The toothbrush moustache (also called Hitler moustache, Charlie Chaplin moustache, 1/3 moustache, philtrum moustache, the postage stamp, or soul (mou)stache) is a moustache, shaved at the edges, except for three to five centimeters above the centre of the lip. The sides of the moustache are vertical rather than tapered.
The style originally became popular in America in the late 19th century. It was a neat, uniform, low-maintenance style that echoed the standardization and uniformity brought on by industrialization, in contrast to the more flamboyant moustaches typical of the 19th century such as the Imperial, Walrus, Handlebar, Horseshoe, Pencil and Fantastico moustaches.
Charlie Chaplin was one of the most famous practitioners of the toothbrush moustache, first adopting it sometime after 1914 for his Mack Sennett silent comedies. In a 1933 interview, Chaplin said he added the moustache to his costume because it had a comical appearance and was small enough so as not to hide his expression. Adolf Hitler was a fan of Chaplin, but "there is no evidence (though some speculation) that Hitler modeled his 'stache on [Charlie Chaplin]." Chaplin took advantage of the noted similarity between his on-screen appearance and that of Hitler, such as in his 1940 film The Great Dictator, where he wore the moustache as part of two new characters that parodied Hitler.
The style was introduced in Germany in the late 19th century by visiting Americans. Prior to the toothbrush, the most popular style was called the Kaiser moustache, perfumed and turned up at the ends, as worn by the royalty in the German Empire and the German part of Austria. By 1907 enough Germans were wearing the new trimmed down and simple toothbrush moustache to elicit notice by The New York Times under the headline "'TOOTHBRUSH' MUSTACHE; German Women Resent Its Usurpation of the 'Kaiserbart'". The toothbrush was taken up by German folk hero Hans Koeppen in the famous 1908 New York to Paris Race, cementing its popularity among young gentry. Koeppen was described as "Six-feet in height, slim, and athletic, with a toothbrush mustache characteristic of his class, he looks the ideal type of the young Prussian guardsman." By the end of World War I even some of the German royals were sporting the toothbrush; William Hohenzollern (son of the Kaiser) can be seen with a toothbrush moustache in an 1918 photograph that shows him about to be sent into exile.
Hitler originally wore the Kaiser moustache, as evidenced by photographs of him as a soldier during World War I. There is no agreement what year Hitler first adopted the toothbrush. Alexander Moritz Frey, who served with Hitler during World War I, said Hitler wore the toothbrush in the trenches after he was ordered to trim his moustache to facilitate the wearing of a gas mask. Ron Rosenbaum, a cultural historian, said "Hitler didn't adopt his until late 1919", after the war. Despite the photographic evidence of his much larger moustache during the First World War, Hitler's sister-in-law, Bridget Hitler, says she was responsible for Hitler's toothbrush. Bridget claimed that Adolf spent a "lost winter" at her home in Liverpool in 1912–13. The two quarreled a lot, mostly, she said, because she could not stand his unruly Kaiser moustache. He cut it, as she says in her memoirs, but that in doing so, as in most things, he went "too far". Bridget Hitler's story is considered by most scholars to be fiction designed to cash-in on her brother-in-law's notoriety.
Post-World War II
In 2009, British comedian Richard Herring created a stand-up show titled Hitler Moustache, to see if he "could reclaim the toothbrush moustache for comedy—it was Chaplin's first, then Hitler ruined it." The show also discusses broader issues, such as fascism and the British National Party. In May 2010, former basketball star Michael Jordan appeared in a Hanes commercial wearing a toothbrush moustache. Reaction from the press and public was unfavorable. Jordan's friend Charles Barkley said, "I don't know what the hell he was thinking. I don't know what Hanes was thinking. It was just stupid." Jordan has not been seen with it since.
In China, a version of this moustache is viewed as a stereotype of Japanese people, especially of Japanese soldiers from the Second World War. This style is depicted in the Tintin comic-strip album The Blue Lotus. An extreme variant of the toothbrush moustache narrows it to the philtrum only; Robert Mugabe is noted for this style.
