By Melissa Huber, I-O Reporter
During the Vietnam War, when Air Force policy changed to a one-year rotation, pilots often grew a “bulletproof” mustache as a way to ward against the dangers of North Vietnam missions, which were notoriously dangerous. Perhaps no other mustache, however, reach the infamy of U.S. Air Force fighter pilot Robin Olds’, who retired a brigadier general.
The famous waxed handlebar mustache he sported throughout the Vietnam War was decidedly more for an act of defiance than as a way to remain bulletproof. He was quoted as saying, “The kids on base loved it.” However, when General John P. McConnell stuck a finger under his nose and told him to “Take it off,” Olds didn’t hesitate to comply.
The whole incident was seen as good natured, and is credited as the inspiration for Mustache March, an event in which airmen grow a mustache during the month of March in “protest” of Air Force facial hair regulations.
Brigadier General Olds and all the lads who grew a “bulletproof mustache”—or participated in the subsequent Mustache March—were pioneers in the “mustache for a cause” mania. Events to follow were Movember, a month long event that prompts men (or Mo Bros) to grow mustaches during the month of November to raise awareness for prostate and testicular cancer; and No Shave November, in which gentlemen shave at the beginning of November and don’t shave again until after the month is over.
Though mustaches have, in a sense, cornered the market as assets to activists, facial hair, in general, has seen an increase in the last few years.
Thanks in part to the popularity of shows such a Duck Dynasty®, and a slew of actors including Shia LaBeouf, George Clooney, Zac Efron, Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Jeff Bridges, and more, it’s not hard to see why the quantity of beards out there has multiplied.
So much so, in fact, that Emine Saner, a reporter for The Guardian, proposed the idea that beards may have become too mainstream. The validity of this hypothesis, however, is inconsequential as the beard is, quite obviously, here to stay. In fact, in no other month is that more apparent than the month of November, when razors are stowed away and facial hair reigns supreme.