SIMPLY splendid with their facial fur groomed, teased and tweaked to perfection, gents of yesteryear show today’s young Movember whippersnappers just how it’s done.
Chaps across the land are well into their first week of the annual moustache growing challenge, nurturing fluffy upper lips in the hope of raising a few pounds in sponsorship cash for men’s health charities.
Soon – with luck and a strong follicle gene pool – they too will become proud possessors of the kind of macho manly hair that once had ladies from another era swooning into their smelling salts.
But as these fabulous images from the archives of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland show, the “handlebar” has been set seriously high if they ever want to really call themselves real moustachioed men.
The images, dating from the 19th and early 20th century, were uncovered in the Edinburgh-based RCAHMS archives and now form an impressively hairy online exhibition – perhaps providing much needed inspiration for would-be whisker wearers of the modern age.
They include marvellous walrus chops that sweep chinwards giving the wearer a slightly disturbing Joseph Stalin look, and fine twirly handlebar jobs which, should redundancy beckon at work, would make the bearer a shoe-in for a role on the front of a Pringles crisp container.
In one, a moustachioed member of the Mather family from 16 Leamington Terrace sits proudly surrounded by a quartet of young women, spectacular whiskers no doubt twitching excitedly at the prospect of plunging headfirst down a rickety wooden rollercoaster. Another image from around 1900 shows the same chap groomed to perfection with cane, three piece suit, stiff collar and perky hat, rather smugly sandwiched between two elegant young women.
If that shows how irresistible a moustache can make a chap to the ladies, clear proof that it can also help propel you to distant places comes from Morningside cyclist SR Turnbull. A gent not quite in his first flush of youth, yet who set out from Corrennie Gardens on his two wheeler, is caught by the camera sitting beside Loch Long, staring wistfully into the distance, perhaps pondering pot holes, cycle lanes and how to pick those pesky bugs from his white whiskers.
Judging by the image of the restoration workmen captured standing proudly outside the west door of St Giles Cathedral in 1883, simply sporting a fine fuzz of upper lip hair was not enough – fluffy long beards and stern expressions were far more fashionable.
Still, lurking among the fine examples are a few that amount to little more than sad, spiky bristle – comfort, perhaps, to today’s chaps as they wrestle with the razor and wonder whether this Movember lark really was a good idea after all.
Those who stick with it will be part of an ever-growing Movember movement.
Now in its tenth year, it’s become a global initiative which last year alone raised more than £92m worldwide.
At its heart is raising awareness of specifically male health issues – prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health in particular – with sponsorship cash for those who manage to avoid the close shave for the full 30 days heading to various programmes aimed at raising awareness, education, support and research.
Among those taking part this year are the undoubtedly already manly men of Edinburgh Rugby, led by Scotland International Tim Visser.
He says: “Movember is great fun and at the same time a good opportunity to support a cause that affects everybody from all walks of life.
“Hopefully the players’ involvement will help raise the profile of this great cause among our supporters and beyond.”
And those team members who opt out of joining the hair scare bunch face being tackled where it really hurts. A team insider reveals that clean shaven non-Movember team mates are being gently encouraged to donate twice as much as everyone else.
The Movember movement started in Melbourne, Australia with just 30 participants.
Now The Movember Foundation is worldwide with celebrities, footballers and actors joining in the fun – chef Jamie Oliver, actors Daniel Craig and Stephen Fry have taken part in the past.
Dubbed Mo Bros, participants seek sponsors to support their month-long razor-free task.
And women – Mo Sistas – can also get involved in fundraising and awareness campaigns.
However not everyone has embraced the Movember message. William Hanson, who teaches at The English Manner, an etiquette school and consultancy, says moustaches are not advisable for chaps who want to be taken seriously at work. “I am yet to see a man who looks better for growing the moustache,” he says. “I think a lot of men enjoy the idea as it means they can save time shaving in the morning.”