It’s March, and signs of spring are everywhere: bulbs are blooming, birds are singing, and mustaches are sprouting out all over. That’s right: It’s time for that U.S. Air Force tradition known as “Mustache March,” when airmen encourage their facial hair to flourish for 31 days.
Legend has it that Brigadier General Robin Olds began the tradition while serving in Vietnam. (More about him in a minute.) However the custom started, we think aviators and their freaky facial hair deserve some recognition.
One of the best-known aviator ‘staches belongs to Frenchman Louis Blériot (pictured above), who became world famous in 1909 when he flew across the English Channel in his monoplane. After his daring feat, Blériot told the New York Times in a special cable, “Soldiers in khaki run up, and policemen. Two of my compatriots are on the spot. They kiss my cheeks.” (We can see why they avoided planting one on his kisser.)
Blériot’s mustache remains famous today. His image was recently posted on the “guess the face” portion of PhotoCamel.com. “Chromenut” correctly identified the aviator by saying: “Let’s see, it’s not Adolphe Pagoud, his mustache was way smaller. And I don’t think it’s Roland Garros, his mustache went straight across. Can’t be Louis Paulhan, he’s too goofy looking. So I say it has to be Louis Blériot.”
See the gallery below for more memorably mustached aviators. If we left somebody out, let us know by posting a comment below. And airmen who submit photos of their own Mustache March projects to our online Reader Scrapbook this month are guaranteed posting.
Orville Wright (seated at right, with Wilbur) wears what’s known as “the Chevron,” a thick mustache that covers the top of the upper lip. “He had sported a reddish mustache since high school,” writes Tom Crouch in his 2003 book The Bishop’s Boys. “Once full, almost a handlebar, it was now clipped short, just bushy enough to cover a pair of very thin lips that turned up at one corner when he smiled. He was the enthusiast of the pair, ever on fire with new inventions, and the optimist as well, the one who always saw the brighter side.”
There was a (small) outcry when Orville didn't make The Art of Manliness’ list of “35 Manliest Mustaches of All Time.” The father of aviation lost out to a puppet—the Swedish Chef from "the Muppet Show"—and a cartoon character, Yosemite Sam.