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Carol the Dabbler

Dr. Watson's mustache

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In "Charles Augustus Milverson," the original Dr. Watson is described by an onlooker (and again by Holmes) as having a mustache, so we know that he had one then.  But Watson is deliberately coy about when those events took place, so the best we can say with certainty is that they occurred no later than 1904, when the account was first published.

However I just came across an article which contains this passage:

By the 1860s, moustaches were finally compulsory for all the [British] Armed Forces and they became as much an emblem for the Armed Forces as the Army uniform.  In 1916, the regulation was dropped....

In A Study in Scarlet, Watson tells us this:

In the year 1878 I took my degree of Doctor of Medicine of the University of London, and proceeded to Netley to go through the course prescribed for surgeons in the army.

Therefore we know that Watson must have had a mustache by the time he was commissioned, which occurred no earlier than 1878, well after the mustache regulation took effect.  So he definitely had a mustache during his years in the army, which lasted until shortly before he met Holmes.  And we know that he had a mustache during events that occurred at some subsequent time before 1904.  So it seems probable that the mustache persisted during the intervening twenty-some years, and was therefore not just Sidney Paget's way of distinguishing Watson from Holmes in his illustrations.

All discussion of Watson's mustache (whether in canon or otherwise) is welcome here.

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19 hours ago, Carol the Dabbler said:

In "Charles Augustus Milverson," the original Dr. Watson is described by an onlooker (and again by Holmes) as having a mustache, so we know that he had one then.  But Watson is deliberately coy about when those events took place, so the best we can say with certainty is that they occurred no later than 1904, when the account was first published.

However I just came across an article which contains this passage:

 

 

In A Study in Scarlet, Watson tells us this:

 

 

Therefore we know that Watson must have had a mustache by the time he was commissioned, which occurred no earlier than 1878, well after the mustache regulation took effect.  So he definitely had a mustache during his years in the army, which lasted until shortly before he met Holmes.  And we know that he had a mustache during events that occurred at some subsequent time before 1904.  So it seems probable that the mustache persisted during the intervening twenty-some years, and was therefore not just Sidney Paget's way of distinguishing Watson from Holmes in his illustrations.

All discussion of Watson's mustache (whether in canon or otherwise) is welcome here.

I never knew that mustaches were compulsory in the British armed forces.   Interesting.   I'm surprised that it wasn't full beards, if the thought behind this was that daily shaving would have been an unnecessary distraction to men in the field as well as a waste of precious commodities like water and soap.  Particularly in desert warfare, shaving water would have been wasted.

Interesting that the pendulum swung the other way and in another generation, facial hair would be disallowed for soldiers in uniform.  Hygiene and also safety reasons , as well as aesthetic. . facial hair can become infested with  lice, catch fire & give an enemy a hand-hold in close combat., not to mention looking unkempt in a very short time without constant maintenance.  In my local police department, facial hair was banned until a couple of years ago, when the new police chief had a mustache.  Then he got indicted for theft in office and now we're back to a clean-shaven guy.

Dr. Watson is, beyond being a medical man, presented as the very model of a conventional Victorian gentleman.  This is his role, to be a foil for the very unconventional Victorian pseudo-gentleman, Holmes.  In the Victorian and Edwardian eras, mustaches on men were the rule rather than the exception, across the board, for civilians as well as military.  Growing a mustache was a rite of passage for a young man to announce that he was of his majority and not a kid anymore.   Dr. Watson would have been unconventional had he not had a mustache . . .hence, Sherlock Holmes's clean-shaven face except when he glues whiskers on for a disguise.  :)

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