I've actually started writing a new mystery series and since it's the early days, I am easily distracted. So ... after I alphabetized my spice cupboard, I started sorting out my iPhoto and came across my wedding photos. One of my favorite snaps is pictured here - my lovely mum (on whom my character Barbara Meadows, the Gipping Gazette receptionist, is loosely based) and our friend Mitch. Isn't that the most spectacular mustache ever? (In England we say "moustache.")
I did a little research on these magnificent specimens and, thanks to Country Life magazine, discovered the following facts. Did you know that in the 1830s and 1840s, British army officers in India began to rebel against the razor? Their dislike of shaving was driven in general terms by the Indian association of whiskers with virility. Apparently ... "The example of their bearded and moustachioed opponents in the First Afghan War and Sikh Wars of the 1840s, however, may have been a more specific catalyst for the change of heart." Basically, Britain didn't do very well out there.
In 1854 the mustache was made compulsory for British soliders in the Bombay army of the East India Company and soon spread into the civilian population. The fashion for facial hair became so popular that the (sadly defunct) Punch magazine asked 1,000 men why they wore mustaches. Only a quarter mentioned their army connections but nearly half grew mustaches because they believed them to be admired by "young ladies." It certainly had the desired effect on my mother.
It was only in 1916 when the King's Regulations permitted the British soldier to shave his upper lip once more.
Incidentally, the term "stiff upper lips" is thought to originate from ... America!