They lurk above eerie smiles, offering remnants of meals long ago digested. Women turn away from them; freshmen wish they could sport them. Causing controversy in the testing center and turning heads on campus, the mustache plays an oddly important role in the culture of BYU.
While official Honor Code policy allows the facial hair which makes Yanni much more than just a musician but a demigod in his own right, there is an unseen lack of support for the sub-nasal stache on campus.
“You definitely get a lot more attention,” said Hyrum Taylor, 23, from Irvine, Calif. “A lot of sideways glances; people who are freaked out by the mustache.”
The Honor Code reads: “If worn, mustaches should be neatly trimmed and may not extend beyond or below the corners of the mouth.”
Students have wondered why they are allowed to have mustaches but not beards. Steve Baker, director of the Honor Code office, spoke on the topic.
“There is nothing that I’m aware of that lends itself to an explanation,” he said. “I would suggest that you live the standards and do it on your own initiative because you’ve given your word that you would live it.”
Justin Hicken, a 25-year-old BYU graduate from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., told about an experience with his mustache while studying at BYU.
“When I came up to Provo after having about three or four weeks of growth, people just assumed I had it all my life, that I was born with that hair,” he said. “It was people from back home that gave me the hardest time about it. They’d say, ‘Hey man, are you doing OK? Are you still active in church?’”
Eventually, the motivation for keeping the mustache turned from youthful curiosity to an opportunity for self-discovery.
“I had all these people telling me I’m going to buckle under the pressure of BYU and shave it,” Hicken said. “To me it became a sign that I was not dependent on what others thought of me. I wasn’t going to be molded and shaped based on what others thought I should do.”
As time continued, the facial garnish loved and worn by stars like Dr. Phil and Alex Trebek became less of an accessory and more of an identity for Hicken.
“It got me a little notoriety. I kind of stood out,” he said.
While it may be a stylistic victory for men, women seem to rally against it.
“I think mustaches on boys are really unattractive,” said Stephanie Campbell, 18, from Pittsburgh, Pa. “They remind me of Genghis Khan. They’re kind of scary sometimes, especially when they move.”
Hicken shed further light on the subject, expressing a different point of view.
“If you have a girl that you’re serious about and she’s not going to continue to be with you because you have a stache, maybe that’s not the girl you want to be with,” he said. “I guess you could call it ‘The Mustache Test.’ That could be a potential red flag.”
While some shun the idea of having facial hair, there is another side to consider. While some think of it as a sign of an untidy or unkept person, there is a lesson to be learned from those brave enough to grow out their mustache.
“The people that mock and laugh about it are the ones who have never tried it or don’t have the guts to grow it,” Hicken said. “I think everyone should at least try it once.”