… unless you sport a moustache. Apparently.

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Whether it’s Cricket, Hockey, Rugby, Rowing (or Sculling, as what is actually taking place in the illustration above is, I’m reliably informed, actually called) or even Jiu-Jitsu, it seems no self-respecting Edwardian gent would consider taking part in such healthily strenuous activities without a healthily, strenuously, sprouting-of-the-lip.

Flippancies aside however, perusing the illustrations in the books I come across in the course of my daily ‘loguing with the Tower Project, it becomes apparent that the moustache was a more constant feature of contemporary Edwardian life than it is now. However, as it turns out, maintaining some form of follicular allotment on the otherwise blasted heath of the upper lip was not necessarily a labour of sartorial love.

Paragraph 1696 of the 1912 edition of The King’s Regulations for the Army and the Army Reserve which concerns ‘Growth of Hair, &c.’ reads:

“The hair of the head will be kept short. The chin and under lip will be shaved, but not the upper lip. Whiskers, if worn, will be of moderate length.” – Blogger’s own bold for salient emphasis…

So, keeping your philtrum warm was actually necessitated by military mandate. And indeed this had been the case throughout the later half of the C19th, and the situation was only to change in 1916 with the simple sentence of Army Order 340(3) (published in October), which commanded the deletion of the highlighted words above, which do dutifully disappear in the 1923 edition of the King’s Regulations thereby releasing future generations of ‘stache challenged soldiers from the shame and misery of wearing a false lip-caterpillar to facilitate advancements up the ranks. (Please note: Flippancies may have crept back in from their exile in the sidelines…)

Well, a glib observation about bygone times reveals a hither-to undreamt of fact of actual bygone life, gifting a glimpse through a crack in the wall of history.

Who’d a thunk it?


The King’s Regulations for the Army and the Army Reserve and the Army Orders are available to order from the Official Publications department @ classmarks OP.3100.8.0227 and OP.4100.8.011(06-) respectively. Also, many thanks to Ann at OP for her assistance in locating them!

For the fascinating reason behind the excision of mandatory lip-foliage (the last dubious moustache synonym) try p. 365-369 of this or for more on the moustache and it’s place in the British history you’ll find it as a narrative strand in this.