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3 Famous Mustaches

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It's said that the clothes make the man, but what about the mustache? Does it make the man, or does the man make it? Sort of a "chicken or the egg" question. Here we have three men who are forever linked with their facial hair, and the relationships between the man and the mustache are much more complex than one would think.

1. Hitler and the Toothbrush

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Before the Blitz, before the Holocaust, before a patch of hair situated directly above the center of the lip became as much a symbol of evil as the devil's horns, the mustache worn by Hitler was called the Toothbrush. While Hitler and Charlie Chaplin are its most famous wearers, the Toothbrush has a long history behind it. The "˜stache first came to Europe at the end of the 19th century on Americans, who wore it as a response to Europeans' beloved primped and pimped Kaiser mustache. Elaborate and ornate was out, streamlined and efficient was in. In terms of personal grooming, the Toothbrush mustache was the assembly line, the steam engine, and the cotton gin all rolled into one, a revolutionary invention that would topple the old ways.

Shortly after its introduction, the Toothbrush was adopted by Hans Koeppen, a Prussian military lieutenant who was something of folk hero, and exploded into German culture. There are conflicting theories as to whether Hitler grew one then to latch onto the trend, or if he trimmed down his Kaiser during the World War I because it didn't fit under the gas mask he had to wear in the trenches. Either way, by the time he took lead of the Nazi Party, Hitler had grown attached to the Toothbrush and when one of his underlings advised he grow it out "at least to the end of the lips," he responded, "If it is not the fashion now, it will be later because I wear it."

Of course, the best laid plans of mustaches and men often go awry. After WWII, the toothbrush was taboo, a hairy scarlet letter, the stylistic equivalent of shouting anti-Semitic slurs in a crowded theater. Today, the mustache belongs to Chaplin and Hitler alone. To grow it to emulate the former, though, still incites all the rage and hatred the world shares for the latter. Hitler was certainly not the only one to wear the noble little hair square, but he made the mustache, burned it into our collective consciousness, and forever ruined it for the rest of us.

2. Ambrose Burnsides and the Sideburns

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Ambrose Everett Burnside wore many hats, but only one style of facial hair. He was Union Army general in the American Civil War, leading successful campaigns in North Carolina and East Tennessee. He was a businessman, serving as president of the Cincinnati and Martinsville Railroad, the Indianapolis and Vincennes Railroad, and the Rhode Island Locomotive Works. He was Governor of Rhode Island for three terms and a Senator for two. He was the first president of the National Rifle Association.
Despite all this though, many of us only remember one thing about him: sideburns are named after him.

With Burnsides, the man and the hair (yes, technically it's not a mustache, so sue me) are so intertwined that it's hard to tell where one ends and one begins. Burnsides' sideburns are untouchable, the archetypal chops from which sprang everyone from Elvis to Luke Perry. He defined the style (the exact configuration of hair he wore, basically a full beard with a clean-shaven chin, is now known as friendly mutton chops), and, in turn, it defined him. Burnsides, you see, wasn't all that great at all the jobs he held. He was a mediocre businessman, did nothing of note in political office and despite some success on the battlefield, he was disliked by Abraham Lincoln and hated by the rest of the military brass. Those wonderful whiskers saved his legacy, though. Every man (and, unfortunately, woman) who lets a patch of hair grow in front of their ears owes him a great debt and the world will always remember him for at least one thing.

3. Fu Manchu and the"¦oh, you know

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The evil genius Fu Manchu: antagonist for a series of novels and films; one of the earliest examples of the super villain; namesake of the upside-down hair horseshoe we know as the Fu Manchu mustache.

Today, we associate the mustache we two types of people: movie characters that are gross stereotypes of Asians, and guys from "˜70s rock bands (or contemporary bands that ape "˜70s rock bands). Whenever we see a member either group, we know the mustache and we know the man, even if we've never actually seen or read anything featuring him. The mustache is Fu Manchu for many people.

Here's the kicker though, Fu Manchu didn't have a mustache. In his first appearance, in the novel The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu, he was described as "tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan." That sounds like the Fu we know, but when the hero gets his first look at the good doctor later on, he says, "I looked up to his face "“ his wicked, hairless face."

Wait, what?