Notable people with a toothbrush moustache
- Paolo Iashvili (image)
- Semyon Krivoshein (image)
- Alexander Vasilyevich Alexandrov (image)
- Hovhannes Bagramyan (image)
- Siad Barre (image)
- Abdalá Bucaram (image)
- Charlie Chaplin (artificial) (image)
- Sepp Dietrich (image)
- Eliyahu Dobkin (image)
- Erich Koch (image)
- Ferdinand Sauerbruch (image)
- Levi Eshkol (image)
- Tav Falco (image)
- Gottfried Feder (image)
- Adolf Hitler (image)
- Julius Kambarage Nyerere (image)
- Julius Raab (image)
- Julius Streicher (image)
- Julius Schreck (image)
- Max Fleischer (image)
- Otto Frank (image)
- Oliver Hardy (image)
- Friedrich Kellner (image)
- Karl Holz (Gauleiter) (image)
- Hermann Esser (image)
- Robert Mugabe (image)
- Hermann Obrecht (image)
- Waldemar Pabst (image)
- Marcel Pilet-Golaz (image)
- Ramakrishna Ranga Rao of Bobbili (image)
- Gerd von Rundstedt (image)
- Fritz Sauckel (image)
- Yitzhak Shamir (image)
- Ernst Röhm (image)
- Heinrich Himmler (image)
- Karl-Maria Demelhuber (image)
- Artur Phleps (image)
- Emil Maurice (image)
- Lothar Rendulic (image)
- Franz Ritter von Epp (image)
- Sadegh Hedayat (image)
- August Eigruber (image)
- Fumimaro Konoe (image)
- Hinrich Lohse (image)
- Irmfried Eberl (image)
- Nikolajs Galdins (image)
- Ron Mael
- Genrikh Yagoda (image)
- Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp
- Fred Kite (Peter Sellers), Trade Union leader in the satirical film I'm All Right Jack
- The Dad of Dennis the Menace in The Beano comic strip
- Mr Bronson in the BBC children's series Grange Hill
- Fred the Baker
- Bartemius Crouch Sr in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- J. Jonah Jameson in the Spider-Man comics
- Inspector Cyril "Blakey" Blake, in the British comedy series On the Buses
- Monty Python's Flying Circus' Gumbys
- Mr. Kurtzmann (Ian Holm) in Terry Gilliam's film Brazil
- Hitlercito, the main character of the eponymous webcomic.
- Roderick Spode
- Girl Hitler, in The Venture Brothers
- Sam Waldron, mobile shop owner in Postman Pat
- Sergeant Hans Schultz in the television series Hogan's Heroes
- Hen Broon from the Scottish comic strips The Broons
- Mr. Hutchinson (Bernard Cribbins) from Fawlty Towers episode "The Hotel Inspectors"
- Rich Cohen. "Becoming Adolf", Vanity Fair, November 2007. Reprinted in The Best American Essays 2008.
- Chaplin, Charlie; Hayes, Kevin (2005). Charlie Chaplin: interviews. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 15.
- Ron Rosenbaum. The secret parts of fortune: three decades of intense investigations and edgy enthusiasms. Random House, 2000. ISBN 978-0-375-50338-2 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]
- "Is wearing a 'Hitler' moustache a good idea?". BBC News. August 25, 2009.
- "'TOOTHBRUSH' MUSTACHE.; German Women Resent Its Usurpation of the 'Kaiserbart'", The New York Times, Oct. 20, 1907.
- "Germany Awaits Lieut. Hans Koeppen; From Emperor to Subaltern His Running of the Protos Car Has Aroused Enthusiasm". The New York Times, July 18, 1908.
- The rise of Hitler. Historyplace.com.
- Paterson, Tony (May 6, 2007). "Hitler was ordered to trim his moustache". The Daily Telegraph.
- Bridget Hitler. My Brother-in-Law Adolf
- Brigitte Hamann, Hans Mommsen, Hitler's Vienna: A Portrait of the Tyrant As a Young Man, 2010, Tauris Parke, p.198.
- Richard Herring (31 July 2009). "'There isn't a "New Offensiveness"'". The Guardian.
- Dave Gorman (2009-07-29). "Writing wrongs... : Dave Gorman is angered by a 'dangerously bad' piece of journalism". Chortle.
- Michael Jordan's Hitler Moustache, Michael Frissore, Slurve magazine.
- Colbert Discusses Michael Jordan's Hitler Mustache, Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report, June 11th 2010.
- Ron Mael—Google Images search