Whiskers at War: Moustaches, Masculinity and the Military in Twentieth-Century Britain
Military service during the First and Second World Wars entailed many changes to the daily routine of a soldier, including new habits of shaving and grooming facial hair. This makes the wars a unique backdrop against which to study embodied masculinity. The author uses letters, articles and trench journals as sources to explore what growing and maintaining a moustache reveals about men’s experience of these conflicts. British soldiers were banned from shaving their top lip during the first half of the First World War, and even after this point a moustache continued to be part of a soldier’s identity, marking him out from other servicemen and even used to highlight membership of particular regiments. The process of growing a moustache was a focus of male bonding and discussions of moustaches even acted as an outlet for soldiers’ fears about their powerlessness in the face of the higher authorities of the Army and of fate.