The toothbrush moustache is a moustache style, shaved at the edges, except for three to five centimeters above the centre of the lip. The sides of the moustache are vertical rather than tapered. The style first became popular in the United States in the late 19th century, from where it spread to Germany and elsewhere, reaching a height of popularity in the inter-war years before becoming unfashionable after World War II due to its association with Adolf Hitler. Other names for the moustache include the Hitler, Charlie Chaplin, 1/3, philtrum, postage stamp, and soul stache.
In the United States
The style originally became popular in the US in the late 19th century. It was a neat, uniform, low-maintenance style that echoed the standardization and uniformity brought on by industrialization, in contrast to the more flamboyant moustaches typical of the 19th century such as the Imperial, Walrus, Handlebar, Horseshoe, Pencil and Fantastico moustache.
Charlie Chaplin was one of the most famous wearers of the toothbrush moustache, first adopting it sometime after 1914 for his Mack Sennett silent comedies. In a 1933 interview, Chaplin said he added the moustache to his costume because it had a comical appearance and was small enough so as not to hide his expression. Adolf Hitler was a fan of Chaplin, but "there is no evidence (though some speculation) that Hitler modeled his 'stache on [Charlie Chaplin]." Chaplin took advantage of the noted similarity between his on-screen appearance and that of Hitler, such as in his 1940 film The Great Dictator, where he wore the moustache as part of two new characters that parodied Hitler.
The style was introduced in Germany in the late 19th century by visiting Americans. Prior to the toothbrush, the most popular style was called the Kaiser moustache, perfumed and turned up at the ends, as worn by the royalty in the German Empire and the German part of Austria. By 1907 enough Germans were wearing the new trimmed down and simple toothbrush moustache to elicit notice by The New York Times under the headline "'TOOTHBRUSH' MUSTACHE; German Women Resent Its Usurpation of the 'Kaiserbart'". The toothbrush was taken up by German folk hero Hans Koeppen in the famous 1908 New York to Paris Race, cementing its popularity among young gentry. Koeppen was described as "Six-feet in height, slim, and athletic, with a toothbrush mustache characteristic of his class, he looks the ideal type of the young Prussian guardsman." By the end of World War I even some of the German royals were sporting the toothbrush; Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany (son of the Kaiser) can be seen with a toothbrush moustache in a 1918 photograph that shows him about to be sent into exile.
Hitler originally wore the Kaiser moustache, as evidenced by photographs of him as a soldier during World War I. There is not agreement as to what year Hitler first adopted the toothbrush. Alexander Moritz Frey, who served with Hitler during World War I, said Hitler wore the toothbrush in the trenches after he was ordered to trim his moustache to facilitate the wearing of a gas mask. Ron Rosenbaum, a cultural historian, said "Hitler didn't adopt his until late 1919", after the war. Despite the photographic evidence of his much larger moustache during the First World War, Hitler's sister-in-law, Bridget Hitler, says she was responsible for Hitler's toothbrush. Bridget claimed that Adolf spent a "lost winter" at her home in Liverpool in 1912–13. The two quarreled a lot, mostly, she said, because she could not stand his unruly Kaiser moustache. He cut it, as she says in her memoirs, but that in doing so, as in most things, he went "too far". Bridget Hitler's story is considered by most scholars to be fiction designed to cash-in on her brother-in-law's notoriety.
Post-World War II
Artist Steve Ditko's original design for fictional character J. Jonah Jameson, supporting character and antagonist for the Marvel Comics character Spider-Man, sported a toothbrush mustache, and most appearances of Jameson since his creation have maintained the style or a variant thereof (though notably, actor J.K. Simmons' portrayal of Jameson in the Spider-Man films of the early 2000s featured a pencil mustache instead).
In 2009, British comedian Richard Herring created a stand-up show titled Hitler Moustache, to see if he "could reclaim the toothbrush moustache for comedy—it was Chaplin's first, then Hitler ruined it." The show also discusses broader issues, such as fascism and the British National Party.
In May 2010, former basketball star Michael Jordan appeared in a Hanes commercial wearing a toothbrush moustache. Reaction from the press and public was unfavorable. Jordan's friend Charles Barkley said, "I don't know what the hell he was thinking. I don't know what Hanes was thinking. It was just stupid." Jordan has not been seen with it since.
