From Timothée Chalamet and Justin Bieber to Michael Cera and Prince, we explore the introductory style adopted by those trying to enter the daunting world of facial hair
It tells you everything you need to know about the internet’s bottomless thirst for Timothée Chalamet that, amid all the excitement at the trailer for Wes Anderson’s new film last week, the real story lay somewhere north of the young actor’s top lip.
Peach-fuzz. Bumfluff. An aspiring moustache. Whatever you want to call it, Chalamet had it in the trailer for The French Dispatch, sparking furious debate online as to how it hung on a face many already considered to be unimprovable. That this was up for debate at all felt like a victory of sorts for the bumfluff ’tache, long since derided by purists as an affront to facial landscaping.
But what’s with the aversion to these tragically unloved minnows of the moustache world? And could Chalamet spark a full-blown renaissance for the look? As we’ll see from this brief history of the genre, a fuzzy top lip needn’t spell disaster for your street cred – you just have to know how to rock it.
PRINCE, “WHEN DOVES CRY” (1984)
Anyone looking to dismiss the bumfluff ’tache must first answer to Prince, doe-eyed and fuzzy of lip, entreating you to join him in the bath in the video for “When Doves Cry”. “Come in, the water’s lovely!” he seems to be saying, and who are you to argue? This is 1984, and Prince is the biggest pop star on the planet. Besides, the late musician offers proof of an under-acknowledged truth – that a scrawny ’stache can impart a certain lothario-like quality to its wearer, precisely because of its flagrant disregard for the rules of masculinity. Look upon his downy fluff, ye doubters, and despair.
PEDRO, NAPOLEON DYNAMITE (2004)
The high-school geek who became a 00s style icon, Pedro proves that patchy facial-hair coverage is no barrier to becoming class president – or, for that matter, an early adopter of the ironic hipster moustache. How does he make it work? Accessories. Because nothing says you’re going to own this facial hair thing like a complementary wig and bolo tie.
MICHAEL CERA (2012)
The late-00s was the era of the hipster, and Michael Cera was their god. A plaid-sporting omnipresent in the quirky indie flicks of the period, Cera broke the internet in 2012 with this undeniably bumfluff yet oddly fulsome ’tache while promoting his role in Youth in Revolt. Much piss-taking ensued, but Cera’s facial hair had the last laugh: it couldn’t have been more ironic if it had come wrapped in gigantic air-quotes.
JUSTIN BIEBER (2013-2020)
You may have had to squint to see it, but Justin Bieber’s moustache was big in 2013. So very big, in fact, it had its own MTV competition to give it a name – but you can’t blame the lad for trying. For the squeaky-clean pop star looking to spread his wings, growing a moustache is a statement of intent on a par with releasing a sexy R&B slow jam, or secretly marrying a member of Girls Aloud. Commendably, he’s continued to rock his ’tache on and off ever since, using it to bolster his scumbro credentials and defying the haters with a recent Instagram post: “MY STASH MY LIFE DEAL WITH IT HAHA.” Until he cut it off mere days later.
CALEB LANDRY JONES, EVERYTHING HE’S EVER BEEN IN (2010s-PRESENT)
Next time someone gives you grief about your bumfluff ’tache, let them know what time it is with three simple words: Caleb. Landry. Jones. That will shut them up, and not only because they don’t know who Caleb Landry Jones is. (It’s mostly because of that, though.) The Texas-born actor has got the shit moustache game on lock because he’s had one in virtually every film he’s in – in fact, they’re integral to the rakish, weasel-faced charm he brings to roles in acclaimed indie fare Get Out and Heaven Knows What. Think Cletus the Yokel, but with malicious intent.
BILLY HARGROVE, STRANGER THINGS (2017-2019)
Poor Billy Hargrove. Things didn’t end well for Stranger Things’ bad boy-next-door, but he’ll always have this Diet Coke-man moment from the third series of the hit sci-fi show. Chiselled of ab and tousled of mullet, he peacocks his way through a weekend job as a lifeguard at the local swimming pool, making the bored housewives of Hawkins, Indiana go weak at the knees – all this, despite sporting the kind of coffee-stain ’tache that adorned the faces of a million metal-fan kids in the 80s.
TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET, THE FRENCH DISPATCH (2020)
Look, we’ve tried taking bumfluff taches seriously in this piece, we really have. But in the end, it’s too hard: you just keep turning over potential euphemisms in your mind as soon as you clap eyes on one. A hairy premonition. A faulty thatch roof. A small ferret suffering from alopecia. If there’s one moustache to bring order to the galaxy, though, it’s Chalamet’s – or more precisely, Zeffirelli’s, the character he plays in Anderson’s film. Zeffirelli is a “student revolutionary” in the May ’68 riots that shook France, which makes this a new kind of callow moustache – a nod towards valiant youthful idealism, not hipster irony or sweaty teenage ardour. Is it naïve? Sure. Does it look like it might float away, dandelion clock-like, in the slightest of breezes? Absolutely. But it’s also a symbol of a utopian desire to create a better world and I, for one, salute it.