India is a colourful fusion of different cultures and religions. So it is no surprise that nearly every detail in everyday life differs when it comes to the South and the North. This hold true for this facial hair obsession as it is more of a South Indian ‘thing’ than any other part of India.
To some, having a moustache is simply a sign of manhood. As Sharan Kirpalani, who is on route to growing a fine beard, explains, “It is a sign of a mature man and shows off a strong social stature. I don’t believe it’s a tradition but it is definitely a norm. In the West, you will notice a man with a beard or moustache and take a second glance. Here, it’s the other way round. You’ll notice and take that second glance at a man who hasn’t got facial hair.” This idea of moustaches being a norm here is further re-enforced when photographer Chris Stowers was taking pictures for a book on Indian styles.
“Some people were confused when we first told them why we wanted to take their picture (for their moustaches), but they soon became very keen,” he had told the BBC.
On the other hand Sikhs, although a minority in Chennai, owe their prideful ruff to religious principles. One of the 5 Ks that all Sikhs follow is kesh meaning hair, thus requiring them to keep all hair on their head. Reasons behind facial hair also differ when it comes to jobs. Policemen in Chennai nearly all have moustaches, as it is a known feature that makes them more frightening.
Further more, most criminals and gangsters also look menacing with big manes and long kirudhas — sideburns. While encountering these dreaded criminals, it is expedient for policemen to match their looks. Anyhow, a moustache or, in a policemen’s point of view a weapon of terror, has now slowly and steadily become a statement of fashion, which even officers of the IPS in Tamil Nadu have become fond of.
However, this only answers the question of why men sport facial hair, not why they keep it in perfect shape all the time with comb ready and waiting. Some youngsters say that it is to do with media influence. If you watch a film, most of the heroes keep great moustaches and so young hopefuls see a moustache as a champion’s feature and more importantly (as the hero always does at the end of the film) gets the girls. On top of this a lot of Indian sportsmen also sport moustaches hence influencing hopeful sports fans.
Quite sadly though, the appeal of moustaches to the people of South India is fading for those that move abroad. UK immigration officer Chris commented, “It always amuses me when I check the passports of Indian nationals who are living in the UK. Often, their old photographs include a moustache, but in person they are clean-shaven. I’ve asked several of them why they decided to shave it off, and they replied that since coming to the UK, they realised that moustaches are seen quite differently here to how they are in India!” All in all whether it be to show manliness or strike fear into the hearts of thieves, the trend is not likely to fade out any time soon.
So we ask, what’s your reason to the fuzz? Most people echo, “It’s a sign of masculinity and grandeur.”