Monday, 1 October 2007
Hair today and gone tomorrow.
With help from the Times, et al.
In Dr. Piers Brendon’s epic new history ‘The Decline and Fall of the British Empire’ (which is due for release on October 18) a new theory has been advanced explaining the sturdy growth and then the gradual receding of Britain as a global power.
Military power, diplomatic skill, business acumen and organisational brilliance are well documented but now joining this list is the moustache.
According to Dr. Brendon the popularity of moustaches amongst the officer classes took hold during the Napoleonic Wars with British Officers copying the impressive moustaches that they encountered on French and Spanish soldiers. However the ubiquity of the moustache resulted from slights made by some of her Late Majesty’s Indian subjects.
Brendon explained “For the Indian sepoy the moustache was a symbol of virility. They laughed at the unshaven British officers”.
“In 1854 moustaches were made compulsory for the company’s Bombay regiment. The fashion took Britain by storm as civilians imitated their heroes”.
“During and after the Crimean War, barbers advertised different patterns in their windows such as the ‘Raglan’ and the Cardigan’.” Moustaches were clipped, trimmed and waxed “until they curved like sabres and bristled like bayonets.”
After 1918 moustaches became thinner and humbler as the Empire began to gasp for breath, even as it continued to expand territorially and after the victory over Germany and Japan in 1945, independence movements across of the world and Britain’s own urgent domestic priorities, meant that the Empire was doomed. As indeed was the moustache.
In Eden’s faint moustache Britain’s diminished international status found a fitting symbol and his successor, Harold MacMillan, was the last British prime minister to furnish his upper lip.
My razor is now going to be put away to gather dust and some wax bought. For the sake of the country I would suggest Gentlemen (and indeed in some cases Ladies) that you do the same.