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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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I wish mustaches would make a comeback now. I grew one a couple of years ago when I was really fed up with work and didn't care if I got 'stuck on' for looking scruffy. I grew it really long and waxed the ends, and curled them up -  it looked brilliant, I have loads of photos - I looked like a proper Victorian headmaster or something. I shaved my head too.  I felt it gave me a real sense of presence!  Looked a bit like Conan Doyle come to think of it! My employer didn't care one way or the other though, so when I changed jobs I trimmed it back to 'normal' size and grew a beard to balance it out as I didn' t think the interview panel  from my prospective new employer would appreciate a pseudo-Victorian themed applicant and would prefer someone a bit more 'normal'.

 I remember when I was younger, only weirdos had beards, but now whenever I'm in a meeting I count the number of men who have beards, and they nearly always outnumber the ones who don't. Hopefully mustaches will come back soon. That'd be so cool.  

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1 hour ago, Galgatean said:

I wish mustaches would make a comeback now. I grew one a couple of years ago when I was really fed up with work and didn't care if I got 'stuck on' for looking scruffy. I grew it really long and waxed the ends, and curled them up -  it looked brilliant, I have loads of photos - I looked like a proper Victorian headmaster or something. I shaved my head too.  I felt it gave me a real sense of presence!  Looked a bit like Conan Doyle come to think of it! My employer didn't care one way or the other though, so when I changed jobs I trimmed it back to 'normal' size and grew a beard to balance it out as I didn' t think the interview panel  from my prospective new employer would appreciate a pseudo-Victorian themed applicant and would prefer someone a bit more 'normal'.

 I remember when I was younger, only weirdos had beards, but now whenever I'm in a meeting I count the number of men who have beards, and they nearly always outnumber the ones who don't. Hopefully mustaches will come back soon. That'd be so cool.  

It depends on the face, of course, but in general I really like the way facial hair looks on a man.  Now that you mention it, I don't recall seeing any mustaches w/o beards lately.  The fellows I used to know who had them are now either clean-shaven or fully bearded.  I'm all in favor of variety!

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Hm. One of my art buds has a mustache. He's about the only guy I can think of who does. The building supervisor at work grew a mile long beard, but he's clean shaven (like just about everyone else) now. Onset of spring, perhaps? It strikes me that a beard could be a bit uncomfortable in our very humid summers? At any rate, I don't see them much either. Odd, never thought about it before. Beards were common where I lived before. But that was the '70's....

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What I may be seeing most now is those is-that-a-beard-or-did-you-just-forget-to-shave situations that were apparently popularized by Miami Vice.  As long as they're tidy, and (like any facial hair) on the right face -- well, I guess I'm finally starting to get used to them.

Alex's boss has a beard.  But Alex agrees that he's not seeing many beards these days, and perhaps even fewer solo mustaches.

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14 hours ago, Carol the Dabbler said:

What I may be seeing most now is those is-that-a-beard-or-did-you-just-forget-to-shave situations that were apparently popularized by Miami Vice.  As long as they're tidy, and (like any facial hair) on the right face -- well, I guess I'm finally starting to get used to them.

Alex's boss has a beard.  But Alex agrees that he's not seeing many beards these days, and perhaps even fewer solo mustaches.

I don't know if it's a regional thing or an age-demographic thing, but my experience has been the opposite.  In the last few years,  I have observed that beards and mustaches, but particularly beards, have made a major comeback.  It mostly seems to be among younger men, aged about 18 to 40.  Aka, the Millennials and the Post-Millennials.  Along with a general decline in grooming/hygiene in general among this age group, both male and female.

Now, I do work in an urban public library in a disadvantaged community, so my observations will reflect this.  I wouldn't expect to see so many scruffy-looking people if I lived in, say, Hartford, Connecticut.   But I am not really including our patrons here, many of whom are indigent or else living at the bottom of the socioeconomic scale, where housing and amenities are tenuous at best.  This trend toward a lax attitude toward appearance seems pervasive.   My boss had to speak to one employee about her noticeable body odor, and this person was 26 years old, with a master's degree.  Another candidate in her late 20s with a masters' turned up for her interview wearing a tight, way too short, plunging mini dress that looked like club attire and accessorized this with chipped  neon-blue nail polish and bare legs.  It was hard for me to believe that anyone would think that that was a good look for a professional interview, even in today's more relaxed sartorial culture.

