City Style: Fashion Masochist The Mustache

With hipsters from Allston to Cambridge sporting ’staches before Borat brought his to the big screen, we’re on high alert for all-out mustache mania. Andrew Rimas boldly test-drives the handlebar.

THE TECHNOLOGY: This is the sort of grooming choice that’s within the capabilities of your average walrus. All you need is a comb and a healthy sense of self-mockery. Also, an electric trimmer comes in handy.

THE EXPERIENCE: I’ve worn a goatee ever since they were actually fashionable, so I’m used to seeing rampant facial hair in the mirror. But when I shave my chin, leaving a bristling hedgerow above my lip, my first reaction is shock: I never imagined that I bore such a striking resemblance to Freddie Mercury.

“You look like you have…unclean intentions,” says my wife. She seems to find excuses to avoid kissing me, or to glance in my direction. When I wear the mustache out on the street, my neighbors act as if I have sprouted a goiter, politely ignoring the unfortunate growth as they stare over my shoulder. At a party, a friend says I look like the owner of a slave plantation (“but a nice owner of a slave plantation”). I’m also told I resemble a magician, porn legend Ron Jeremy, and a cop. But most comments are simply: “You look like a member of the Village People.”

When I attend a matinee of Borat, I’m reminded that Americans view mustaches as indelibly foreign—and not sexy, exotic foreign. When I leave the theater, I catch myself coughing as an excuse to cover my mouth.

Outside, I watch for other mustaches, seeking fellow members of the lip hair brotherhood. They’re mostly of Arab, Hispanic, or South Asian origin—or bikers. In the park, I see a pair of trim, bewhiskered gentlemen strolling together under the maples. They have a military demeanor, with pressed trousers, neat haircuts, and a companion terrier. They appear to be in love.

THE VERDICT: “When can I shave?” I ask my editor, three days into my experiment. I’ve learned a mustache—more so than a beard—is laden with cultural baggage, and I’m sick of it. Magazine articles notwithstanding, you’ll suffer fewer assumptions if you wear a mohawk.