Aaron Perlut, who has preferred to be called Dr. Perlut since bestowing upon himself a Ph.D. in nuclear mustachology, has been a mustache advocate for several years now.
American Mustache Institute Chairman Aaron Perlut
It is not an easy task.
As chairman of the American Mustache Institute, a group he founded in 2006, Perlut campaigns against anti-mustache discrimination across the land--he's saved jobs from threatening employers and high school careers from anti-mustache deans--and generally tries to revive the 'stache as a prominent element of American male fashion. He seems willing to go to any length to preserve and advance what he calls the Mustached American lifestyle.
Find below an interview with Perlut, 39--who runs a public relations and social media firm in St. Louis when he's not actively campaigning for mustaches--about trends, styles, possibilities, and the State of the American Mustache.
Why do you like mustaches so much?
Honestly, I think that's the first time anyone's ever asked me that, in that way.
As a young man I grew up surrounded by mustaches in my family, but I was always intimidated to grow them, even though I could from a very young age, because of the public pressures against it--because they weren't cool, they weren't hip. There was a certain stigma attached to people with mustaches, that you weren't professional or intelligent, and I committed myself to working for an organization that battled against that.
What does your group hope to achieve?
Very simply, an equal playing field for people of Mustached American heritage. I got off the phone earlier today with a gentleman who told me he was told that he could have a job that he wanted, if he shaved his mustache.
Yeah. We recently saved the job of a young man who was a college student working at a restaurant, whose employers told him that he would either shave his mustache or lose his job that he was using to pay his tuition at the University of Georgia in Athens. There is a pattern of discrimination against people who are different from whatever the norm might be at the time in this country, and facial hair is no exception.
Have you done that many times, where you make a call and talk to an employer or save someone's job?
Yeah. Most often we use social media tools, quite frankly. Sometimes we lobby directly. There was an interesting case ... a young man named Sebastian Pham, who was 16 at the time and grew a mustache and was removed from his high school class because of a policy against mustaches, and we lobbied on his behalf and were able to ultimately have the policy changed within the school district. It's called the Royse City school district in Royse City, Texas, right outside of Dallas. But ultimately we were able to have the policy overturned, and he became kind of a cult hero among his classmates.
What percent of your followers, would you say, take this seriously, lightly, or both at the same time?
I would say that probably about 30 percent of our followers take it seriously, and the rest simply enjoy the show. We purposefully try to use a great sense of humor in promoting the mustache, because ultimately our goal is to bring the mustache further back into popular culture, and if humor is the vehicle that we use to get there and it's ultimately successful, then we are still pleased. We've still accomplished our goal.
Can you tell me a little bit about the 'Stache Bash?
Really kind of a circus, an annual celebration of the Mustached American people and lifestyle, where we try to have a tremendous amount of music and fun, and essentially it's a five hour festival, and we also award the Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year honor, which is voted upon on our site.
Are there any early frontrunners or darkhorses for The Goulet in 2010, even though you've just opened up nominations?
Yeah, there's a couple that I can think of. One would be [Minnesota Twins pitcher] Carl Pavano. Carl Pavano grew a mustache this year and has had one of the best seasons of his career after being thought of as washed up and, really, soon to be out of baseball. It's really once again demonstrated that the ultimate performance enhancer is indeed the mustache on the athletic playing field. I would say another would be Dr. John Yeutter, who is a professor at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma. He's a finance professor, in fact he wrote our tax white paper...so those are two. He actually came in second last year to Clay Zevada.
You know, I haven't heard a lot of rumblings about [U.S. Attorney General] Eric Holder again, but I think he's still a very viable candidate, if only because he's the first Mustached American attorney general since 1946--Francis Biddle, I believe.
What are the trends in mustaches these days?
They're definintely going up still. We started to see a slow rise just in the last ten years, whereas in 2000, only about 17 percent of American males wore mustaches. Now we are in the low 30s--33, 32 percent--and a lot of it is fueled by a couple things. One of them is millenials looking for a new way to express themselves instead of a tattoo.
What about style? What mustache styles are popular now?
