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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Mustachioed or No?

By Niki Turner

Movember and No Shave November 2013 are officially behind us, movements that promote the growth of facial hair as a show of support for cancer research. (Movember is specifically  mustaches, and supports prostate and testicular cancer research. No Shave November is for everyone, and supports general cancer research.)

Living in a houseful of men (there will be seven of them when my third grandchild makes his appearance in January, which makes my daughter and me Snow White and the Wicked Queen?) facial hair is a frequent topic of conversation:
"Are you growing a mustache?" 
"You should trim your beard before you try that fire-eating thing." 
"Please don't leave your whiskers in the sink, they clog the drain."
My dear husband sports facial hair, and has for years. So does my father, and now my boys are following suit. And while doing some genealogical research a couple weeks ago I uncovered this picture of my great-great-great-uncle, never before seen by our family (don't you love the Internet?):

Frank Ellsworth McElrea
Now THAT is a mustache! 

With all those mustaches and beards around, you would think that my fictional heroes would have mustaches or beards, but they rarely, if ever, do. In fact, I can't think of any of my favorite heroes who wear facial hair, even the ones from historical fiction, when mustaches and mutton-chops and all sorts of facial hair styles were widely popular among adult males. 

{source}

What about you? Do your heroes have facial hair? 
Why or why not? 

25 comments:

  1. I'm married to a guy with a mustache and my oldest now has a beard. (He grew it his senior year of high school. I think it was a masculine "Yes, I can" pride thing.) It depends a lot on the guy -- just like long hair or earrings on a guy. (I've met exactly 2 guys that looked sexy with an earring. The rest? Sorry. You look like a doofus.) And I definitely don't like unkempt. Keep 'em neat and trimmed!

    However, I've been warned that masculine facial hair doesn't translate well to books -- particularly romances. Not sure why, but it seems that readers prefer clean-shaven. (And I've heard first hand that authors who have succeeded in getting a bearded guy past the editor have had disastrous covers. I guess art departments don't have a lot of experience with hairy heroes.) Right now my settings are Regency era, so it's not a problem. It is interesting how Victorian settings have become so popular, and yet, it seems most of the heroes don't have Victorian facial hair fashion!

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    1. Victorian facial hair fashions were very creative!

      See, that's what I mean... we're surrounded by hairy guys in real life, but that doesn't carry over into our reading material, or even our TV/movies (with the possible exceptions of Sam Elliot, Tom Selleck, and Robert Downey Jr.). I wonder why we're wired that way?

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    2. I've had the same thought about Victorian heroes. Where are their porkchop side burns?

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    3. LOL Susie... they're not porkchop side burns... although some people call them muttonchops, they're actually called 'leg o'mutton side burns. :D

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  2. I don't mind facial hair, but a mustache by itself kind of creeps me out.

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    1. That's funny, Dina! I prefer just a mustache over full face fuzz.

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    2. The only time I didn't like Nelson's moustache was after he ate buttered popcorn because a couple hours later, it just smelled... gross.

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    3. Onions have the same effect... EW.

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  3. My husband grew a mustache once. His personality changed. I made him shave it off. He is not allowed to ever grow one again.

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    1. LOL. I think that's totally true, Suzie. Men have their identity tied up in their hair even more than women do. My mom insists that if my dad trims his mustache too close he turns into a mini-dictator.
      We (my husband and I) decided that his mustache and mini-beard balances out his loss of scalp hair, so he has to keep it or risk being called "Mr. Clean."

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  4. Movember was not my favorite thing (even though it was for an excellent cause) even though I have to deal with playoff beards during May and June of hockey season every year.

    Do not like facial hair. At all. I can tolerate a neat, SHORT mustache or mustache and beard (no beard by itself thank you and no great, hairy "haven't bathed in months" mountain man beards!), but I prefer clean shaven.

    Why cover up a pretty face with all that stuff. And if it's not pretty, why make it worse?

    I have seen one (1) man my entire life who was improved by facial hair. He was actually scary without it, but he is by far the exception.

    Of course, this is only my own radical opinion and no reflection on all of the dear husbands, sons and other beloveds who may not share my beliefs. :D

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    1. I think a fair number of women out there agree with you, DeAnna!

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  5. My husband shaved his mustache once before we were married. He is not allowed to do that again! His beard has come and gone over the years. He is happiest when it is full and bushy. Since I love him with or without the beard, it doesn't matter to me. A happy husband is easier to love, and live with!

