Gethen pointed me to a little throwaway line in Go Fug Yourself, making fun of young men with “ironic” facial hair, and it occurred to me that, since I’ve finally gotten rid of the ‘stache I had for nearly two years, I am in the position to explain the appeal of that mustache, and the reasons that people might get rid of them.
I grew that mustache because it was easier than shaving, because it was softer than stubble, because it was fun to pet, because in very cold weather it was capable of supporting amusing icicles, because it created vertical lines that made my face look longer and thinner, because it made me look tough and dashing, and to a certain extent because it was silly.
But I did not grow it for irony. In fact, there is no such thing as an ironic mustache. Perhaps when people say “ironic mustache” they mean “kitschy” or “campy” mustache; Wikipedia points out that “‘irony’ as popularly used during the 1990s referred to an aesthetic equated with a fondness for kitsch.” But that’s a misuse of the term “irony.” It might be a sarcastic or camp mustache, grown to mock all mustaches and people who wear them, but it’s not ironic.
I did not shave that mustache off because it was ironic. I shaved it off because I grew tired of trimming it, and because I look younger, if rounder-faced, without it. I was also concerned that people would remember the mustache rather than anything else about me. I don’t want to meet people and be remembered as “the guy with the mustache.” I want them to overlook my appearance and focus on my inner qualities, or better still, think that my clean-shaven, youthful face implies that I am honest and trustworthy. Ideally, I want to look as much as possible like the people I am trying to impress, so that they will think I am as wonderful as they think themselves to be. Then, when they’re not looking, I’ll be able to steal their identities and wallets. It would be the perfect unironic crime.
6 thoughts on “Notes on the Ironic Mustache”
On language: Beware the assertion that widespread use of a term – “irony” in this case – is wrong. Given the way words evolve and acquire meaning through use, there comes a time when the purpose for which a word is regularly used *becomes* its meaning, whether it used to be or not.
On mustaches: I had a mustache for many, many years. It was neither ironic nor dashing. I shaved it off after my wife told me it made me look like I was from the 1970s – which, ironically, is when I grew it. 🙂
aaron, your moustache was an example of facial hair done right. it looked good on your face, and moreover it looked -right- there.
my appreciation of it was completely sincere and i have always assumed you tried it on a whim and stuck with it because it looked nice and suited you. i consider you to be rather artful in your experimentation and choices.
nonetheless mr secretlyironic, i could not let that dig at handlebar moustaches go unnoted. 😀
Too bad for you now.
The irony of a hip-type with a mustache lies in the fact that a mustache is usually associated with the unhip but when donned by a hipster it makes them ultra hip. This is a perfect example of irony. Saved by that which would be your undoing or done in by that which ought to be your salvation. Yeah?