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The Meaning of a Moustache

Facial hair is once again fashionable for young men; the two-day growth is also fashionable, except if you are in Victoria Police who are busy with a legal challenge at the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal.

For complete disclosure I have had a full beard but I’m currently clean-shaven, my father has never had a beard but my maternal grandfather was a member of Kobe Moustache Club. But I’ve always wanted to write something about the cultural of male facial hair because it is a reflection of the collective consciousness of the society.

Male facial hair fashions are not independent of other forces – politics and religion is especially evident in facial hair. There are all kinds of faith-based beliefs about beards; I’m sure that if there is a heaven that there is a hair inspection for entry, just like in prison. Beards can be indications of wisdom and rank, like a silver back gorilla.

Historically Alexander the Great appears to have started the fashion of shaving amongst European men. Beards swung in and out of fashion in the Roman Empire and then continued to be the subject of fashion for the rest of history. Legislation and rules about beards started in 1698 when Peter the Great passed legislation against beards in Russia. For Turks moustaches are an indication of conservative politics. Beards amongst Moslem men are also considered an indication of conservative religious views, likewise amongst some Christian sects.

Aside from the uniformed services early childhood educators in Australia perpetrate one of the strangest claims; that men with beards – like Santa Claus, are naturally frighten young children. And that men going into primary or preschool education were encouraged to be clean-shaven.

In a multi-cultural society beards and other types of facial hair do not have any particular meaning. Sikhs are permitted to have beards in the Victoria Police and the Victorian Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay has the opinion that beards look unprofessional on police unless it is a beard grown for religious reasons in which case it looks as professional as being clean shaven, whatever that means, if it means anything at all and isn’t Lay’s mental/legal diarrhoea. The legal fight against a stricter appearance code implemented last year goes on.

Victoria Police has many more serious problems than grooming and hair management, like racism and for them to be wasting their time with regulations about hair.  As Jesus said: “ye shall know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16) and not “ye shall know them by their beards”.

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About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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