As we near the annual facial-hair dare known as “Mustache March,” let’s take a quick look back at the man many would say gave birth to the movement, through unabashed mustachioed defiance.
United States Air Force Brigadier General Robin Olds, famed for his defiantly out-of-regulation mustache during the Vietnam War, inspired fellow airmen to grow mustaches of their own, instilling a spirit of camaraderie. The bond the mustache forged among the men was enough for those higher up in the chain of command to ignore the obvious defiance of facial hair regulation. That is, until Olds returned home, when a general commanded him, finger pointed directly at the famed mustache, to get rid of it. Olds, having grown tired of the mustache anyway, replied simply, “Yes, sir.”
His defiant, heavily waxed handlebar mustache, which stretched beyond the edge of his lips in violation of grooming standards, was said to be a protest against the Air Forces’ inadequate pilot training and lackluster support. More importantly, it’s believed this defiant ‘stache gave birth to Mustache March, an annual tradition in the Air Force, which spread to the other American service branches and the general public, when men grow mustaches as a bonding exercise, in defiance of clean-shaven normalcy.
Olds lived a truly manly life, flying in an open-air biplane at the age of 8 and pledging to become a pilot, excelling at football while at West Point Military Academy, earning a place in the College Football Hall of Fame. He married a Hollywood actress, Ella Raines, and had a generally high-profile life as an accomplished battle-tested fighter pilot in World War II and Vietnam. He earned acclaim as the top wing commander in the latter conflict as a man who knew how to command the respect of his subordinates and contemporaries.
Though his mustache was said to give him superpowers, possibly even immortality, he died of natural causes in 2007, leaving the world to speculate whether it was the mustache that made him great, or if he made the mustache great.
Mustache March is also the namesake of an organized charity mustache-growing competition based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which donates money raised during the month-long nose neighbor cultivation exercise to Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer. Moustache March, the other accepted spelling, is the namesake of an organization based in Oregon that, too, uses March-focused mustache growing as a means of fundraising for charity, including the American Cancer Society. Along the same lines, there’s Mustache Movember, a global organization focused on raising money for testicular and prostate cancer research.
Though no one knows who invented the mustache, modern mustache popularity is almost certainly attributable to Robin Olds, to whom, in the spirit of all the mustache embodies, we say thank you. In celebration of Mustache March, Whisker Works will hold a sale with special promotional pricing on top quality mustaches, to help less-endowed gentlemen and ladies honor Olds’ legacy.
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