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    1. I agree, Kathy. Some men just don't like shaving and others are pained by the process.

      My husband usually grew a full beard in the fall in preparation for working outdoors in the winter because a freshly-shaven face would be raw after a day facing our frigid winter temps.

      In the Canada, Army and Air Force personnel can have moustaches, but no beards - unless they're posted to a Northern station above the Arctic Circle in which case it's a must.

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    2. There is a "keeping warm" aspect to it that we ladies are not aware of, I admit.

      And I have to say, for some fellas, keeping up with shaving is a constant process, requiring a great deal of time and energy they'd rather spend on other things, and who can blame them? That said, I feel the same way about women being socially pressured into shaving their legs, esp, in the winter months.

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  6. Fun post. My husband used to grow a beard during finals in college/seminary. Then he decided he really liked it during the winter months. Hasn't had one since he was ordained. I thought he looked quite nice. :)

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    1. Susie, I always liked Nelson with his facial hair, too.

      However, he shaved for over a decade and then when he allowed it to grow, it started coming in looking like salt and pepper and really made him look old. So he shaved it off and hasn't let it grow again.

      Vanity? LOL

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  7. Interesting. For the most part, I prefer cleanshaven men, but *heh* dear hubby has sort of a fu manchu that he keeps nicely groomed. He actually looks equally handsome either with facial hair or the clean shaven look (when I first met him, he was clean shaven because he was still in the Navy - where facial hair is a big no-no).

    i think he keeps the facial hair because the hair is a bit thin up top. he likes keeping that a short, short burr since I won't let him go Mr. Clean on me.

    as for heroes: beards work for me with western historicals and for the heroes with occupations where beards make sense. I do have to admit though... I tend to daydream clean shaven heroes, with perhaps just a hint of hair "shadow".

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    1. Oh, that is interesting, DebH, because the Navy is the only CAF branch where men are allowed to grow beards. No idea why... maybe the pitching of the ship and the old straight razors had something to do with it. Ouch.

      And very glad to hear you talk about bearded men in western historicals because my hero in Emma's Outlaw has a trimmed beard and you seemed to like him. :)

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    2. I agree DebH, there is a definite place and time for bearded/mustachioed heroes in historical fiction!

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  8. As I wrote in DebH's reply, my hero Dan has a neatly trimmed beard - more like several day's growth but neatly trimmed.

    And when I look at my Pinterest board for Potential Characters: Men, I see that the majority of them are working men with 12-24+ hr shadows. Not dandies by any means although I have added 4 pics of Victorian men wearing their Sunday best.

    Of the 4 Victorian men, however, the ones without a moustache seem so much more stern to me.

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    1. Interesting, Anita! I tend to think the ones with mustaches (note that American spelling) seem more approachable and friendly in the old-time photos. Maybe because if you hide half the mouth, you can't tell what they are thinking! :)

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  9. Wow, look what I missed by going to work today.
    Funny this comes up as my oldest son came to Thanksgiving with a full beard and mustache. It was red and neatly trimmed and his nieces and nephews loved it. They confused him with Yukon Cornelius (From the Rudolph cartoon!) Whereas I thought it was a bit too much like his dad's. I believe it was going to be shaved to just a mustache - this perhaps in honor of Ron Burgundy?

    Okay so... I do have substantial sideburns on an 1836 hero but they are not leg-o-muttons! The problem with the chart is that those names of styles are somewhat more modern than the actual styles. No Victorian man went in and asked for a Fu Man Chu! so it's very difficult to explain a particular facial hair style in fiction!
    IMO...

    If I read a setting where it's perfectly legit that the man have facial hair I never think twice about it. Now I will.

    PS I did my part for no shave november (celebrating until April, I believe) or is that TMI? it's cold up here on the lake!

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  10. Intriguing, Deb, that our modern descriptions for those styles wouldn't have worked back when they were popular. That does leave the writer in a descriptive quandary!

    PS, if I'm not going to be wearing shorts or skirts without tights, I struggle to find a reason to stop celebrating no shave November!

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  11. Oh, and to add...there is a skin condition men with curly hair are more prone to if they shave. Razor burn is the common name, and it can be quite severe for some people. Curly hair doesn't grow out as well as straight after it's been shaved, so men with curly hair may actually need to have at least a small beard for the sake of their skin.

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