Toothbrush moustache

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Charlie Chaplin (pictured in 1921 as The Tramp) thought the moustache gave him a comical appearance.

The toothbrush moustache is a moustache style. The sides of the moustache are vertical (or nearly vertical) rather than tapered, giving the moustache hairs the appearance of toothbrush bristles that are attached to the nose. It was made famous by such comedians as Charlie Chaplin and Oliver Hardy. The style first became popular in the United States in the late 19th century, from there 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 strong association with German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. The association was strong enough that the style also started to be called the "Hitler moustache".

In the United States[edit]

The style originally became popular in the late 19th century, in the United States.[1] 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, and Pencil.[1]

Charlie Chaplin was one of the most famous wearers of the toothbrush moustache, first adopting it in 1914 after his first film, "Making a Living", for his Mack Sennett silent comedies.[1] 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.[A][2] Adolf Hitler was a fan of Chaplin films,[3] but "there is no evidence (though some speculation) that Hitler modeled his 'stache on [Charlie Chaplin]", according to cultural historian Ron Rosenbaum.[4] 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.[1][5]

In Germany[edit]

Adolf Hitler in 1937; his appearance was so defined by the toothbrush moustache that it became unfashionable after World War II.

The style was introduced in Germany in the late 19th century by visiting Americans.[1] Prior to the toothbrush, the most popular style was called the Kaiser moustache, perfumed and turned up at the ends, as worn by Wilhelm II, German Emperor.[1][5] 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'".[1][6] The toothbrush was taken up by German automobile racer and folk hero Hans Koeppen in the famous 1908 New York to Paris Race, cementing its popularity among young gentry.[1][7] 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."[7] By the end of World War I even some of the German royals were sporting the toothbrush; Crown Prince Wilhelm can be seen with a toothbrush moustache in a 1918 photograph that shows him about to be sent into exile.[1]

Hitler originally wore the Kaiser moustache, as evidenced by photographs of him as a soldier during World War I.[8] There is no agreement as to what year Hitler first adopted the toothbrush.[1] 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.[1][9] Cultural historian Ron Rosenbaum instead says Hitler did not wear it until late 1919;[4] he was also photographed in the early 1920s[10] with a more traditional moustache in between wearing the Kaiser and toothbrush style.

Despite the photographic evidence of his much larger moustache during the First World War, Hitler's sister-in-law, Bridget Hitler, said she was responsible for giving Hitler his toothbrush moustache before the war[1]—considered by most scholars to be fiction designed to cash in on Hitler's notoriety.[11] Bridget claimed that Adolf spent a "lost winter" at her home in Liverpool in 1912–13.[1] 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.[1][12]

Post–World War II[edit]

Robert Mugabe's extreme variant of the moustache narrowed it only to the philtrum

After World War II, the style fell from favour in much of the world due to its strong association with Hitler and became known as the "Hitler moustache".[1]

American artist Steve Ditko's original design for fictional character J. Jonah Jameson, a supporting character in the Spider-Man comics, sported a toothbrush moustache, apparently meant to make him seem Hitleresque and thus more loathsome, considering his extreme antagonism to Spider-Man, and most appearances of Jameson since his creation have maintained the style or a variant thereof in the comics.[B]

Keyboardist Ron Mael of the American rock band Sparks maintained a toothbrush moustache throughout most of the 1970s and 1980s. Upon achieving mainstream success in the UK in 1974 with the song "This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us", it was noted by The Economist, "A whole generation switched on Top of the Pops, saw Ron Mael's moustache, and ran out of the room, crying, 'Mum! Dad! Hitler's playing the piano on Top of the Pops!'"[13][C] Referencing the resemblance of Mael's brother and Sparks lead vocalist Russell Mael to singer Marc Bolan, John Lennon allegedly phoned his former Beatles bandmate Ringo Starr while watching Top of the Pops and proclaimed, "Marc Bolan's doing a song with Adolf Hitler on the television!"[14]

In 2009, English comedian Richard Herring created a stand-up show titled Hitler Moustache while sporting a toothbrush moustache to see if he "could reclaim the toothbrush moustache for comedy—it was Chaplin's first, then Hitler ruined it".[15]

