Where did March mustache madness come from?

March 11, 2015

Mustache macro shot.Mustache March is an annual event that takes place throughout the month of March, in which men grow (usually ridiculously old-fashioned) mustaches starting on the first day of the month.  The tradition has its origins in the US Air Force.  It dates back to the Vietnam War, when U.S. Air Force triple-ace Robin Olds grew an extravagantly waxed handlebar mustache which did not comply with U.S. Air Force regulations.  Olds, who was a colonel while serving in Vietnam, was loved by his men and inspired them to grow out their facial hair.

It was a common superstition among airmen to grow a “bulletproof mustache”, but Olds also used his as a gesture of defiance.  Olds claimed that the recruits on base loved the mustache and started imitating him.

Olds started the mustache in the wake of the success of an operation during the war and let it grow beyond regulation length because “It became the middle finger I couldn’t raise in the PR photographs.”

Returning home, however, marked the end of Olds’s flamboyance. When he reported to his first interview with Air Force Chief of Staff General John P. McConnell, McConnell walked up to him, stuck a finger under his nose and said, “Take it off.” Olds replied, “Yes, sir.”

The incident with the mustache is given credit as the impetus for a new Air Force tradition, “Mustache March,” in which aircrew, aircraft maintainers, space operators, cyber operators and other Airmen worldwide show solidarity by a symbolic, albeit good-natured “protest” for one month against Air Force facial hair regulations.

These days, the tradition extends far beyond the influence of the military and has bled into the territory of hip culture worldwide.  Several different online groups have taken to the tradition and have even started fundraising projects based upon growing a mustache for the month of March.

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