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What Is a 70s Mustache?

By J.E. Holloway
Updated May 21, 2024
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A 70s mustache is a distinctive style of facial hair popularized in the 1970s by musicians, actors and other celebrities. Notable proponents of the 70s mustache include Burt Reynolds, Tom Selleck, and George Harrison. The 70s mustache is a heavy, sometimes curved mustache, full but usually kept neatly trimmed. Long regarded as a fashion faux pas, this type of mustache began to make a comeback in the early years of the 21st century.

The 70s mustache developed from the facial hairstyles of earlier generations. In the 1940s, the most common type of mustache was a thin, tightly trimmed line along the upper lip. Movie stars such as Errol Flynn gave this mustache an air of sophistication. In the 1950s, however, the clean-shaven look predominated.

In the 1960s, full beards and mustaches once again became common among young men, especially within the "hippie" counterculture, in which long hair and full beards were common among men. The 70s mustache derived from this look. Whereas the hippie mustache was shaggy and natural, however, the 1970s variation was somewhat tidier. It also often accompanied a clean-shaven or stubbly chin.

The 70s mustache, therefore, was a symbol of masculinity. Along with the characteristic hairy chest of the 70s male sex symbol, it represented a natural, virile image. The trimming of the mustache suggested a greater concern with style than the untrimmed 1960s version did. Actor Burt Reynolds epitomized this vision of 70s masculinity by posing naked for an issue of the US magazine Cosmopolitan in 1972.

The fashion for full mustaches, although most commonly associated with the 1970s, actually persisted well into the 1980s. Tom Selleck, one of the icons of the mustache, developed his characteristic facial hair in the 1970s, but became most famous for wearing it during his run on the television series Magnum, PI, which ran from 1980 to 1988. Similarly, actor Sam Elliott wore his full 70s mustache well into the 1980s and beyond, eventually developing it into his well-known cowboy-style horseshoe mustache.

During the late 1980s and 1990s, however, mustaches once again fell out of favor. The clean-shaven look predominated in mainstream society, with the only really acceptable form of facial hair for young men being a neatly-trimmed goatee. In the 2000s, however, the 70s mustache once again returned to limited prominence. Its initial rise in popularity was associated with the hipster subculture's ironic embrace of fashion choices mocked by mainstream society, but it also benefited from being showcased in television programs such as My Name Is Earl.

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Discussion Comments
By matthewc23 — On Oct 23, 2011

I think that people may feel that the 1970's mustache may be making a comeback only because an era has comeback of where clean shaven is not the way to go.

Most people nowadays, like the 1970's, like to have a bit of a rugged look. However, in the 1970's the rugged look was a part of counter culture and the exact and complete opposite of what a clean shaven look is.

The 1970's look was an incredibly extreme look that I do not believe will ever make its way back again. I feel that its time is past and that it will never make a comeback, only a re-surrgence. Then again I have noticed that a lot of people are going for the young type of look which requires the person is clean shaven. I guess will will just have to wait and see what comes of the fad and if it will ever fully happen again.

By JimmyT — On Oct 23, 2011

@jcraig - I would think that the reason why you have only seen middle aged people with mustaches like the ones in the 1970's is because those people grew up in the 1970's and have probably never lost that particular style.

I think that although the side burns may be making a comeback, this is in no relation to the 1970's, it is only a coincidence, with a completely different style of sideburns.

When I think of 1970's sideburns I like to think of giant truck driver like sideburns and not the ones that I see today. Most of what I see today are either chin curtains or side burns that are thinner and not as bushy as thee 1970's ones. The mustache however, I do not see making a comeback anytime soon and feel that its times are past as good as they may look.

By jcraig — On Oct 22, 2011

I remember back when I was in high school I had really long side burns and people thought that I was living in the 1970's and my response to them was that I was just missing side burns.

I have always thought that side burns are due to make a comeback, like the ones they had in the 1970's and that it may have already begun. I have seen many people walking around with very long side burns and even a few people with large mustaches. I do not see many younger people with the giant mustaches, but I have seen several middle aged people with the types of mustaches you would see in the 1970's and have thought they might be coming back.

By kentuckycat — On Oct 22, 2011

I have always considered the 1970's the decade of hair. Back then it was cool to have a lot of hair and looking back it looks incredibly different compared to today's hair styles.

I will say though that the thing that most exemplifies style to me in the 1970's is the mustache. The mustache is something that although people have today, they were really in style and different back in the 1970's than nowadays.

Today you do not see mustaches as frequently or as bushy as back then or even the side burns that are associated with this particular era of style

By jonrss — On Oct 21, 2011

My dad had a 70s mustache until just a few years ago. He started growing it in 1976 and had never shaved it until my mom decided that she wanted a change.

The funny thing is that it seems like half my dads friends have mustaches just like his. Its almost like every young man in the 1970s felt obligated to grow a mustache. These days a mustache is almost something ironic. It might be kind of cool, but not in a way that anyone really gets excited about.

By letshearit — On Oct 21, 2011

When I think of '70s mustaches I think of the popular computer game Plants vs. Zombies in which the backup dancers of the disco zombie all have them. It's a strange choice to me because I usually think of the handlebar mustache as being kind of an evil mustache, thanks to cartoon character Snidely Whiplash.

Also, the '70s style mustache projects authority to me, because so many police officers and newscasters sported the look back then. John Stossel and Geraldo Rivera have kept their mustaches even though the look has fallen out of favor, but perhaps it's become something of a trademark for them. If I recall correctly, Singer Freddie Mercury also had a very recognizable '70s mustache, but ironically he was actually clean-shaven in the '70s and grew it in the '80s.

By manykitties2 — On Oct 20, 2011

The '70s was a decade when hair on men in general was "in"; I remember hairy chests also being very much a part of that along with the mustache. Every rock band seemed to have at least one member with a mustache, and '70s disco groups like the Village People did as well - the construction worker and the cowboy both had classic '70s mustaches. It also seemed very fashionable for athletes of the time as well, maybe because they were considered manly - I think Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt might be the top athlete to ever sport the '70s mustache, as he had a good one and he's considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time.

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