June 5, 2012
Yesterday anthropomorphic “businessman” decanter reminded me that I’d been meaning to try and unpack this “mustache” trend that’s been sprouting up on packages lately.
Top left are Simon Laliberté’s “Poilu” paintbrush 2-packs, each containing one wide and one narrow paintbrush. Personally, I think the metaphor works better for the mustache than for the gratuitous “soul patch.” (via: Packaging UQAM) Top right is a “milk carton” design by BiancaCs featuring a milk mustache. “The size of the mustache decreases with the fat content of the milk.
In Pearlfisher’s redesigned labeling for Mr Singh’s Hot Punjabi Chilli Sauce, (2nd row left) the red Sikh turban logo is equally likely to be interpreted as a mustache shape. One of the most common meanings of a mustache on brand packaging is to signal ethnicity. (Mustache = exotic or foreign); on right: Jen Sager’s ’Stache Chocolate:
“Living in a largely hipster-centered community in Brooklyn, I wanted to embrace and celebrate a trendy artisan chocolate by creating a package, using the most iconic symbol of the trendiest people I know.
It was important for me to draw inspiration from other historical cultures that have glorified the handle bar moustache; old-timey barber, and the wild west.”
As a trailing indicator of culture and fashion, consumer packaging belatedly reflects what’s already happening. (Meta-mustache = hipster)
Mustaches can also signal something fancy and aristocratic, especially when combined with a monocle. 3rd row, left: Alex Westgate’s unauthorized redesign of “Grown Up Soda”; on right: Pia Storm & Rine Boland Folden’s Carl Wine labels; below, left-to-right: Taylor C. Pemberton’s brand design for “Debonair” Cigars and Tobacco; B&B makes a mustache out of mint leaves for Peppersmith Gum’s branding.
4th row, left: the only product here with a mustache-related function is Chelsea Hendrickson’s “Dapper Chap” packaging whose die-cut mustache-shaped window reveals an assortment of mustache wax in tins. On right: “Mustache Pete” packaging by Matadog Design.
Bottom row is “Wanted” snack packaging by Peter Gregson Studio. Mustaches in this context, (as in the Mr. Singh’s branding) are about ethnicity. Similar to the discontinued “Frito Bandito” who also appeared in “wanted” posters, but they get away with it here, perhaps, because it’s safer to stereotype mustachioed pistachios then, say, Mexicans.
(More meaningful mustaches, after the fold…)
Pringles, whose mustached mascot references the old-time shop-keeper, came out in 1968—one year after the the Beatles Sergeant Peppers album came out.
“Sergeant Peppers” was the album (designed by Peter Blake & Jann Haworth) in which all four Beatles sported mustaches simultaneously and which even featured a cut-out mustache insert inside the package. Hip and fashionable in 1967, but also self-consciously retro. (For more about Sergeant Pepper packaging see: Brownjohn vs. Cooper)
In the 1970s, a Marlboro man mustache became a part of the gay hyper-masculinity trend that would become known as the “gay clone” look.
Over a dozen years ago, the sidewalks of my neighborhood, New York City’s Lower East Side, were spray painted with the slogan, “CLONES GO HOME!”. This was not an act of antigay bigotry. Gay men themselves had done the spray painting …
… They looked upon the newly emerging Gay Clone lifestyle as the product of a ghettoized mentality, an embodiment of commercialism, conformism, and vacuity. Living in a tough neighborhood, they were not impressed by leather queens with expensive wardrobes, nor by ersatz cowboys, nor by make-believe lumberjacks.
…Nevertheless, the clone lifestyle came to prevail all over the world, so that an entire generation of gay men defined their own identities in terms of adherence to clonism: little mustaches; very short haircuts; plaid flannel shirts, boots, denim or leather jackets; a particular repertoire of movements, sounds, facial expressions, drug taking, and sexual practices. By the mid-70s there was a phrase in Frankfurt, “ein falscher Amerikaner” (“a fake American”), to describe a German gay man who had adopted the lifestyle of the American clone.
John Lauritsen, Political-Economic Construction of Gay Male Identities, 1987
Here, as with the Beatles in 1967 and today’s so-called “hipsters,” the mustache was a self-conscious statement. A prop used in playing a role, ironically or otherwise. The backlash Lauritsen describes above is largely about inauthenticity—the fraudulent nature of “trying to pass” as masculine, or straight, or even as an American.
The recent J. Edgar movie, featured a scene in which an “saloon” style mustache was deemed so objectionable as to be grounds for dismissal…
But nowadays mustaches are maybe more meta than Mattachine.
On left: Joseph Patrick Waldo’s cursive “moustache” graffiti tag; center: Mikel’s moustache-wearing-mustache; on right Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q.
See also: “Mustache and Meaning” at Citizen Jane blog (whose banner also features a mustachioed woman)
Full disclosure: Have not always been completely immune to the charms of ironic facial hair, myself.Randy Ludacer