"Never trust a cop who doesn't have a mustache", I heard one of my very first sergeants say. I didn't have a mustache. I mean, I've tried to grow mustaches before, but they always end up looking like the quintessential 70's gay porn star mustache. The molestache. But all around me as I cut my teeth in law enforcement there were these mustaches. Everywhere. Why?
There are plenty of theories as to why so many cops grow mustaches. One oft-repeated claim is that since cops (generally) aren't allowed to grow beards, a mustache becomes a close second. Of course, the firefighters like to chime in that cops just want to look like our heroes, the fireman. (Insert eye-roll emoji here.) I've read that it's a hold back from the old west when our gun-slinging forefathers wore mustaches, and also read that perhaps the mustache was designed to hide the snarl (or smile) on our upper lips. I've heard that mustaches are a claim to our manliness; that in the rough-and-tumble profession of law enforcement the mustache is a visible indicator of our testosterone. I've also heard this last one linked to the entrance of females into our profession in the late 60's and early 70's, the claim being that the mustache was a way to establish a sort of "men's club" excluding the women, since the women (well, most of them) couldn't grow a mustache.
I'm not sure if any of those origins of the cop mustache are correct, or perhaps all of them are to some extent. What is clear; however, is the ubiquitous nature of the cop mustache. Even Urban Dictionary contains an entry on the "copstache." Movie cops more often than not have them. I've been told that cops in the UK do it, too. Even a friend in South Africa told me that her retired-cop father had a copstache, adding, "Eventually all you cops end up looking the same."
Could she be on to something? We are, after all, a profession geared toward uniformity. There are very strong brotherhood and group identities among cops. We all know the guys who always look like cops: the guys who are easily spotted as off-duty cops as soon as they walk into a bar or restaurant. Maybe it is just about fitting in. Indeed, one person who responded to me when I posed the question in a cop forum said that "When I started, the old guys had them. So we grew them, too."
Is the copstache nothing more than some sort of fashion faux pas group-think? What do you think?