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Kiwi men and their moustaches

29 November 2007

Kiwi men and their moustaches

As the month of ‘Movember’ ends and New Zealand’s ‘mo bros’ line up to compare growth, texture and style, they join the generations of kiwi blokes who have grown – or not grown – facial hair for a reason.

This month moustaches made a comeback to raise money for prostate cancer.

A timeline compiled by shows how beards and moustaches have come and gone over the decades in New Zealand.

The art of moko, for example, declined in Māori society from the middle of the 1800s, with Christian missionaries arguing it was ‘heathen’. Some Māori men covered their tattoos by growing facial hair.

The First World War hastened the hairless look. Men who spent weeks in the mud and grime of the trenches relished the chance to wash and shave in clean water and, after the war, the trend continued.

Chief historian at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Bronwyn Dalley, says that fashions in facial hair — or the lack of it — show some of the changes going on in society.

“Appearances tell us a lot about the times we live in. In the late 1960s the clean-shaven look stood for conservatism and old-fashioned values. Moustaches returned as young men wore their rebellion as fashion and lifestyle.”

In the 1970s and early 1980s moustaches had morphed into a symbol of rugged manliness. Big and bushy, they were everywhere – from the sports field to the public service.

“I don’t think it was just a coincidence that this happened at the same time as the women’s rights movement got underway,” says Dr Dalley.

The mo barely rates in the appearance stakes for kiwi men today. Perhaps that’s why the challenge to grow one in ‘Movember’ has become so popular – it only lasts a month.


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