In May 2010, American basketball star Michael Jordan appeared in a Hanes commercial sporting a toothbrush moustache.[16] Reaction from the press and public was unfavorable, and Jordan immediately got rid of the moustache.[17] His friend Charles Barkley said, "I have got to admit that I don't know what the hell he was thinking and I don't know what Hanes was thinking. I mean it is just stupid. It is just bad, plain and simple."[17]

An extreme variant of the toothbrush moustache narrows it to the philtrum only, a style most notably worn by former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

Notable people with a toothbrush moustache[edit]

Notable people who groomed a toothbrush moustache during some time in their lives.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ In a 1933 interview, Chaplin said: "It all came about in an emergency. The cameraman said put on some funny make-up, and I hadn't the slightest idea what to do. I went to the dress department and decided I wanted everything to be a mass of contradictions. So I took a bowler hat, an abnormally tight jacket, an abnormally loose pair of trousers, and some dirty, raggedy shoes. This was who I wanted my character to be; raggedy but, at the same time, a gentleman. I didn't know how I was going to do the face, but it was going to be a sad, serious face. I wanted to hide that it was comic, so I took a little toothbrush mustache. And that mustache was no concept of the characterization – only saying that it was rather silly. It doesn't hide my expression, after all, and is now my signature mustache."
  2. ^ In Sam Raimi's Spider-Man film trilogy, Jameson (J. K. Simmons) instead wears a pencil moustache.
  3. ^ The 1982 Sparks song "Moustache" included the lyrics, "And when I trimmed it very small / My Jewish friends would never call."


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Rich Cohen (November 2007). "Becoming Adolf". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on December 21, 2014 – via reprint in The Best American Essays 2008.
  2. ^ Chaplin, Charlie; Hayes, Kevin (2005). Charlie Chaplin: Interviews. University Press of Mississippi. p. 15. ISBN 978-1578067022.
  3. ^ Rochus Misch (2014). Hitler's Last Witness: The Memoirs of Hitler's Bodyguard. Frontline Books. p. 70. Hitler loved Charlie Chaplin films
  4. ^ a b Ron Rosenbaum (2000). The Secret Parts of Fortune: Three Decades of Intense Investigations and Edgy Enthusiasms. Random House. ISBN 978-0-375-50338-2.
  5. ^ a b Tom Geoghegan (August 25, 2009). "Is wearing a 'Hitler' moustache a good idea?". BBC News Magazine. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  6. ^ "'TOOTHBRUSH' MUSTACHE.; German Women Resent Its Usurpation of the 'Kaiserbart'". The New York Times. October 20, 1907. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  7. ^ a b "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. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  8. ^ "The Rise of Hitler". The History Place. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  9. ^ Paterson, Tony (May 6, 2007). "Hitler was ordered to trim his moustache". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved January 1, 2020.. This is not supported by any photographic evidence of Hitler during the period 1914-18.
  10. ^ "Adolf Hitler In The Period 1890-1929". Avax News. Archived from the original on August 29, 2019.Alt URL. The top picture is his permission to carry weapons.
  11. ^ Hamann, Brigitte (2010). Hitler's Vienna: A Portrait of the Tyrant As a Young Man. Tauris Parke Paperbacks. p. 198. ISBN 978-1848852778.
  12. ^ Bridget Dowling (1979). My Brother-in-Law Adolf.. Written in 1930s and published posthumously in 1979.
  13. ^ Jasper Rees (May 6, 2008). "Story of Their Lives: Sparks Will Fly". Intelligent Life. Archived from the original on December 11, 2014 – via The Economist.
  14. ^ The Sparks Brothers, 2021
  15. ^ Richard Herring (July 31, 2009). "'There isn't a "New Offensiveness"'". The Guardian.
  16. ^ a b Michael Frissore. "Michael Jordan's Hitler Moustache". Slurve. Archived from the original on April 25, 2012.
  17. ^ a b Trey Kerby (June 9, 2010). "Charles Barkley says what we're all thinking about MJ's mustache". Yahoo! Sports. Archived from the original on August 4, 2014. Retrieved August 3, 2014.
  18. ^ Francisco Franco at
  19. ^ Jakob Grimminger at
  20. ^ Vladimir Karpov at Commons
  21. ^ Jean Sibelius at

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