You see a pretty broad array. The Chevron style, which is often seen on police officers--in fact, 98 percent of all law enforcement agencies issue them along with badges and guns and things like that--but you've seen a lot of times Chevron style, but accentuated by other aspects, like a little bit of chin coverage, so you've seen kind of a broad array of styles. And we're also seeing the Fu Manchu come back a lot.
Are there any regional divergences on mustache style or growth rate?
You definitely see the Chevron style ... more often in the South. And you tend to see more Goatees on the coasts.
Is there a leading country or world region in mustaches?
Germany tends to be very strong. Europe is much stronger. The Handlebar Club is based there. But Americans have really come back in facial hair in recent years. The U.S. beard and mustache team has done extraordinarily well in some of the world beard and mustache games, but I think Europe has generally been much stronger. You also tend to see them in the Middle East. To a man, if you look at a picture of Middle Eastern men, generally 90 percent of them have mustaches.
Are we talking mustaches or beards?
Generally mustaches. If you look--especially Iraqis. Look at Saddam Hussein's Cabinet before he was taken out of office.
You brought up Germany.
Hitler had a mustache.
Was that almost the end of mustaches?
Not mustaches, but it was interesting how it coincided with a change in American culture as well, because in the early part of the 20th century, up until World War II, mustaches were very popular in the U.S., but World War II was, unlike some wars, a very popular war, because it wasn't a war of aggression ... we were defending ourselves after being attacked. So when soldiers came back from the war, very clean cut obviously because they had been as soldiers, in the '40s and '50s that kind of became part of the cultural norm, where American men had short, trimmed-cut hair with very little facial hair.
Now, as we started getting into the hippie movement of the '60s, that slowly started to change, but the way that it happened to coincide with Adolf Hitler's infamous mustache and soldiers coming back from the war, and generally being clean cut, has always been rather interesting and a transitional period for facial hair in the U.S.
The voicemail message of the American Mustache Institute references the sexually adventurous lifestyle of the Mustached American. Is there a one-to-one correlation between mustaches and sexual adventurism?
There is a sexual dynamic between people who have entered the Mustached American lifestyle and the pleasure that they are able to provide to their partners, that only the Mustached American is capable of, and those that are not capable of living a Mustached American lifestyle, or are unwilling for some reason, can never quite understand that dynamic, but again it goes beyond our sexual proclivities and more to a full, broad lifestlye.
What is your personal favorite mustache of all time?
I would say that I believe the most influential mustache of all time to be Walter Cronkite, because he influenced a decade of mustache fashion in America, and when he left, the mustache essentially was on life support in this country. I also have great admiration for Dr. Martin Luther King, who really inspired black America to be very consistent with its support of a Mustached American lifestyle to this day, dating back to when he was a civil rights leader, as well as someone like Burt Reynolds, who has really been a stalwart in our community.
Do you have a personal favorite mustache aesthetically, apart from historical significance?
I have always been a big fan of former major league pitcher Al Hrabosky. Al, when he was playing, wore a Fu Manchu mustache that was so intense that it could strip paint, lead paint, off a windowsill, and he had a personality to match it, and I have always been kind of taken by old photos of Al's mustache. I would also say Robert Goulet is also a personal favorite, which is one of the reasons we named the Robert Goulet Mustached American of the year award after him.
Have you noticed that one of your Mustaches that Changed History, Ron Burgundy, was basically Will Ferell's impression of Robert Goulet? He did it on Saturday Night Live, and he basically rolled that impression over into Ron Burgundy in the same way that he rolled over his George W. Bush impression into Talladega Nights.
It was kind of an amalgamation of Robert Goulet and some of the old school newsmen of the '70s, and as a former journalism student, I was very aware of what he was trying to accomplish and achieve in that role, so I was always very taken by it and very impressed by it.
Do you think that a mustache would improve President Obama's approval rating?
I think so. I think that it would really help bridge the gap with some of the more moderate Republicans, and even some of the Tea Party Republicans, in that they would understand the intensity of his resolve to come a little bit further to the right to find that middle ground that right now our political system is so sorely in need of.
What needs to happen for the mustache to make its emergence or reemergence into mainstream fashion, and when do you think that will happen?
