January 17, 2013

"The toothbrush moustache (also called Hitler moustache, Charlie Chaplin moustache, 1/3 moustache, philtrum moustache, the postage stamp, or soul (mou)stache)..."

"... is a moustache, shaved at the edges, except for three to five centimeters above the centre of the lip. The sides of the moustache are vertical rather than tapered."

I found this Wikipedia article — "Toothbrush moustache" — last night after asserting that Hitler adopted the Hilter mustache to emulate Charlie Chaplin. The topic came up in connection with the array of photographs — Obama/Hitler/Stalin — that we're talking about in the previous post. Meade didn't believe me, and my belief — even if it's wrong — is at least common enough that I could easily do the research. (A couple weeks ago, the roles were reversed: Meade asserted a misconception common enough to have a Snopes article declaring it false.)

So, according to Wikipedia, the toothbrush mustache "originally became popular in America in the late 19th century."
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, Pencil and Fantastico moustaches.
Brought on by industrialization? Is that some stray unsupported — Marxist? — opinion that needs editing out of Wikipedia? There is a citation. It's to a 2007 Vanity Fair article by Rich Cohen called "Becoming Adolf" ("Hitler's Toothbrush mustache is one of the most powerful symbols of the last century, an inch of hair that represents infinite evil. The author had his reasons for deciding to wear one.") All Cohen says is that the toothbrush mustache was "a bit of modern efficiency," replacing the old style mustache, which paralleled the way "the old, monarchical world... was about to be crushed by the rising tide of assembly-line America."

There's a big sidetrack here about whether the taste for the modern — clean lines, low ornamentation — corresponds to a loss of individuality inherent in assembly line production. And we've got to get back to the question at hand: whether Hitler adopted the mustache to look like Chaplin. But I must take this sidetrack long enough to say that in the 1940 movie "The Great Dictator," when Chaplin exploits his resemblance to Hitler by playing a Hitler character and a Jewish man who looks like him, he concludes with a big speech that is mostly about overcoming, not fascism, but machines.
[M]achinery that gives abundance has left us in want.... More than machinery we need humanity.... Don't give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not machines....
(I've read Chaplin's Autobiography, and it is full of fretting about modern machines. (And in the movie "Modern Times," the Chaplin character goes nuts doing assembly line work and then gets caught up inside a big machine.))

