Justin Bieber may have shaved his manly mustache on Instagram in August. But on the opposite end of the celebrity continuum, long-time Jeopardy-host, Alex Trebek, just returned to the air with a mustache after twenty years without one. This event drew coverage on ABC Evening News and its own Twitter coverage @Alexs_Mustache. Americans have not had a mustached heart throb since Burt Reynolds and Tom Selleck thirty years ago, and research reported by CBS News last April concludes that the mustache peaked in popularity in 1919.
And it’s probably not coming back. As reported in Glamour magazine, an April 2014 survey of 1,400 Australian women suggests that, at least down-under, a clean shaven man is more likely to be considered attractive. A November 2013 article in Esquire quoted research showing that majorities of people surveyed correlated a mustache with hard drinking and other negative traits. The survey also suggested that Americans have a bias against mustached bosses. The American Mustache Institute (yes, it really exists) sponsors an annual convention in which it gives out an annual Robert Goulet award, and also funds research to explore whether we negatively stereotype those unfortunate Americans stricken with folically-robust upper lips. And they might have a point. The most popular mustached movie character in recent history, Will Ferrell’s Rob Burgundy, is a trapped-in-1977 faux-sex symbol whose mustache is a comic prop. On the small screen, Rick Offerman’s Ron Swanson on NBC’s Parks and Recreation is no better. It is hard to tell which is thicker–his mustache or the satirical masculinity of the character.