Eric Fiore, a mustachioed 26-year-old video editor, was lounging on the sidewalk on North Ninth Street in Williamsburg on a recent sunny Saturday afternoon, munching a slice of Vinnie’s pizza (the vegan veggie kind, extra spicy, with a dash of special hot sauce that he keeps in his messenger bag). Out of the many mustache monikers (face foliage, cookie duster, flavor saver, soup strainer, nose neighbor, mouth brow), Mr. Fiore likes to call his the “lip tickler.” “Because it’s hilarious, all the time,” he said. “It makes people laugh every time they see me.”
Mr. Fiore wore black cut-offs, a mustard-yellow T-shirt and a block of dark brown facial hair over his lip that would make him appear rather walruslike if he wasn’t so rail thin. “I hope the mustache is making a comeback,” he said. “More people should appreciate it. I’m saying, it has magical powers.”
There’s no question that the mustache is having a moment. Walk through downtown (on the East Side, please!) or stroll along any Brooklyn thoroughfare, and at least a half dozen 20-to-early-30-something guys will saunter by sporting some kind of lip awning. Whether big, thick, bushy beasts or filmy, sparse little squiggles, mustaches are rising once more from the stubble.
And who is that mustached man? He appears to be a pretty ballsy breed, having bypassed the beard, that bush of whiskers grown by professors, hippies, urban wannabe lumberjacks and lazy guys who read too much Nietzsche. He’s not afraid to bust in on the territory of blue-collar cops and workers, villains (think Hitler), old-timey bank robbers and creepy dudes to claim his very own parcel of hair-land. And he’s willing to express himself, whether with a pencil-thin growth above the lip à la John Waters, or a broom-bottom Mr. Monopoly number that looks like a disguise.
Socratis Mamalis Jr. wears what he calls a “molester ’stache,” a sparse, slightly pubescent mustache that lends him a striking resemblance to JD Samson, the guitarist from feminist dance-punk band Le Tigre, who cultivates a patch of pitch-black peach fuzz above her lip. Mr. Mamalis, 24, who goes by “Soci” or “Crates,” explained during a recent indie rock show at South Street Seaport that he started growing his mustache about a month ago from “boredom slash the fact that I look like I’m 12.
“Basically, I grew it so I could ask, who wants a mustache ride?” he said with a wicked grin. He works in sales for a printing company. “I’ve noticed the ladies love it.”
Really? Not according to Lower East Sider Cara Graff.
“They’re such a turnoff,” said Ms. Graff, 29, outside downtown vegan tearoom TeaNY. “I want a guy to take care of himself, and, yeah, it definitely gives a guy an I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude.’” She added: “It’s one thing to have confidence, but to make yourself look hideous just for kicks? That’s stupid.”
Mitch Goldman, 32, grows a mustache for the New York City charity Mustaches for Kids, which benefits the Make-a-Wish Foundation, each fall. When he first told his girlfriend his plan, “It was like I told her I had a sexually transmitted disease,” Mr. Goldman said over the phone from his job as a home nurse. “Literally head in her hands, just shaking her head.
“But I don’t know, some people like it,” Mr. Goldman continued. “It gives guys a little swagger of masculinity or something.”
The Nose Broom Now, and Then
There is something about the mustache. It adds mystery; having one says, I’m masculine! Or, I’m a rebel! A few years ago, the mustache was largely referred to as ironic, as in “ironic mustache,” since (besides baseball players, of course) it showed up mostly on sleazeball celebs like photographer Terry Richardson and American Apparel’s notorious founder, Dov Charney, both of whom seemed eager to look as repulsive as possible. But recently, the novelty of the ironic lip sweater has faded. The mustache has perhaps become a more stately, classic … even admirable facial fashion. Like high-waisted short shorts, or a muscle shirt, it takes guts to wear one.