Now, back to the question: Did Hitler try to look like Chaplin? I'm sticking with the Rich Cohen article, because the writing is better than Wikipedia's generic style.
Ron Rosenbaum, perhaps the only historian to give the mustache its proper due, fixes its appearance with confidence. "It was Chaplin's first, before Hitler's," he writes in an essay from The Secret Parts of Fortune. "Chaplin adopted a little black crepe blot beneath the nose for his Mack Sennett silent comedies after 1915, Hitler didn't adopt his until late 1919...."
But, Cohen says, there's some conflicting material. Someone who served with Hitler in WWI wrote an essay saying he cut a bigger mustache down so it would fit under the gas mask. And then there's Hitler's sister-in-law Bridget.
Bridget Hitler was Irish and lived in Liverpool, where, according to the memoir, the young Adolf spent a lost winter. 
I'm reading this out loud and Meade shouts "The Fifth Beatle!" — which suggests a fantastico idea for a photoshop using this iconic early Beatles pic, adding Hitler, and dabbing the Fab Four with little black smudges across the philtrum. I continue with the dubious tale of Bridget Hitler:
Bridget (or whoever) says she often bickered with her brother-in-law. Because he was disagreeable, but mostly because she could not stand his unruly 'stache. In one of the great inadvertent summaries of historical character, she writes that in this, as in everything, he went too far.
The year in question was 1912–13. So we're currently observing the 100th anniversary of the mustache, if Bridget Hitler — not the gas mask or Chaplin — inspired distinctive shaving.  But we do know that...
[Hitler] was wearing the Toothbrush at the first Nazi meetings, when there were just a few people in a room full of empty chairs. One day, an early financial supporter of the Nazi Party advised Hitler to grow out his mustache. He did this delicately but firmly, in the manner of a man trying to protect an investment. The mustache made the Nazi look freakish. Hitler was advised to grow it at least "to the end of the lips." Hitler was a vain man, and you can almost feel him bristle. Here's what Hitler said: "If it is not the fashion now, it will be later because I wear it."
The exact opposite became true: It can never be in fashion, because he wore it. You can't even indulge a love of Chaplin, because as Rich Cohen puts is: "If you dress like Chaplin, you run the risk of being mistaken for Hitler, as, if you dress like Evel Knievel, as I do when it rains, you run the risk of being mistaken for Elvis."
Ron Rosenbaum argues that the presence of Chaplin's 'stache on Hitler's face encouraged Western leaders to underestimate the Führer. "Chaplin's mustache became a lens through which to look at Hitler," he writes. "A glass in which Hitler became merely Chaplinesque: a figure to be mocked more than feared, a comic villain whose pretensions would collapse of his own disproportionate weight like the Little Tramp collapsing on his cane. Someone to be ridiculed rather than resisted."
So, it can't be ascertained whether Hitler first shaved his mustache down because of Chaplin, but the resemblance to Chaplin certainly mattered. I think it's more likely that Hitler was not trying to look like Chaplin — even if it's true that Hitler — like most people — loved Chaplin. First: Why would a political leader choose to look like a clown? Even if it helped him to have some people not take him seriously, he needed to be taken seriously to acquire power. Second: The toothbrush mustache was a big fashion in Germany early enough that the New York Times published an item in 1907: "'Toothbrush' Mustache/German Women Resent Its Usurpation of the 'Kaiserbart.'"
"Man is naturally very ugly," [wrote one German woman.] "The only natural adornment he ever had was his mustache, and that he is now ruthlessly mutilating. Instead of the peaceful hirsute ornament of the past he is marring his face with a lot of bristles."
Peaceful! An interesting association. To bristle is — I'm quoting the OED — "to display temper or indignation, to 'show fight.'" Imagine blaming the mustache. But that is how some people like to think. It's not the human being, but the inanimate thing that is the source of evil. Cohen lampoons that kind of thinking:
... I had seen Richard Dawkins, the author of The God Delusion, interviewed by Bill O'Reilly, who, citing Stalin and Hitler, said he thought atheists, because of their lack of restraining faith, were more susceptible to evil. To which Dawkins (in essence) replied: both Stalin and Hitler wore mustaches — do we therefore think the mustache was the cause of their behavior? I experienced this as an epiphany: By Jove! I said to myself. It was the mustache!

54 comments:

Darrell said...

So Hitler WAS a Progresssive.

Salamandyr said...

It should be noted that Hitler was not an atheist, but a pagan.

Paul Zrimsek said...

First: Why would a political leader choose to look like a clown?

He wanted to be Secretary of the Treasury?

Darrell said...

First: Why would a political leader choose to look like a clown?

It helps if you act like one. Case in point: Joe Biden.

Brew Master said...

Hasn't Michael Jordan tried sporting the 'toothbrush'?

http://www.google.com/search?q=michael+jordan+mustache&hl=en&tbo=u&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ei=Rjv4UPyRGY_xqQHmu4CYCw&sqi=2&ved=0CC0QsAQ&biw=1600&bih=652

EMD said...

Jordan has paired it with the flavor saver for a non-Hitler look.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@Salamandyr:It should be noted that Hitler was not an atheist, but a pagan.

Lapsed Catholic, actually. Hitler's public statements gave lip service to a sort of muscular Christianity, and he had an official Reich Bishop for the official state church.

His true thoughts are known only to God, but I strongly suspect that fundamentally he worshiped only himself. However, he was as much a Christian as the vast majority of those who describe themselves as such, in that he wasn't very observant and not able to discuss fine points of doctrine intelligibly.