In China, a version of this moustache is viewed as a stereotype of Japanese people, especially of Japanese soldiers from the Second World War. This style is depicted in The Adventures of Tintin comic album The Blue Lotus. An extreme variant of the toothbrush moustache narrows it to the philtrum only; Robert Mugabe is noted for this style, as was Soviet politician Vasil Mzhavanadze.
Notable people with a toothbrush moustache
- Alexander Vasilyevich Alexandrov (image)
- Hovhannes Bagramyan (image)
- Siad Barre (image)
- Abdalá Bucaram (image)
- Charlie Chaplin (artificial) (image)
- Karl-Maria Demelhuber (image)
- Sepp Dietrich (image)
- Eliyahu Dobkin (image)
- Irmfried Eberl (image)
- August Eigruber (image)
- Levi Eshkol (image)
- Hermann Esser (image)
- Tav Falco (image)
- Gottfried Feder (image)
- Max Fleischer (image)
- Otto Frank (image)
- Nikolajs Galdins (image)
- Oliver Hardy (image)
- Sadegh Hedayat (image)
- Heinrich Himmler (image)
- Adolf Hitler (image)
- Karl Holz (Gauleiter) (image)
- Paolo Iashvili (image)
- Vladimir Karpov (image)
- Friedrich Kellner (image)
- Erich Koch (image)
- Fumimaro Konoe (image)
- Semyon Krivoshein (image)
- Hinrich Lohse (image)
- Ron Mael (image)
- Emil Maurice (image)
- Robert Mugabe (image)
- Julius Kambarage Nyerere (image)
- Hermann Obrecht (image)
- George Orwell (image)
- Waldemar Pabst (image)
- Artur Phleps (image)
- Marcel Pilet-Golaz (image)
- Julius Raab (image)
- Ramakrishna Ranga Rao of Bobbili (image)
- Lothar Rendulic (image)
- Franz Ritter von Epp (image)
- Ernst Röhm (image)
- Fritz Sauckel (image)
- Ferdinand Sauerbruch (image)
- Julius Schreck (image)
- Yitzhak Shamir (image)
- Julius Streicher (image)
- Gerd von Rundstedt (image)
- Christian Wirth (image)
- Genrikh Yagoda (image)
- Georgy Zhukov (image)
- Rich Cohen. "Becoming Adolf", Vanity Fair, November 2007. Reprinted in The Best American Essays 2008.
- Chaplin, Charlie; Hayes, Kevin (2005). Charlie Chaplin: interviews. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 15.
- Ron Rosenbaum. The secret parts of fortune: three decades of intense investigations and edgy enthusiasms. Random House, 2000. ISBN 978-0-375-50338-2
- "Is wearing a 'Hitler' moustache a good idea?". BBC News. August 25, 2009.
- "'TOOTHBRUSH' MUSTACHE.; German Women Resent Its Usurpation of the 'Kaiserbart'", The New York Times, Oct. 20, 1907.
- "Germany Awaits Lieut. Hans Koeppen; From Emperor to Subaltern His Running of the Protos Car Has Aroused Enthusiasm". The New York Times, July 18, 1908.
- The rise of Hitler. Historyplace.com.
- Paterson, Tony (May 6, 2007). "Hitler was ordered to trim his moustache". The Daily Telegraph. This is not supported by any photographic evidence of Hitler during the period 1914-18.
- Bridget Hitler. My Brother-in-Law Adolf
- Brigitte Hamann, Hans Mommsen, Hitler's Vienna: A Portrait of the Tyrant As a Young Man, 2010, Tauris Parke, p.198.
- Richard Herring (31 July 2009). "'There isn't a "New Offensiveness"'". The Guardian.
- Dave Gorman (2009-07-29). "Writing wrongs... : Dave Gorman is angered by a 'dangerously bad' piece of journalism". Chortle.
- Michael Jordan's Hitler Moustache, Michael Frissore, Slurve magazine.
- Colbert Discusses Michael Jordan's Hitler Mustache, Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report, June 11th 2010.
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