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Saturday, February 9, 2013 - Page updated at 03:30 p.m.

Mulling the return of the mustache

By Danielle Campoamor
Special to The Times

I BOUGHT a necklace with an impressive silver mustache once. I broke it three days later while frantically changing between meetings. I see mustaches on mugs rather regularly, usually while rushing to place my morning coffee order.

I’m bombarded by them in “Movember,” when guys grow mustaches to raise money to combat prostate cancer. Then, of course, there was that ridiculous mustache sticker plastered on the front of a VW Bug, which I couldn’t help but laugh at while racing to work in rush-hour traffic.

Why the obsession with mustaches?

Are we desperate to relive the poor grooming standards of the 1980s? Or, perhaps, this is a classic case of karmic retribution.

You say you have difficulty growing that now highly celebrated symbol of masculinity, sir? Oh my.

And wait, that inability leaves you feeling emasculated and inadequate? That must be difficult, given the social pressures to fulfill a media-fueled perception of perfection.

Women weep, the world over.

No, I have a different theory. The mustache pandemic isn’t a national hankering for men like Mark Twain, Friedrich Nietzsche, Salvador Dalí, Frank Zappa and even The Swedish Chef. It’s a country remembering the times in which those men lived and the echoes they left behind.

It’s a symbol of simplicity; when a status didn’t define us, our voices weren’t limited to 140 characters, and we touched one another instead of our screens.

It’s a peculiar love child of a vanished past and a rapid future, birthed and displayed on the faces of those genetically gifted enough to grow one. Or on the fingers of females genetically gifted enough not to grow one.

Some say it’s a hipster subculture. I say it’s a culture whispering, “Slow down.”

Between haywire hairs and sandpaper ’staches is a yield sign. Taking the time to fact check and research would not produce a highly reported story about a fake girlfriend fake dying. Like Twain said from underneath his soulful ’stache, “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”

Under an imperial, handlebar and lampshade are the rules for a balanced debate. Perhaps if Democrats and Republicans, left and right, took the time to meet in the middle, real progress would be made. Like Nietzsche grumbled, “Those who cannot understand how to put their thoughts on ice should not enter into the heat of a debate.”

Dali reminds us there is no need to know everything, all the time, as the secret to his influence was that it always “remained secret.”

Zappa urges us to veer off the supercharged highway as, “The computer can’t tell you the emotional story. It can give you the exact mathematical design, but what’s missing is the eyebrows.”

And The Swedish Chef reminds us that sometimes this constant race to be an imaginary first is as valid as, “Gersh gurney morn-dee burn-dee, burn-dee, flip-flip-flip-flip-flip-flip-flip-flip-flip.” (“The Muppet Movie,” 1979)

In a time when the word “loading” causes us to roll our eyes, success is a hamster wheel and the factual relevance of a story falls second to the exclusivity and promptness of its presentation, the mustache has emerged.

Slowly growing. Patiently protruding. Reminding us all to stop and look around.

By forcing us to stare at it.

Danielle Campoamor is a freelance writer who has been published in Thought Catalog, Hush Magazine, Notes Magazine, and FictionBrigade. Born and raised in Eagle River, Alaska, she lives in Seattle.


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