I think we've seen inklings of it when celebrities, sadly, have donned mustaches. People like Brad Pitt and George Clooney, because we tend to be a very celebrity-driven culture, and when celebrities take on an aspect of fashion, we tend to follow it in great numbers. I think millenials were already kind of flocking to the Mustached American lifestyle, and then you had people like Daniel Day Lewis, who became the first mustached Best Actor award winner in 11 years when he won for Daniel Plainview [in "There Will Be Blood"] in 2007, immediately followed by George Clooney and Brad Pitt wearing mustaches.
Then we had some political mustaches enter the fray with David Axelrod and Eric Holder, so I think we had leaders and celebrities who had adopted a mustached lifestyle that were very much in the forefront of the media, and I think it began a very strong movement along with organizations like ours and Movember [see here] that encouraged mustache growth or mustache growth for philanthopy, so I think organizationally and from a celebrity perspective we've started to see that sea change coming, but we're not there yet.
More specifically, I do think it's going to take one of those cross-generational personalities--who somehow has touched both grandfathers, fathers, and college students--to adopt a Mustached American lifestyle that's really going to start to push us more fully in what we would consider to be the right direction.
What are the biggest geopolitical factors affecting mustaches right now?
There is still the perception that leaders cannot have mustaches. At least in the U.S., there are less than 30 members of Congress that wear mustaches, and unfortunately some of the people that have been deemed by Americans to be tyrants or evil, such as Saddam Hussein, have been heavily mustached. So I think that there is a perception still that Mustached Americans are incapable of leading, are incapable of being role models, are incapable of living a just life by certain sectors of our culture.
The paper of record’s inaccurate reporting on a nonexistent criminal investigation was a failure that should entail more serious consequences.
I have read The New York Times since I was a teenager as the newspaper to be trusted, the paper of record, the definitive account. But the huge embarrassment over the story claiming a criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton for her emails—leading the webpage, prominent on the front page, before being corrected in the usual, cringeworthy fashion of journalists who stonewall any alleged errors and then downplay the real ones—is a direct challenge to its fundamental credibility. And the paper’s response since the initial huge error was uncovered has not been adequate or acceptable.
This is not some minor mistake. Stories, once published, take on a life of their own. If they reinforce existing views or stereotypes, they fit perfectly into Mark Twain’s observation, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” (Or perhaps Twain never said it, in which case the ubiquity of that attribution serves to validate the point.) And a distorted and inaccurate story about a prominent political figure running for president is especially damaging and unconscionable.
A newly discovered artifact buried with one of Jamestown’s most prominent leaders suggests he could have been a crypto-Catholic.
After 400 years in the Virginia dirt, the box came out of the ground looking like it had been plucked from the ocean. A tiny silver brick, now encrusted with a green patina and rough as sandpaper. Buried beneath it was a human skeleton. The remains would later be identified as those of Captain Gabriel Archer, one of the most prominent leaders at Jamestown, the first permanent English colony in America. But it was the box, which appeared to be an ancient Catholic reliquary, that had archaeologists bewildered and astonished.
“One of the major surprises was the discovery of this mysterious small silver box,” said James Horn, the president of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation. “I have to say, we’re still trying to figure this out. You have the very strange situation of a Catholic reliquary being found with the leader of the first Protestant church in the country.”
The agreement doesn’t guarantee that Tehran will never produce nuclear weapons—because no agreement could do so.
A week ago I volunteered my way into an Atlantic debate on the merits of the Iran nuclear agreement. The long version of the post is here; the summary is that the administration has both specific facts and longer-term historic patterns on its side in recommending the deal.
On the factual front, I argued that opponents had not then (and have not now) met President Obama’s challenge to propose a better real-world alternative to the negotiated terms. Better means one that would make it less attractive for Iran to pursue a bomb, over a longer period of time. Real world means not the standard “Obama should have been tougher” carping but a specific demand that the other countries on “our” side, notably including Russia and China, would have joined in insisting on, and that the Iranians would have accepted.
Orr: “Sometimes a thing happens. Splits your life. There’s a before and after. I got like five of them at this point.”
This was Frank offering a pep talk to the son of his murdered former henchman Stan in tonight’s episode. (More on this in a moment.) But it’s also a line that captures this season of True Detective so perfectly that it almost seems like a form of subliminal self-critique.
