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.
I traveled to every country on earth. In some cases, the adventure started before I could get there.
Last summer, my Royal Air Maroc flight from Casablanca landed at Malabo International Airport in Equatorial Guinea, and I completed a 50-year mission: I had officially, and legally, visited every recognized country on earth.
This means 196 countries: the 193 members of the United Nations, plus Taiwan, Vatican City, and Kosovo, which are not members but are, to varying degrees, recognized as independent countries by other international actors.
In five decades of traveling, I’ve crossed countries by rickshaw, pedicab, bus, car, minivan, and bush taxi; a handful by train (Italy, Switzerland, Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, and Greece); two by riverboat (Gabon and Germany); Norway by coastal steamer; Gambia and the Amazonian parts of Peru and Ecuador by motorized canoe; and half of Burma by motor scooter. I rode completely around Jamaica on a motorcycle and Nauru on a bicycle. I’ve also crossed three small countries on foot (Vatican City, San Marino, and Liechtenstein), and parts of others by horse, camel, elephant, llama, and donkey. I confess that I have not visited every one of the 7,107 islands in the Philippine archipelago or most of the more than 17,000 islands constituting Indonesia, but I’ve made my share of risky voyages on the rickety inter-island rustbuckets you read about in the back pages of the Times under headlines like “Ship Sinks in Sulu Sea, 400 Presumed Lost.”
According to Franklin, what mattered in business was humility, restraint, and discipline. But today’s Type-A MBAs would find him qualified for little more than a career in middle management.
When he retired from the printing business at the age of 42, Benjamin Franklin set his sights on becoming what he called a “Man of Leisure.” To modern ears, that title might suggest Franklin aimed to spend his autumn years sleeping in or stopping by the tavern, but to colonial contemporaries, it would have intimated aristocratic pretension. A “Man of Leisure” was typically a member of the landed elite, someone who spent his days fox hunting and affecting boredom. He didn’t have to work for a living, and, frankly, he wouldn’t dream of doing so.
Having worked as a successful shopkeeper with a keen eye for investments, Franklin had earned his leisure, but rather than cultivate the fine arts of indolence, retirement, he said, was “time for doing something useful.” Hence, the many activities of Franklin’s retirement: scientist, statesman, and sage, as well as one-man civic society for the city of Philadelphia. His post-employment accomplishments earned him the sobriquet of “The First American” in his own lifetime, and yet, for succeeding generations, the endeavor that was considered his most “useful” was the working life he left behind when he embarked on a life of leisure.
In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health.
Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education describing a new campus politics of sexual paranoia—and was then subjected to a long investigation after students who were offended by the article and by a tweet she’d sent filed Title IX complaints against her. In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said. A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.
Climate change means the end of our world, but the beginning of another—one with a new set of species and ecosystems.
A few years ago in a lab in Panama, Klaus Winter tried to conjure the future. A plant physiologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, he planted seedlings of 10 tropical tree species in small, geodesic greenhouses. Some he allowed to grow in the kind of environment they were used to out in the forest, around 79 degrees Fahrenheit. Others, he subjected to uncomfortably high temperatures. Still others, unbearably high temperatures—up to a daily average temperature of 95 degrees and a peak of 102 degrees. That’s about as hot as Earth has ever been.
It’s also the kind of environment tropical trees have a good chance of living in by the end of this century, thanks to climate change. Winter wanted to see how they would do.
A tattooed, profanity-loving Lutheran pastor believes young people are drawn to Jesus, tradition, and brokenness.
“When Christians really critique me for using salty language, I literally don’t give a shit.”
This is what it’s like to talk to Nadia Bolz-Weber, the tattooed Lutheran pastor, former addict, and head of a Denver church that’s 250 members strong. She’s frank and charming, and yes, she tends to cuss—colorful words pepper her new book, Accidental Saints. But she also doesn’t put a lot of stock in her own schtick.
“Oh, here’s this tattooed pastor who is a recovering alcoholic who used to be a stand-up comic—that’s interesting for like five minutes,” she said. “The fact that people want to hear from me—that, I really feel, has less to do with me and more to do with a Zeitgeist issue.”
The tension between religious liberty and same-sex marriage may eventually come to a head in the courts, but probably not through the Kentucky clerk’s case.