You have as much reason to call Hitler a Christian as you have Bill Clinton, George Bush, or Barack Obama.

CachorroQuente said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
YoungHegelian said...

What was Chaplin thinking when he denounced mechanization in The Great Dictator? Was he thinking of Italian Fascism & its pro-technology fellow travelers like Marinetti?

It's weird because among Italian Fascism, Bolshevism, & National Socialism, the folks who were far & away the least comfortable with industrialization were the National Socialists.

ricpic said...

The biggest laugh of the previous post is that Althouse believes Hitler posed with little girls and boys to "humanize himself." Hitler was LOVED by the German people, widely and deeply. That love persisted at least till Stalingrad and for many to the very end. Only the Junker class had contempt for the little former corporal. And they harbored the illusion that they could "manage" him, right up to the outbreak of WW II. But history, who needs it?

Mary Beth said...

No "Archer" fans quoting him saying, "Why was I dressed as Hitler?"

sydney said...

I hate mustaches in all of their forms.

Sternhammer said...

I've seen pictures of Hitler before the Great War, he had a big handlebar. According to Keegan's great history of WW2, Hitler did indeed shave it to fit under a gas mask.

After the war he continued to wear it like that to emphasize his status as a veteran. That was a big part of his political appeal, that he was one of the WW1 soldiers betrayed by the German leadership, liberals, disloyal Jews, etc. That mustache was the equivalent of Markos Molitsas always bragging about how he used to wear combat boots.

Unlike certain bloggers, Hitler had an extreme record of bravery. Iron Cross, first class. That roughly equal to a Congressional Medal of Honor. He was a mendelganger -- a messanger who ran from officer to officer with notes under fire, since they didn't have radios small enough to use at the front. Like Mel Gibson in "Gallipoli."

According to Keegan (in a different book, "Face of Battle") members of closely knit units suffer psychological damage if they hit 10% casualties. Permanent severe mental damage if they get over 25% casualties. Hitler's outfit, a regiment made up of bpoys from elite Austrian private schools, hit 150% casualties. 3/4 of the guys got killed, they replaced them, and then 3/4 got killed again. An experience like that can really change a guy.

Ann Althouse said...

"Hasn't Michael Jordan tried sporting the 'toothbrush'?"

That's discussed in the Wikipedia article I linked to.

Mitchell the Bat said...

It was a neat, uniform, low-maintenance style that echoed the standardization and uniformity brought on by industrialization, . . .

I take that to say that industrialization caused an increase in standardization and uniformity and that the toothbrush moustache was more consistent with that than the other styles because it was comparatively neat, uniform and low-maintenance.

I don't see the problem.

Mitch H. said...

I have to agree with Gabriel, sort of. While Hitler was probably on the bureaucratic rolls as Catholic, and while there were a lot of goofy-ass pagans running around the National Socialist party headquarters, he seems to have been essentially irreligious. Probably not actually atheistic, because he was the sort to associate that with "Jewish" Communism, but basically a worshiper of self and race.

Ann Althouse said...

"ricpic said..."the biggest laugh of the previous post is that Althouse believes Hitler posed with little girls and boys to "humanize himself."

That quote doesn't even appear in my post, nor does any statement like that, so your big laughing comes across as quite insane. Care to walk that back into something that makes sense?

I said: "The implicit argument the political leader makes, in all 3 of these pictures, is: I'm making the country good for the sake of the children. The child can't vouch for the policies. The child hasn't competently requested anything. The child is merely a prop representing goodness, innocence, and the future."

If you're laughing at something stupid you think I believe, you'd better say why in words that have something more to do with what I've written.

Phil said...

I tried a handlebar design
My Fu Manchu was real fine
My Ronald Colman made 'em blink
My Pancho Villa made 'em think
But when I trimmed it real small
My Jewish friends would never call

Darrell said...