Turns out that Warner Oland, the first actor to portray Dr. Fu Manchu on film, had a mustache and kept it while he played the part (a la Cesar Romero in the Batman TV series). For the sake of continuity, Boris Karloff wore a fake mustache when he took the part. Fans dug it and the "˜stache became iconic. So, novelist Sax Rohmer's most famous character became forever known for something his creator never intended "“ a mustache that has become a cultural force in its own right.

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Noriyuki Saitoh
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Art
Japanese Artist Crafts Intricate Insects Using Bamboo
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Noriyuki Saitoh

Not everyone finds insects beautiful. Some people think of them as scary, disturbing, or downright disgusting. But when Japanese artist Noriyuki Saitoh looks at a discarded cicada shell or a feeding praying mantis, he sees inspiration for his next creation.

Saitoh’s sculptures, spotted over at Colossal, are crafted by hand from bamboo. He uses the natural material to make some incredibly lifelike pieces. In one example, three wasps perch on a piece of honeycomb. In another, two mating dragonflies create a heart shape with their abdomens.

The figures he creates aren’t meant to be exact replicas of real insects. Rather, Saitoh starts his process with a list of dimensions and allows room for creativity when fine-tuning the appearances. The sense of movement and level of detail he puts into each sculpture is what makes them look so convincing.

You can browse the artist’s work on his website or follow him on social media for more stunning samples from his portfolio.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

[h/t Colossal]

All images courtesy of Noriyuki Saitoh.

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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History
P.G. Wodehouse's Exile from England
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

You don’t get more British than Jeeves and Wooster. The P.G. Wodehouse characters are practically synonymous with elevenses and Pimm’s. But in 1947, their creator left England for the U.S. and never looked back.

Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, better known as P.G., was living in northern France and working on his latest Jeeves and Wooster novel, Joy in the Morning, when the Nazis came knocking. They occupied his estate for a period of time before shipping him off to an internment camp in Germany, which he later said he found pretty pleasant:

“Everybody seems to think a German internment camp must be a sort of torture chamber. It was really perfectly normal and ordinary. The camp had an extraordinarily nice commander, and we did all sorts of things, you know. We played cricket, that sort of thing. Of course, I was writing all the time.”

Wodehouse was there for 11 months before being suddenly released to a hotel in Berlin where a man from the German foreign office named Werner Plack was waiting to meet him. Wodehouse was somewhat acquainted with Plack from a stint in Hollywood, so finding him waiting didn't seem out of the ordinary. Plack advised Wodehouse to use his time in the internment camp to his advantage, and suggested writing a radio series about his experiences to be broadcast in America.

As Plack probably suspected, Wodehouse’s natural writing style meant that his broadcasts were light-hearted affairs about playing cricket and writing novels, This didn’t sit too well with the British, who believed Wodehouse was trying to downplay the horrors of the war. The writer was shocked when MI5 subjected him to questioning about the “propaganda” he wrote for the Germans. "I thought that people, hearing the talks, would admire me for having kept cheerful under difficult conditions," he told them in 1944. "I would like to conclude by saying that I never had any intention of assisting the enemy and that I have suffered a great deal of mental pain as the result of my action."

Wodehouse's contemporary George Orwell came to his aid, penning a 1945 an essay called “In Defense of P.G. Wodehouse." Sadly, it didn’t do much to sway public opinion. Though MI5 ultimately decided not to prosecute, it seemed that British citizens had already made up their minds, with some bookstores and libraries even removing all Wodehouse material from their shelves. Seeing the writing on the wall, the author and his wife packed up all of their belongings and moved to New York in 1947. They never went back to England.

But that’s not to say Wodehouse didn’t want to. In 1973, at the age of 91, he expressed interest in returning. “I’d certainly like to, but at my age it’s awfully difficult to get a move on. But I’d like to go back for a visit in the spring. They all seem to want me to go back. The trouble is that I’ve never flown. I suppose that would solve everything."

Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack before he could make the trip. But the author bore no ill will toward his native country. When The Paris Review interviewed Wodehouse in 1973, they asked if he resented the way he was treated by the English. “Oh, no, no, no. Nothing of that sort. The whole thing seems to have blown over now,” he said.  He was right—the Queen bestowed Wodehouse with a knighthood two months before his death, showing that all was forgiven.

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