Robbie Rane uses his mustache as a filter. But he’s not filtering soup, pulpy orange juice or other digestibles. Rather, his bushy upper lip filters people.
Needless to say, it’s a hairy process.
Puns aside, Rane isn’t the only one. After years in the fashion faux-pas cellar, mustaches are now coming back in vogue. Though other facial hair trends remain off limits for Honor Code-abiding BYU males, mustaches — having long been the only approved facial hair at BYU — seem to be infiltrating campus in record numbers. With the mustache’s rising popularity, pop-culture trends and BYU restrictions have intersected in a rare way. And it seems that socially, the ‘stache is more divisive than ever.
BYU’s facial hair policy is well known on campus. The Honor Code’s dress and grooming standards for men states: “If worn, moustaches should be neatly trimmed and may not extend beyond or below the corners of the mouth. Men are expected to be clean-shaven; beards are not acceptable.”
So for men, mustaches are OK. But the line has been drawn — specifically, at the corners of the mouth. As for when the rule came into effect, it’s slightly unclear. Carri Jenkins, a university spokeswoman, said in her research on the Honor Code, it seems there hasn’t ever been a time where mustaches weren’t allowed on campus.
While the mustache has long been an Honor Code-induced BYU trend, the facial hair has made inroads in pop culture at large. From numerous commercials to prostate cancer donation campaigns, from charity events like Movember to Mustache March, mustaches are back in season and reach far beyond Provo.
Wade Fadler, an employee at a resale clothing shop in downtown Portland, Ore., said mustaches are prevalent in his fashion-conscious city.
“From what I see, if 70 percent of the fashionable crowd in Portland has facial hair, about 25 percent of that is a mustache only,” Fadler remarked, saying the trend is probably related to a resurgence of “heritage brands” — brands that emphasize an earthy, durable feel and reference the 1930s and 1940s, when mustaches were popular.
It seems the facial hair is well-received on the East Coast as well.
“I was in New York a couple weeks ago, and people were complimenting me all the time,” said Robbie Rane, a mustached advertising major from Huntsville, Ala. “I have a rather fertile upper lip, I guess.”
Rane’s upper lip has also impacted his social life here on campus, serving as the aforementioned social filter.
“It filters girls,” the soft-spoken, self-assured 24-year-old remarked. “If she’s not the girl that would be OK with it, she’s not the girl I’d want to be with anyways. Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
Dan Ellis, a 23-year-old mechanical engineering major from Hillsboro, Ore., also uses his mustache to weed out social stiffs.
“People who are bothered by it turn out to not be that great anyway, personality wise,” he remarked.
Ellis’ first mustache came into existence at BYU’s ID card office. In 2009, a scruffy-faced Ellis went to get his ID card picture taken. They informed him beards were not allowed, and gave him a razor and shaving cream on the spot. While shaving off his beard in the office, Ellis asked an employee if mustaches were allowed. She said yes, and his first mustache was born.
Leaving the office, Ellis noticed immediate reactions from passersby, and was converted from then on.
“That’s half the reason I kept it,” Ellis said. “You walk down the hallway and everyone just stares, passing judgment on you. It’s fun.”
But reactions from strangers aren’t always negative, said Justin Stephenson, a 23-year-old construction management major who sports a mustache from time to time.
“Occasionally I’ll get a girl that will flat out compliment me on it — girls that I don’t know that I see walking by on campus — which always makes me feel good,” the Damascus, Md., native admitted.
Though his mustache may cause others to see things in him — for good and bad — Stephenson’s facial hair has also helped him see certain things in himself.
“I feel like I’ve really come to find myself more, and who I am as a person,” Stephenson said as a smile crept across his face. “I’ve found that I’m a man with a good sense of humor; someone that’s confident enough to go out with a look like that and rock it.”
Among female BYU students, mustache reactions seem to differ, sometimes drastically, from person to person.
Caitlin Egan, an 18-year-old freshman, from Greensburg, Pa., doesn’t beat around the bush.
“It makes me uncomfortable and it creeps me out sometimes,” Egan stated matter-of-factly. “Being up close to it, seeing it, touching it. No.”
Close proximity to mustaches doesn’t bother Libby Jensen, however. She’s on the other end of the spectrum, and said a mustache can actually reveal certain good qualities in a man.
“They’re cool, and they’re funny, and I think people who have mustaches usually have a really interesting personality that I’d like to talk to,” the 19-year-old nursing major said. “But that’s just me. I like random stuff like mustaches.”
Jensen’s friend Olivia Lessard isn’t crazy about the mustache’s appearance, but said she respects what it represents to the man who sports it.
“At BYU your reason might be just because you can, because it’s different — and I think that’s a good reason,” Lessard conceded. “But I don’t think they’re very attractive … [and] before I kissed [a mustached man] it would probably have to go.”
Jake Pettigrew, a 23-year-old painting and drawing major from Chicago, met and dated his future wife when he had a mustache. For those who are new to the mustached kissing experience, he offered a word of warning.
“If you have a really big mustache and you go to kiss a girl, it’s probably going to go up her nose,” he said. “So beware if you’re a first-timer.”