If you're laughing at something stupid you think I believe, you'd better say why in words that have something more to do with what I've written.

Have you even met the internet? Next you're going to tell us that politeness is a requisite.

Lem said...

Brew Master try HTML

Phil said...

I tried a handlebar design
My Fu Manchu was real fine
My Ronald Colman made 'em blink
My Pancho Villa made 'em think
But when I trimmed it real small
My Jewish friends would never call

Coleman Nee said...

The idea that it was the moustache that made him do it remined me of this old Kids in the Hall sketch, The Beard.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYuOurhglz8

Mick Havoc said...

When Rubens Barrichello was on Top Gear he told Jeremy Clarkson that in his home country they call a "Brazilian" a "Hitler"

ricpic said...

Y ou're right, Althouse, you didn't write "humanize himself," and I apologize. That said, the purport of - "The implicit argument the political leaders make in all 3 of these pictures [Hitler included] is: I'm making the country good for the sake of the children...the child is merely a prop representing goodness, innocence, and the future." - the purport is that the pol is humanizing himself by using the child as a prop. That inference is so strong in what you wrote that "she's saying that Hitler humanized himself by way of a child prop" immediately sprang into my mind. And I stand by that conclusion.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I am saying that Hitler was well established as a beloved figure in the pre-war days. He didn't have to use kids as props to advance his agenda.

The Drill SGT said...

"John has a long mustache, I repeat, John has a long moustache"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePzwg0LyYL0

McTriumph said...

Hitler was raised Catholic, he was a alter boy and when very young considered the priesthood, but what alter boy hasn't.
Hitler had no religion by the time he came to power, but he knew how to use it. Interestingly, you won't be able to find photo ops of Hitler with Christian leaders, but you can with muslim leaders.

The Drill SGT said...

ricpic said...
At the risk of beating a dead horse, I am saying that Hitler was well established as a beloved figure in the pre-war days. He didn't have to use kids as props to advance his agenda.


His method of course was 'identity politics' and 'us versus them'

Likely it depends on what year you are talking about as to whether you saw him as beloved, or whether you were this year's designated enemy of Das Volk.

Given that Dachau opened as a camp for politicals 51 days after Hitler came to power....

And of course the Austrians and Czechs likely weren't happy to be part of Greater Germany in '38.

Chip Ahoy said...

The second element to the Hitler iconography is his sharply divided part to severe short hair. Analog to Chaplain's hat, if you must. Those two things together, hair and mustache make the Hitler logo in three brush strokes in black ink; hair, whap, whap, mustache, zip. Voilà! Hitler. I drew that just for you.

But that's not what I want to say.

I have a confession to make.

Every time I see that spas sign something the sight forces me to behave very childishly, I'm so embarrassed, it's good I live alone, nobody would tolerate my foolishness, I slip into an imitation that I cannot control. Exaggerated beyond reason. I arch my whole left arm around in front of me as if signing as if plunking something wooden on a table, like signing is some big fucking deal and takes up the whole left arm and the entire signing table and knocks everything else off because I have to get my cerebral palsy hand in position at the center, the body adapting to the need of the clawed hand, with a clumsily held invisible gigantic pen out of control and with my tongue hanging out slobbering all over the place spastically act out scratching my name is if with a knife into wood and then flinging my arm up still locked in its arced position and clamped with a crab claw hand but flipped up mechanically, I spit, "Look every body I signed my name !!!! ahh ahh ahhh ahhh ahh slobber ahhh ahh."

Look kids, *smack* high five *smack *

edutcher said...

Oy!

Almost universally known as the Charlie Chaplin, there are pictures of Al with his longer 'stache in the hospital after being gassed (October '18), and it was still rather Peter Sellers after he trimmed it, so the Chaplin look came later.

PS Interesting to note Darby's Rangers competed to have the longest handlebars possible while in North Africa.

