick, veritably funny look at mustaches, their bravado, and their irony. For one, Peterkin doesn’t have facial hair.
All uncredited photos from Wikimedia Commons
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