Well, wait a minute. Some mustaches are creepy (e.g. your classic child-molester mustaches, also many hipster mustaches), some aren’t (e.g. your luxuriant Tom Selleck/Ron Swanson mustaches—whatever you might think about them as fashion statements, creepiness doesn’t seem to describe them). Creepy mustaches are distinguished by being thin or scraggly, or by being affixed to guys who are thin or scraggly—so could some aspect of it be the attempt at projecting masculinity by men who aren’t physically iconically masculine?
In any case, I think a full answer to this question might require developing a Grand Unified Theory of Facial Hair. Please, Adam, develop a Grand Unified Theory of Facial Hair. I would read the shit out of that.
Here’s a stab at it: Because they connote an unrestrained masculine libido while failing tk connote the solidity of a beard. A beard suggests a stable masculinity; a man capable of being a provider and a producer. The association of moustaches with the lips and orality suggests that the wearer will suckle instead of provide, implying a childish and self centered man who treats sexual relationships as object relationships and relies on others for sexual and/or social nourishment. Also, like the neckbeard, there is something adolescent about the moustache. It’s the first facial hair most boys grow, also suggesting dependency and sexual infirmity.
Mustaches strike me as creepy because they are a lot of effort for a look that is hit or miss at best. It’s more work to maintain a mustache than to be clean shaven, and it’s a questionable decision. It strikes me as the facial hair equivalent of saying, “Do you like this shirt? No? How about now?” after unbuttoning two more buttons.
Another idea that occurred to me is mustaches seem to be something that men like on other men as something to attract women, which don’t actually attract women. Maybe women like certain men with mustaches, but is it really the mustache that’s attractive in that instance?
Both of these ideas go down a road Adam touched on in (I think) his original post on creepiness where he tried to define it as “someone is demanding something of us that we cannot and do not want to reciprocate”. With a creepy mustache, a guy is asking (demanding?) that women find him attractive by taking on a trait of attractive men but misdiagnosing what’s attractive about them.
Google provided a much simpler version of what I was trying to get at in my prior comment. I went to Google Adam’s question, but when all I had typed was “why are mustaches”, the first two comments struck me as hilarious.
why are mustaches cool
why are mustaches considered creepy
The first seems like a search a man would do before deciding to grow a mustache. The second seems like his dejected search after it not getting the desired results. The two together are just another piece in a long chain of evidence showing we men just don’t know what we’re doing.
Whilst these ontologies of facial hair are kind of charming, surely it doesn’t take much thought about other cultures to suspect that there’s nothing *intrinsically* creepy about mustaches? Surely it’s something much more specific to recent Western culture; might it be something to do with a particular cultural moment in the 70s/80s when mustaches were signifiers of youth and coolness, so that as that moment passed they became creepy because that’s what happens when ageing men cling to signifiers of youth and coolness when they are no longer young or cool?
I’ve found the recent resurgence of Victorian-style moustaches interesting, because they seem to go along with a more general aesthetic of gentrification. Maybe it’s something like the following: facial hair is primarily a masculine domain, and so facial hair trends track in some way prevailing norms of masculinity. One of the ways that power structures retain their power is by shifting so they look different at different points, so as to evade particular critiques by pretending to actually *be* different. And so just as colonialism was forced to refigure itself as humanitarian concern and aid, so too colonial masculinities were forced to refigure themselves, and the moustache-as-signifier of muscular Christianity became creepy because creepiness is a good way of ensuring that most people present the acceptable face of power rather than the old and now unacceptable one. Then, after a particular distance of time it becomes possible to reclaim those old signifiers, and hence we get the hipster moustache.
Where are you seeing mustaches resurging? In your weird academic circles? They’re creepy because of affectation (of the sort found among certain subcultures). Because it takes a DECISION to wear one, and that means that some guy was thinking consciously about the hair on his lip enough to decide to leave it (but not everywhere else). They represent a clear ego/vanity thing going on psychologically because of this “deliberately affected” aspect. Also they look like one of those big hairy caterpillars that everyone finds creepy because bugs.