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Remembered Today:

Bye, bye 'tache


Steven Broomfield
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From today's Times, possibly settling a topic much-discussed on this Forum. The item was originally published on this day in 1916.

 

An Army Order issued last night directs that in paragraph 1,606 of the King’s Regulations the words “but not the upper lip” shall be deleted. The paragraph originally read: “The hair of the head will be kept short. The chin and under lip will be shaved, but not the upper lip. Whiskers, if worn, will be of moderate length.”

That the moustache should now no longer be compulsory in the Army may come as a surprise to the older, and as a relief to some of the younger, members of the Service. Though not, as history shows, an ancient institution, it had become sufficiently time-honoured, and was a mark of the British soldier, whether it was the newly joined ploughboy’s youthful wisp of straw-coloured hair or the cognita canities of the veteran with a long record of service under tropic suns. But in civilian circles fashion has been going against it steadily for the last 20 years or more, and its compulsory growth by clean-shaven civilians on joining the Army must have often gone against the grain. More than one pattern has been evolved of late and the now permissible clean sweep of the razor over the upper lip every morning will probably occupy less time than some of the niggling operations which the latest developments render necessary.

It must always be a moot point whether the moustache adorns the person or not, but the evidence of civilized humanity is on the whole against it. It was a barbarism in the ancient world — witness the statue of the dying gladiator; it was not until after the Crimea that the modern world came to tolerate it in polite society. But the soldier in many countries and in many ages has worn it, either as a symbol of his manhood or a terror to his enemies. Neither of these reasons for wearing it is as cogent as they were. The hispid and the horrific count for little in practical warfare, we are not believers in the doctrine of Schrecklichkeit, and the moustache does not make the man.

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That's very interesting! I must investigate and see if the Times ever discusses the non-moustache status of the Royal Navy.

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Caprolagus hispidus?

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Jugged, I assume.

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19 hours ago, seaJane said:

That's very interesting! I must investigate and see if the Times ever discusses the non-moustache status of the Royal Navy.

I think that in the RN, then and now, you must either shave completely or not at all, so a moustache without a beard (or vice versa) was not an option.

 

Ron

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58 minutes ago, Ron Clifton said:

I think that in the RN, then and now, you must either shave completely or not at all, so a moustache without a beard (or vice versa) was not an option.

 

Ron

 

Correct. However, when we went "Darn Sarf", those who boasted a "full set" had to shave so as to make a good seal when, and if, a respirator was worn.

I did take part in Movember a couple of years  ago and eventually sported a rather dashing CSM Bourne type Victorian number. I couldn't wait to remove it though, the itching drove me potty!!

 

Trev

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As large numbers of both Officers and men ignored, failed to comply or were unable to comply (lack of natural growth on the stipulated part) with KR's para 1.106 it was another case of changing the rules after the practise was not being complied with. The mark of the pre-war Regular consigned to history.

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5 hours ago, Ron Clifton said:

I think that in the RN, then and now, you must either shave completely or not at all, so a moustache without a beard (or vice versa) was not an option.

 

Ron

You're quite right - but all the origin stories that I've heard have been so apocryphal that it would be good to find any other source.

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  • 5 years later...

An article in the 'Review' section of today's Daily Telegraph ( 'Chaplin wasn't merely famous. He was fame' - 5th February '22), in discussing a new documentary - The Real Charlie Chaplin - gives:

In the last years of the Great War, the world was in  the  grip of a pandemic. Its name was Chaplintis. Outbreaks occurred everywhere. In the Cincinnati bank held up by a Chaplin lookalike, at American costume parties, where, the press reported, nine out of 10 men turned up, bow legged, in baggy trousers. In Turkish newspapers, where the Little Tramp supplanted Uncle Sam as a symbol of the USA. On the Western Front, where Army authorities banned soldiers from growing Chaplin moustaches. And in cinemas, where audiences crowded to watch the latest two reel comedies by a small, wiry, English performer whose name everyone seemed to know, and who, thanks to a £670,000 deal with the Mutual company, was the highest paid star in the world. Charles Spencer Chaplin had gone viral. "There is no known cure," said one  US newspaper, "except more Chaplin films."

I've never heard of Chaplin style moustaches being banned by the Army before, and strongly suspect an urban myth either already in existence, or in the making. Possibly the revised Army Order of 1916 - which doesn't actually ban moustaches - is  being confabulated - to allow it.  Is there any firm evidence to give any credence at all to this story?

NigelS

 

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32 minutes ago, NigelS said:

On the Western Front, where Army authorities banned soldiers from growing Chaplin moustaches.

If I remember correctly, there were several armies "on the Western Front"...

Which/Who's army banned Chaplin moustaches?

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23 minutes ago, michaeldr said:

If I remember correctly, there were several armies "on the Western Front"...

Which/Who's army banned Chaplin moustaches?

A good point

NigelS

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Thanks charlie 962. So clearly not a myth, although not necessarily banned as such, it appears severely discouraged perhaps even by regimental orders?

Regarding the previous discussion on Naval regulations I did come across this in Hansard:

ROYAL FLEET NAVAL RESERVE (MOUSTACHES).
http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1914/nov/27/royal-fleet-naval-reserve-moustaches#S5CV0068P0_19141127_HOC_17
HC Deb 27 November 1914 vol 68 cc1488-91489
§4. Mr. WILLIAM THORNE asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, if it has been the custom to allow the men serving in the Royal Fleet Naval Reserve to wear a moustache; if he is aware that an order has just been given out that those men must shave off their moustaches; and if he intends taking any action in the matter?
§Dr. MACNAMARA The wearing of a moustache only is forbidden by the King's Regulations, but this is not usually enforced in the case of Reserve men during peace. On being "called out" they become a part of the Navy proper, and as such would be expected to conform to the Regulations of the Service. If the men objected to shaving their moustaches, they are at liberty to discontinue the use of the razor altogether.

This piece from The Times (June 23rd ,1914) indicates that the French Army had, apparently,   suffered  an 'insidious advance'  of non-regulation clean shaving - and had given out a suitable punishment to an offender; although,  with the comment 'One has never too much hair in the cavalry, either under the nose or elsewhere', I can't help wondering what its regulations on hair length - whether effeminate or not - might have been

A colonel commanding a regiment of light cavalry in Eastern France is severe on the habit of shaving clean, which has made certain insidious advances in the French Army. In an order of the day the regimental chief remarks:- The colonel saw this morning Chasseur X., of Third Squadron, who had shaved his moustache. It is unworthy of a Chasseur. One has never too much hair in the cavalry, either under the nose or elsewhere. Chasseur X will be confined to barracks until his moustache has regrown. The colonel requests captains to deal energetically with this effeminate fashion, which is out of place in the Army

NigelS

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A bushy moustache has long denoted veteran status in a variety uniformed organisations. I have sported mine for the last 5 years, bar a short period for regrowth due to an ember landing in it during a bushfire I attended.

 

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