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The 'Stache

Tuesday night at Cha Cha, the insufferably cool new lounge in Silver Lake with the Mexican kitsch decor set at full-strength obnoxious. I’m sitting with Johnny Smith, a 26-year-old actor from Houston and a friendly, furry face at the neighborhood Trader Joe’s. We’re talking mustaches.

“I’ve been twisting it up since my last visit to Texas,” Johnny says. “I saw this cowboy-looking guy with it up and I realized it wasn’t so long, I could pull that off too. I was also tired of it ending up in my mouth.”

Johnny fingers the gelled ends of his ’stache, which curl up gently at the edges of his mouth. He wears a Handlebar, or a Longhorn, or something in between. These are the names of two varieties of mustaches Johnny has helpfully identified on a chart sketched on a dinner napkin. There’s also the Duster, the Roosevelt, the Fu Manchu, the Hitler and the Walrus. While we talk he adds on the Villain, a narrow, slithery style he says was perfected by John Waters.

A quick scan of the men in the room shows there’s at least one Roosevelt in the house, a couple other Longhorns, and maybe a Walrus, evidence that we’re in a full-scale facial-hair trend. It’s the mustaches. There are obvious influences: ’70s porn, for one, and possibly the local cholos and vaqueros. And pirates. Definitely pirates. When properly executed, the mustache, particularly when worn by itself, like a solitary mop of manhood on the upper lip, is a cocky fashion statement. The bushier and shapelier, the better.

Those who grow them share an unspoken pact, Johnny says. “It’s kind of like when I was in high school and I used to drive a Volkswagen Super Beetle, we kind of nodded at each other and waved. It’s the same with mustaches.”

Johnny came by his mustache rather serendipitously. A few years back he was cast in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean and was told to grow out his facial hair. He was never called to the set, but he kept the ’stache. It later came in handy when he sought a role as Jesus for a History Channel special. “I trim it every now and then because every time I make out with my loved one, he sneezes a lot. The mustache goes up his nose,” Johnny says. “He digs it aesthetically, but does this” — he wiggles his nostrils and crosses his eyes.

I ponder my own mustache. Had mine since middle school, and I can’t picture life without it. To my great embarrassment, however, I can’t grow it out much. They’re really just pachuco whiskers. I frown. I am suddenly insanely jealous of the Longhorns and the Roosevelts in the room. Damn you, genes!

On my way out, I pass a guy wearing a bold, badass black Walrus. It contrasts nicely with his pasty skin and tousled black hair.

“Nice mustache,” I say.

He seems pleased with himself.?


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