According to a new book, Britishers started growing their moustaches in the late nineteenth century to demonstrate virility and intimidate the Empire's subjects.
The book by historian Piers Brendon , 'The Decline and Fall of the British Empire', states that the waxing and waning of the British moustache precisely mirrored the fortunes of the British Empire.
'For the Indian sepoy the moustache was a symbol of virility. They laughed at the unshaven British officers,' The Times quoted Dr. Brendon, as saying.'In 1854 moustaches were made compulsory for the company's Bombay regiment. The fashion took Britain by storm as civilians imitated their heroes,' he added.
The 650-page book focuses on the political, cultural, economic and social history of the British Empire, and gives a lot of attention to the story of the 'growth of the stiff upper lip', which reached its zenith with Lord Kitchener's bushy appendage.However, after 1918 moustaches became thinner and humbler as the Empire 'began to gasp for breath' Dr Brendon says, adding, 'After the victory over Germany and Japan in 1945, independence movements across the red-painted sections of the world map, and Britain's own urgent domestic priorities, meant that the Empire was doomed. The moustache too was in terminal decline.'
'It had become a joke thanks to Charlie Chaplin and Groucho Marx. It had become an international symbol of 'villainy' thanks to Hitler's toothbrush and 'the huge laughing cockroaches' under Stalin's nose,' Dr Brendon writes.