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August 22, 2014

Moustache Mystique

Text by Viseshika Sharma

A shadow on the chin or the good old Indian handlebar – facial foliage does enhance the appeal of the Indian man

It’s what differentiates the men from the boys – in the most literal manner. The first shave is a rite of passage, a bonding moment for fathers and sons. After which, it’s just open season for facial hair. I have a healthy appreciation of the five o’clock shadow and firmly believe that some men’s faces are better viewed through a veil of hair.

Maybe it’s just my South Indian heritage – the archetypal male of Madrasi lineage is rather swarthy, lungi-clad and possesses an in-built soup strainer that advertises his machismo. I often have to restrain myself from growling audibly when I spot one of those beauties. Not for me the rapier-thin styling of classic Spanish mucchis, give me the good ole Indian handlebar any day – it’s the kind of moustache you can put your trust in. Visit any grand hotel and its doorman has a face that inspires the utmost confidence, probably because of his fine follicular fettle. Is it a coincidence that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and current chief of Indian government Narendra Modi are both rather blessed with facial foliage? I think not – these are the kind of faces we’ve been conditioned to trust through history.

Saints and ascetics, Rajput warriors, Mughal invaders – all bore the kind of moustaches we swore allegiance to. And when the British came along, it didn’t take much for us to put all our faith in their colonial swagger! Policemen in the Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh were even given incentives to grow moustaches because their police chief believed the look commanded respect. Actor Ranveer Singh wasn’t really my cup of chai till he grew his moustache for Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela, after which the chap could do no wrong. He was the essence of raw, earthy Indian man and girls across the country swooned, whether he was ‘in character’ in a kedia or suited in Zegna. Alas, all good things must come to an end, promotions for the film wrapped up and, much like the Biblical Samson’s strength, his sex appeal was dramatically diminished upon the shearing of his locks.

I’d choose a prime Indian moustache over Greek God abs any day of the week, and maybe I’m not alone. Why else would the Indian hipster be alive and kicking? Because desi girls have woken up to the allure of a hirsute upper lip — well…as long as it’s not their own. So bring us a walrus or a handlebar, but make sure you don’t skip the grooming, for as Rudyard Kipling once wrote, “Being kissed by a man who didn’t wax his moustache was like eating an egg without salt.”

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