Image by Nara Williams

OUR GENERATION'S GREATEST THREAT: THE MUSTACHE INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

By Nara Williams

March 11, 2013

It’s March, 2010, a Friday night. I am a freshman in college, probably doing weird art in my room alone. I walk into the hall of my dorm to get water, probably for instant oatmeal. I see my hall-mate desperately trying to glue an entire human ponytail's worth of hair to his face.

"What?" I say.

"Mustachio Bashio," he answers, voice muffled.

"Excuse me?"

He already knows I'm not very cool. But he’s shocked (maybe - honestly a little hard to tell under his lip donkey) by my ignorance of this Hampshire tradition.

He lays it out for me. "It's this party. You wear mustaches. It's cool. This is my friend's hair. He just cut it off."

When you're a freshman, it's hard to question any kind of tradition that might result in you getting drunk and making out with new friends. So I taped something to my face, went to the party, and probably had a decently gross time.

Four years and three Bashios later, I find myself asking the same old question: will I wear a mustache this year? Should I even go? What does it mean to celebrate mustaches? Why the hell is it held in the Greenhouse Mod?

Furthermore: why are mustaches so fucking cool that every plastic-ironic-crap store sells mustache mugs, rings, bandanas, candies, and condoms adorned with fuzzy handlebars? Are there even little mustaches for dogs?

The answer to that last one is, yeah. There are. 16 bucks, guys. And only like 40 bucks if you want a mustache for your car.

At first, I saw the trend as some gender-roles-are-goofy thing. Masculinity and body hair often go together, so it's funny when girls wear mustaches. Right. But like, shut up. Girls who would never be caught dead with actual upper lip hair yet think it's adorable to have a tattoo on their finger - what is that?

And if it is a gender thing, why also subject cars and dogs to the trend?

Photo by Spencer Hoyt

In preparation for my final Bashio, I decided to do some sleuthing. Since I only had about four hours, I turned to the person next to me: Hannah Lushington, a Hampshire senior, who works at a shop called Mustache Baked Goods when she's at home in Sonoma County. They sell cute cupcakes.

"Every time someone comes into Mustache, they'd ask, why? Really, it's called Mustache because it's cute, and also because it's owned by a couple of men. It was their masculine twist on a bakery. Sort of."

If cupcakes are the trendiest thing in the world, and mustaches are second, then by all logic, her job is kind of obnoxious. It's basically a flowing together of ironic hipster nonsense, AND it's in Northern California. But hey, a bakery has to have a name:

"It's like, why is it called Starbucks?"

Dedicated to experiencing mustache culture firsthand, I prepared for the party by assisting in the shaving of my boyfriend's substantial beard.  He said things like "I've always hated this party" and "I don't know why we're doing this," but really, it was time. Winter's over, folks.

"I dated a man once who had a mustache for quite some time, and I thought it made him look a lot smarter than he actually was," Lushington reflected. "It also made him look like a huge asshole."

Photo by Spencer Hoyt

Together, we trooped over to Enfield for a mustache-application pre-party. We passed around the black tape, the sparkly gems, and the black eyeliner. We spoke of mustaches past.

Oddly, I found this comforting. While everyone present was fairly apathetic and generally reluctant to even walk the 50 feet to the party, I really think ruminating on our mustache memories helped us figure ourselves out:

"I remember two years ago, when you had a comb on your face, held on by rubber bands. That just hurt."

We also talked about our mustache feelings.

"I think a mustache is an excellent thing to have on your face. It gives someone a sophisticated flair," offered one friend, decked out in Dali-esque black duct tape

"I like them well-groomed, with a little wax, turned up at the edges," said another, pantomiming over his own scraggly hint of a mustache.

Photo by Spencer Hoyt

Eventually, I forced my way into the party. It was dark, sweaty, and bristly, just like any good mustache. I had to duck under the dancing horde on multiple occasions to retrieve my own bedazzled appendage, which really never stuck to my face to begin with- apparently, whiskey acts as a kind of solvent on these occasions.  

There remains much to be learned about mustache culture: I'll admit that my one-day journalism expedition yielded few conclusive results. The band played, people made out on me, we all fell in the mud.

At the end of the night, it was just another reason to party: Hampshire has to have a couple of traditions. And, really, maybe it's best not to overthink it. As one wildly dancing girl succinctly explained,  

"It's just funny. It's a fuzzy thing. On your face!"

And hey. At least we're not pretending it's Saint Patrick's Day!