I realize that neither of those examples are relevant to beards, but among men under 40 that I see on a regular basis, I'd say beards are outpacing clean-shaven by 3-1.  And today's beards are not the carefully (nearly obsessively) groomed stubble/goatees of the '80s and '90s.  Nope, these are face-tufty, matted, got pieces of food or lint stuck in them Chia pet facial growths, untouched by razor or comb and often accessorized by black-framed hipster glasses.  A lot of the men I see seem to be emulating the mountain man Duck Dynasty look, or maybe ZZ Top.  For what it's worth, that's what I see from here.

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I'd guess it's an age-related thing.  I retired early, so I no longer see people at work, and most of my friends are older than the demographic you're talking about.

I do recall one fellow who showed up for a job interview wearing bicycle shorts.  Admittedly he was a college student applying for a part-time job, and admittedly he was such an impressive candidate that I would have hired him anyhow (if my boss hadn't overruled me, which is another story).  And that was way back in the late 80's, so maybe your mini-skirted gal is nothing new.  A few years later, a fresh-out-of-college software engineer showed up for his first day of work wearing a three-piece navy blue pin-stripe suit and wing-tip shoes -- but immediately realized his error when he saw what the rest of us were wearing, and dressed far more casually thereafter.  So perhaps it's just that college students have no idea what's normal attire in the business world.

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On 4/12/2019 at 3:57 PM, Carol the Dabbler said:

I'd guess it's an age-related thing.  I retired early, so I no longer see people at work, and most of my friends are older than the demographic you're talking about.

I do recall one fellow who showed up for a job interview wearing bicycle shorts.  Admittedly he was a college student applying for a part-time job, and admittedly he was such an impressive candidate that I would have hired him anyhow (if my boss hadn't overruled me, which is another story).  And that was way back in the late 80's, so maybe your mini-skirted gal is nothing new.  A few years later, a fresh-out-of-college software engineer showed up for his first day of work wearing a three-piece navy blue pin-stripe suit and wing-tip shoes -- but immediately realized his error when he saw what the rest of us were wearing, and dressed far more casually thereafter.  So perhaps it's just that college students have no idea what's normal attire in the business world.

Well, good for that young man in over- rather than under-dressing for his first day of work.  I'm sure he felt self-conscious but not as much if he would've had he turned up in khaki shorts and a polo shirt and tennis shoes, and the rest of the office dressed in three-piece suits and wing-tip shoes.  If one must be out of step, it's preferable to look better rather than worse, than is required.

Had he continued to dress in his interview suit every day, he might have been labeled a poseur and been harassed, but hopefully on his first day, they cut him some slack.

It just boggles my mind that individuals with graduate-level education would not realize on their own that Grunge is not suitable interview attire.  

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1 hour ago, Hikari said:

Had he continued to dress in his interview suit every day, he might have been labeled a poseur and been harassed, but hopefully on his first day, they cut him some slack.

It just boggles my mind that individuals with graduate-level education would not realize on their own that Grunge is not suitable interview attire.  

I don't think anybody actually said anything to young Mr. Three-Piece, we simply snickered quietly in private and trusted that he'd notice what everyone else was wearing.  Which he clearly did.

In defense of young Mr. Bicycle-Shorts. his attire wasn't actually grunge (they were very nice bicycle shorts); also he was still an undergrad, plus he needed to get from main campus to the lab (a mile or two) for the interview, which presumably meant either walking or bicycling, and I can't imagine that he'd have worn those skin-tight shorts if he'd walked.  What I don't understand is why he didn't bring along a pair of slacks (or even regular shorts) to change into when he got there.  On the other hand, I've gone through a few phases myself where I wouldn't do something unless it made logical sense (rather than merely being customary), so I shouldn't be too hard on the boy.

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Yeah, beards. I can hardly put apart my colleagues at work. They all look the same. But standalone 'staches are indeed very rare.

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