Remember when Ray got shot in episode two and appeared to be dead but came back with a renewed sense of purpose and stopped drinking. No? That’s okay. Neither does the show: It was essentially forgotten after the subsequent episode. Remember when half a dozen (or more) Vinci cops were killed in a bloody shootout along with dozen(s?) of civilians? No? Fine: True Detective’s left that behind, too. Unless I missed it, there was not a single mention of this nationally historic bloodbath tonight.
The former secretary of defense lobbied for the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” and has now ended the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay scoutmasters.
Eagle Scout. Young Republican. CIA recruit. Air Force officer. CIA director. Secretary of defense.
It’s not the resume of a radical civil-rights campaigner, but Robert Gates has now integrated two of the great bastions of macho American traditional morality—first the U.S. armed forces, and now the Boy Scouts of America. In both cases, Gates pursued a careful, gradual strategy, one that wasn't fast enough for activists. In both cases, he was careful to take the temperature of constituents. And in both cases, once he was ready to act, he did so decisively. In the end what seemed to matter most was not Gates’s personal feelings but his determination to safeguard institutions he cared about and his deft skills as a bureaucratic operator.
This is the third in a series. Readers are invited to send their own responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will post their strongest critiques of the book and the accompanied reviews. (The first batch is here.) To further encourage civil and substantive responses via email, we are closing the comments section. You can follow the whole series on Twitter at #BTWAM and read all of the responses to the book from Atlantic readers and contributors.
Several years ago, Ta-Nehisi Coates took his son, not yet 5, to see a movie on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. As his son made his way off the escalator, a white woman pushed him and said, “Come on!” Chaos ensued. There was a black parent’s rage and a white man’s threat to have the black parent arrested. Coates narrates the incident in cool, steady prose. Ultimately, he writes of the regret he carries: “In seeking to defend you I was, in fact, endangering you.”
Has the Obama administration’s pursuit of new beginnings blinded it to enduring enmities?
“The president said many times he’s willing to step out of the rut of history.” In this way Ben Rhodes of the White House, who over the years has broken new ground in the grandiosity of presidential apologetics, described the courage of Barack Obama in concluding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with the Islamic Republic of Iran, otherwise known as the Iran deal. Once again Rhodes has, perhaps inadvertently, exposed the president’s premises more clearly than the president likes to do. The rut of history: It is a phrase worth pondering. It expresses a deep scorn for the past, a zeal for newness and rupture, an arrogance about old struggles and old accomplishments, a hastiness with inherited precedents and circumstances, a superstition about the magical powers of the present. It expresses also a generational view of history, which, like the view of history in terms of decades and centuries, is one of the shallowest views of all.
Companies that overvalue alpha-male behavior need to change—both to retain female talent and for the bottom line.
When it comes to gender equality in the workplace, the research on its economic benefits is clear: Equality can boost profits and enhance reputation. And then there’s also the fact that it’s more fair. But the progress of women in the workplace is so far inadequate: Women are woefully underrepresented in executive positions, the pay gap persists, and the motherhood penalty is very real.
Barbara Annis is the founder of the Gender Intelligence Group, a consultancy that works with executives at major firms (including Deloitte, American Express, BMO Financial Group, and eBay) to create strategies to transform their work cultures into ones that are friendly to both men and women.
I recently spoke with Annis about her work and the challenges to achieving gender parity. The following transcript of our conversation has been edited for clarity.
How a radical epilepsy treatment in the early 20th century paved the way for modern-day understandings of perception, consciousness, and the self
In 1939, a group of 10 people between the ages of 10 and 43, all with epilepsy, traveled to the University of Rochester Medical Center, where they would become the first people to undergo a radical new surgery.
The patients were there because they all struggled with violent and uncontrollable seizures. The procedure they were about to have was untested on humans, but they were desperate—none of the standard drug therapies for seizures had worked.
Between February and May of 1939, their surgeon William Van Wagenen, Rochester’s chief of neurosurgery, opened up each patient’s skull and cut through the corpus callosum, the part of the brain that connects the left hemisphere to the right and is responsible for the transfer of information between them. It was a dramatic move: By slicing through the bundle of neurons connecting the two hemispheres, Van Wagenen was cutting the left half of the brain away from the right, halting all communication between the two.