As Rowan County clerk Kim Davis crawls further and further out on a limb, Supreme Court experts agree that she has little chance of prevailing. District Judge David Bunning, on August 12 ordered Davis, in her capacity as county clerk, to issue marriage licenses to all couples who meet the statutory criteria for marriage in Kentucky—a definition that, since the Court’s landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, includes same-sex couples.
Davis has refused, citing “the authority of God.” The U.S. Supreme Court, without comment, denied her emergency request for a stay. This throws the case back to the Sixth Circuit, which will hear the appeal of Judge Bunning’s order. Assuming she loses in the Sixth Circuit—a fairly good assumption—she would then have the alternative of petitioning the Supreme Court to hear her religious freedom claim. The Court will eventually hear a case about religious freedom and same-sex marriage, but I don’t think it will be this one.
Massive hurricanes striking Miami or Houston. Earthquakes leveling Los Angeles or Seattle. Deadly epidemics. Meet the “maximums of maximums” that keep emergency planners up at night.
For years before Hurricane Katrina, storm experts warned that a big hurricane would inundate the Big Easy. Reporters noted that the levees were unstable and could fail. Yet hardly anyone paid attention to these Cassandras until after the levees had broken, the Gulf Coast had been blown to pieces, and New Orleans sat beneath feet of water.
The wall-to-wall coverage afforded to the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina reveals the sway that a deadly act of God or man can hold on people, even 10 years later. But it also raises uncomfortable questions about how effectively the nation is prepared for the next catastrophe, whether that be a hurricane or something else. There are plenty of people warning about the dangers that lie ahead, but that doesn’t mean that the average citizen or most levels of the government are anywhere near ready for them.
A federal judge in Kentucky held the Rowan County clerk in contempt of court on Thursday. Federal marshals escorted her to jail immediately after the hearing, the AP reported.
Davis had refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in defiance of a federal district court order, citing her Christian faith. In June, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex couples could not be denied the right to marry.
As my colleague Garrett explained yesterday, Davis’s appeal was doomed to fail from the start. The Supreme Court denied her request for an emergency stay of the lower court’s order on Monday. Davis continued to refuse to issue licenses to same-sex couples after the highest court weighed in, prompting today’s hearing.
Some people see threats even when none are present. Strangely, it can make them more creative.
For much of his life, Isaac Newton seemed like he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. In 1693, the collapse finally arrived: After not sleeping for five days straight, Newton sent letters accusing his friends of conspiring against him. He was refraining from publishing books, he said at one point that year, “for fear that disputes and controversies may be raised against me by ignoramuses.”
Newton was, by many accounts, highly neurotic. Brilliant, but neurotic nonetheless. He was prone to depressive jags, mistrust, and angry outbursts.
Unfortunately, his genius might have been rooted in his maladjustments. His mental state led him to brood over past mistakes, and eventually, a breakthrough would dawn. “I keep the subject constantly before me,” he once said, “and wait till the first dawnings open slowly, by little and little, into a full and clear light.”
In continuing to tinker with the universe she built eight years after it ended, J.K. Rowling might be falling into the same trap as Star Wars’s George Lucas.
September 1st, 2015 marked a curious footnote in Harry Potter marginalia: according to the series’ elaborate timeline, rarely referenced in the books themselves, it was the day James S. Potter, Harry’s eldest son, started school at Hogwarts. It’s not an event directly written about in the books, nor one of particular importance, but their creator, J.K. Rowling, dutifully took to Twitter to announce what amounts to footnote details: that James was sorted into House Gryffindor, just like his father, to the disappointment of Teddy Lupin, Harry’s godson, apparently a Hufflepuff.
It’s not earth-shattering information that Harry’s kid would end up in the same house his father was in, and the Harry Potter series’ insistence on sorting all of its characters into four broad personality quadrants largely based on their family names has always struggled to stand up to scrutiny. Still, Rowling’s tweet prompted much garment-rending among the books’ devoted fans. Can a tweet really amount to a piece of canonical information for a book? There isn’t much harm in Rowling providing these little embellishments years after her books were published, but even idle tinkering can be a dangerous path to take, with the obvious example being the insistent tweaks wrought by George Lucas on his Star Wars series.