On the Moustache

Moustache Jim

A man with hair on his face’s upper lip has a moustache. A moustache is not facial hair’s natural form; neighboring regions must be maintained without fail, or the moustache will cease to be. Add hair to this same upper-lipped arrangement, and now it’s a goatee, a beard, or something else.

The first moustache on record appeared on a Scythian horseman around 300 BCE. Assuming he had the most advanced tools of his day, this Pazyryk rider enjoyed scraping a single, dull, possibly copper blade across his wind-swept cheek. Things have only mildly improved. Even with the Gillette-Schick cartel’s recent move to five-bladed razors, shaving technology has moved forward at a molasses pace with one blade improvement every 450 or so years.

But if you get the right blade, you don’t need the other four. To experience the proper care a gentleman’s moustache should receive, you should turn to Saint Paul’s own Moustache Jim, master barber at Heimie’s Haberdashery on Saint Peter Street.

Visible through a large street window, Moustache Jim’s shave station is nestled in a sizeable room at the back of the haberdashery. To get there, you pass through the very impressive bespoke spectacle that is Heimie’s. This sartorial wormhole transports patrons into a mind-set where, by the time they arrive to shake hands with Jim, the thought of a complete stranger putting a very sharp, unguarded razor to his neck seems logical.

Jim piles hot towel after hot towel on my face. My softening cheeks are rubbed with pre-shave oil and then put under an even steamier wrap. Reclining on the padded vintage leather chair, I try to remember if the wall-mounted animal’s head above me is a boar or some other unfortunate beastie.

The moustache-wearing male and society’s general consensus about him are paradoxical. Moustaches themselves are by far the most difficult of the basic facial hair arrangements to maintain, requiring a large amount of conscious primping. So while the modern moustache is believed to be favored by men who care not much for fashion or personal appearance, the truth is that the moustached man is, at least in terms of his facial hair arrangements, a vain, vain creature indeed. A moustache says, “Why, yes, I did shave. But very intentionally—and with great care and calculation, I did not shave this bit here.”

It is with great care and calculation that Jim’s blade drifts across my jawline. Though no doctor, I do believe that is where the jugular is. Yet I am confident. Moustache Jim is a Saint Paul native and has been putting men under a knife or shears for almost a decade now. His favorite moustache is Bill the Butcher’s, which Jim’s own resembles in both style and flamboyance. His Gangs of New York bloodthirstiness seems thankfully, especially at this moment, absent.

Jim sits me up to appreciate his work. And what work it is. It’s not enough to say that my face feels shaved; it feels proper. And here’s one more thing that I suppose a potential client should know: Moustache Jim happens to be a singing master barber. Surely Saint Paul’s only. And he is quite not bad.

Once the mark of the true gentleman, the moustache has become a joke in the minds of those who usually consider themselves open-minded. No U. S. president has worn a moustache in three generations. No current senate member wears one, and if opinion polls continue to dominate politics, which they will, there won’t be any soon. The moustache now finds itself maligned, alive only on the fringe.

A 2007 poll found that more than half of American women would refuse to kiss a man with a moustache. And for me, therein lies probably the single most persuasive argument for the moustache: appearance martyrdom. In a culture where physical attractiveness is increasingly important in all levels of one’s personal and professional life, a moustache can be seen as an open protest against a warped value system.

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