Monday 16 June 2008

Moustached men of America fight back

America's biggest cultural battles normally rage around the notorious trinity of guns, gays and God. But where pressure groups debating abortion and the right to bear arms have gone before, a new campaign is following - fighting for every American's right to bear hair on their upper lip.

Campaigning against what they say is widespread and unacceptable discrimination in the workplace and society, the American Moustache Institute (AMI) is vowing to restore well-tended facial hair to the noble status it enjoyed in the Seventies.

Ben Stiller sports a moustache in the comedy film Dodgeball: Moustached men of America fight back
Viva Zapata: actor Ben Stiller sports a Seventies cool-dude moustache in the comedy film Dodgeball

The institute is now dedicated to fighting to create a "climate of acceptance and understanding" for all moustached Americans alike.

The evidence that this is one more minority group with reason for a grievance is compelling. A recent poll found more than half of American women would refuse to kiss a man with a moustache. Others have said the look reminds them of Village People, Seventies porn stars and rednecks.

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Last year the US Supreme Court ruled that it was permissible for a trial lawyer to throw someone off a jury using the pretext that they have a moustache.

The AMI stands ready to assist any American who claims they have been discriminated against and wishes to bring court action.

Executive director Aaron Perlut, 36, a public relations executive who sports a Fu Manchu-style "horseshoe" moustache, told The Sunday Telegraph: "There's no question that there exists a measure of discrimination. People feel they have to shave before a job interview. We view ourselves as the American Civil Liberties Union for the moustache. But we know that we can win over young people for whom a moustache is a perfect means of self expression - and it's easier than a tattoo."

He dates the death of the moustache to the departure from American television screens in 1984 of news anchorman Walter Cronkite, owner of "the most trusted moustache in the media", and the end of Tom Selleck's reign as fictional private eye Magnum in 1988.

America has not had a moustachioed president since the back-to-back administrations of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, a century ago.

New York city controller William Thompson, who is expected to run for mayor, has just shaved off his moustache in preparation for the campaign. Meanwhile, the walrus-moustached John Bolton, President George W Bush's former ambassador to the United Nations, is no longer a presence in US politics after stepping down last December.

The AMI's offices in St Louis, Missouri, held a get-together earlier this month called Stache Bash, where 500 moustache supporters watched baseball player Keith Hernandez crowned winner of a competition to find the best American sporting moustache.

"It was our coming out parade," said Mr Perlut.

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