Patton ruined everybody's fun.

Molly said...

Doubt very much that Hitler intended to look like Charlie Chaplin. He certainly didn't appreciate it when Chaplin made "The Great Dictator," which (no surprise)was banned in Germany.

Chip S. said...

Funny how the landing strip turned out to be a much better look for women than for men.

I wonder if Geraldine Chaplin sported one.

edutcher said...

No, nowhere near enough flavor.

wyo sis said...

Chip Ahoy
I'll never be able to look at a signing ceremony without giggling now.

Robert Cook said...

"It's weird because among Italian Fascism, Bolshevism, & National Socialism, the folks who were far & away the least comfortable with industrialization were the National Socialists."

What does this mean? How do you know if any of these cohorts were not comfortable with industrialization, and, if they were, how have you determined that the Nazis were the least comfortable with industrialization? Shit, any country intent on conquering the world, or even a great part of it, had better be comfortable with industrialization or their goose is going to be cooked!

Quaestor said...

The history of Hitler's lip hair in a nutshell.

Personally I think he choose that style because he thought it was flattering. Hitler thought he needed a moustache to round out his features. His in-the-trenches handlebar was too old fashioned for an up-and-coming pol in the Roaring Twenties; the pencil was too upper class. Thus the toothbrush, the choice of many a working-class German of the day.

And why posit Chaplin as Hitler's hair model? Why not this guy?

Here's a chart of facial hair types. Interestingly the toothbrush is not among them.

Robert Cook said...

"Funny how the landing strip turned out to be a much better look for women than for men."

No, the landing strip is not a good look for anyone. Either go full bush or completely bare...anything in between is just wrong.

Robert Cook said...

"Doubt very much that Hitler intended to look like Charlie Chaplin. He certainly didn't appreciate it when Chaplin made "The Great Dictator," which (no surprise)was banned in Germany."

Hitler was reportedly a big fan of Chaplin. The banning of THE GREAT DICTATOR likely had to do with Chaplin's having set his sights on Hitler with this film rather than on any a priori antipathy toward Chaplin by Hitler.

David said...

Molly, The Great Dictator was made well after Hitler adopted the mustache.

Hitler often posed with children, very beautiful children. They were the idealized view of a group of German children just as the multiracial, scrubbed, respectful troupe of children recruited for Obama are idealized Americans.

No, I do not believe that Obama is like Hitler. I will believe that when Obama starts sending out Christmas cards of himself with the attractive children of strangers, like Hitler did.

Though he is not comprehensively "like" Hitler Obama using children as props on national TV is obnoxious.

David said...

Perhaps Lincoln should have gathered about a covey of emancipated slave children on January 1, 1863. What a missed opportunity. Then Lincoln would be like Obama, which surely her would have wished to be.

ricpic said...

Funny how the landing strip turned out to be a much better look for women than for men.

Peter is not amused.

Quaestor said...

Hitler was reportedly a big fan of Chaplin.

Is this really likely? I'd like to see the scholarship on this point (this not intended as a personal disparagement, Cook).

If he was a "big fan" I suppose he amended his views somewhere along the line. Evidence

Inga said...

Wow, I sure hope none of you good folks have children with cerebral palsy.

Quaestor said...

The banning of THE GREAT DICTATOR likely had to do with Chaplin's having set his sights on Hitler with this film rather than on any a priori antipathy toward Chaplin by Hitler.

It's even more likely that the films of Charlie Chaplin, being Jewish, were banned in compliance with the Nuremberg Laws.,

Inga said...

Or teach children with cerebral palsy, if you found that in any way humorous.

Quaestor said...

Inga wrote:
Wow, I sure hope none of you good folks have children with cerebral palsy.

Behold Inga, the walking talking non sequitur.

YoungHegelian said...

@Robert Cook,

What does this mean? How do you know if any of these cohorts were not comfortable with industrialization

Uhhh, because I read about the history of ideologies.

