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.