They kept the mou’ fires burning | Pakistan Today

They kept the mou’ fires burning

  • A fond tribute

The standalone moustache has seen some dark days in its time. Though it never completely disappeared – and thank God for that – in certain places, times and professions it got all but extinct, where it took superhuman courage to even think about embellishing the upper lip, let alone going ahead and actually doing it. Here’s a fond look back at three heroes who swam against the tide (in a manner of speaking) and championed the moustache cause when and where it was most desperately needed.


He may be under the ball-tampering clouds these days – and justifiably so too, since the Aussies never tire of claiming that they play the game fair and square – but even the devil was once an angel. And therefore, he must be given his due. For when our man had made it to the national side back in 2009 the institution of the Australian cricketing moustache was in a bad way. It had fallen hard from its past glory; and the Boons and the Hugheses and the Borders and the Marshes appeared faint and distant memories from the last century – as indeed they were. He didn’t of course possess what it required to challenge the status quo straight away, but soon he mustered enough courage (and hair) to adorn his upper lip when it was extremely unfashionable to do so. Of course, he is no slouch at cricket either. Almost single-handedly, he transformed out fielding into a fashionable art form for the first time in cricket’s history. Also, with bat in hand and on his day, he is perfectly capable of instilling the fear of God in any bowler’s heart. He is David Warner. Say what you may about his moral judgment, sportsmanship or sledging, but his contribution to the moustache cause has been nothing short of exceptional.


He started off at Broadway and Hollywood as a clean-shaven man. (Moustaches were rare then, especially when it came to leading gentlemen.) But soon he saw the error of his ways, realising that he had much more to give to the world. That point on, he never parted ways with his iconic moustache – except in a couple of films where he appeared without it either to accurately portray a historical mustache-less figure, or in flashback sequences where a younger man needed to be depicted. On a solitary occasion he also shaved it off when his costar (Marion Davies) claimed to be ‘allergic’ to moustaches. He was without doubt the manliest of all Hollywood heroes. He once violently objected to wearing skin-tight trousers for a film on grounds that they were womanly – sound judgment, indeed. By 1960 when he died, he had arguably kissed more ladies on screen than anybody else in the history of cinema – he was famous for expressing love, anger, surprise, happiness, contempt, excitement, confusion and hatred all through the simple act of kissing – laying to rest the tired theory that women detested moustaches (Marion Davies notwithstanding). He was Clark Gable, the king of cinema before the word had been demeaned by being applied to every Salman, Dick and Shahrukh. He left an indelible mark on cinema as an alpha-male; and his contribution to the moustache cause has been no less significant.

The pop/rock music environment in this country had been devoid of moustaches from the very outset – from the days of Nazia and Zohaib Hassan, that is


The pop/rock music environment in this country had been devoid of moustaches from the very outset – from the days of Nazia and Zohaib Hassan, that is. (Among the musicians only Nazia had a genuine excuse for the sorry state of affairs.) It required courage bordering on craziness to consider growing a stache in those dark times in the mid-eighties when our man appeared on the pop music scene, but he was equal to the task and more. He had the passion (or junoon) to light the moustache candle, so to speak, in the face of violent winds blowing from all directions. Now you may or may not like his sufi rock and his political affiliations, which he is rather fond of expressing at every available opportunity; and God knows it’s difficult to like the ridiculous headgears he started using some years into the new millennium, presumably to hide his receding hairline. But there’s no belittling that moustache of his, to which he has been faithful through the best and worst of times, even though somewhere along the way he has added a goatee to it. He is the inventor of sufi rock, the founding-member of Junoon, and the author of Rock & Roll Jihad. When he is not performing at the UN General Assembly or at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert, he is teaching courses on ‘Islamic Music’ (whatever that is) at Queens College, City University of New York. He is Salman Ahmad. What often remains unappreciated among all these achievements has been his undying commitment to the moustache cause.


Hasan Aftab Saeed

The author is a connoisseur of music, literature, and food (but not drinks). He can be reached at