You comment presupposes because that because the Nazis prepared for war, they were ideologically comfortable with the industrialization that went along with it. No, they needed industry and technology to do what needed to be done, as the future of the German race was at stake, but, unlike the Bolsheviks, they were very uncomfortable with industrialization & especially urbanization.

The Nature worship that infests German 19th C. Romanticism carries on into the 20th century, and into German right wing thought. A movement that fetishized "purity of blood & soil" like NS could have have problems with industrial change that disrupted the rhythms & ways of of "authentic German" rural life.

A quote from Nazi fellow traveler, Martin Heidegger puts it succintly:

The works that are being peddled about nowadays as the philosophy of National Socialism.., have nothing to do with the inner truth & greatness of this movement (namely the encounter between global technology & modern man)...

(An Introduction to Metaphysics, pg 199, R. Manheim, trans)

Quaestor said...

The Nature worship that infests German 19th C. Romanticism carries on into the 20th century, and into German right wing thought.

Very true. A rather straight line can be drawn between the pre-WWI Wandervogelers (a romantic proto-environmentalism) and the Nazi movement, particularly among the Hitler Youth leaders.

Hilter himself wasn't much of an ideologue -- whatever served to gain him power or help him keep it was useful. The real romantics were his myrmidons, Himmler and Goebbels particularly. Himmler even went so far as to design a future society for a post-conquest Russia: native Slavs enslaved to an SS peasantry.

Balfegor said...

Re: Robert Cook:

What does this mean? How do you know if any of these cohorts were not comfortable with industrialization, and, if they were, how have you determined that the Nazis were the least comfortable with industrialization?

How? Because we can read. They were all actual political movements with political platforms that showed up in their leaders' speeches and writing. We know Communists were comfortable with industrialisation because within communist theory, industrialisation is an essential feature of the transition from the feudal agrarian economy to capitalism, and thus a necessary precondition to the prophesied transition to communism. This gave the Bolsheviks a bit of trouble since Russia was not really an industrialised state when they took over, but resolving that tension (e.g. through the NEP) was one of the key developments in Marxism-Leninism, no?

The Nazis are more of a mixed bag. Hitler himself seems to have viewed the struggle of the worker against capital in conventionally Left terms, but his solution to the problem was a totalising National Socialist state which would incorporate and embody all industrial labour and capital, rather than turning back time to the idealised agrarian past (or factional communist struggle). But there was a strong strain of mystic anti-industrialism in the Nazi movement later on, particularly with Himmler and the SS, though it's not clear (to me) that it ever really went anywhere. If you search for "Himmler and Agrarian" you'll find reams of stuff about his romantic agrarian vision of Greater Germany.

I don't know exactly where the fascists fit, but Mussolini talked and wrote a great deal, so shouldn't be hard to figure out where he stood. I don't think fascism ever relied on that kind of folkish neo-pagan belief-system, so probably not all that uncomfortable with industrialisation.

The Godfather said...

Well I might go get me a new tatoo or
Take my old Harley for a three day cruise
Might even grow me a fu manchu

And it's a great day to be alive

AllenS said...

Anyone have a mustache like a young AllenS?

Bird not included. Do you know how steady of a hand that you have to have to carve that every day?


Bob said...

There was a fine article on the Hitler mustache in Vanity Fair, November 2007.

(My maternal grandfather, a German immigrant, wore a toothbrush his entire life.)

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Was it the mustache?

When you have a full beard, you tend to stroke it. And that of course is associated with analytical thinking. In the classic Rodin pose, The Thinker has a beard.

When you just have a mustache, the strokes are less frequent and shorter. That may be less stimulative to the thought process.

Quaestor said...

The Thinker has a beard.

He does? I've seen two of the original castings and I do not recall a beard.

Chip S. said...

Monti Te'o had a beard, but he's not much of a thinker.