Works in the Herald 1933

Since my early youth I have made a more or less casual study of whiskers and their significance in relation to human psychology.

The net result of it is that, today, I have reached at least one conviction that, for me, amounts almost to an axiom. It is this: "Always distrust the man whose arrangement of whiskers is unique." And by unique I mean not only peculiar to the individual, but unconventional in the period and environment of the wearer!

In my young days the majority of grown men wore fine full, masculine beards. The fashion was characteristic of that Victorian day when ladies carefully, concealed their ankles and disguised their figures with various artificial fads and projections, and men lurked behind self-grown mattresses. I still retain a youthful mental picture of my first meeting with politicians in the mass in those far days. A Railway Standing Committee or some such body was visiting our country town, and they lunched at the hotel.

After passing a long row of shining belltoppers on the hat-pegs in the passage I entered the dining room. There, on either side of a long table was suspended a gleaming row of black, brown, blond and grey mats through which their legislative wearers spoke platitudes and sophistries that somehow lost something of their bromidic quality in the process of filtration.

The full-beard is, I think, ideal wear for the politician; and I know several today whose bland pronouncements would carry greater conviction if spoken from out of a bush.

It was Mrs. W. E. Gladstone, wife of the "Grand Old Man" of Victorian England's politics, to whom is attributed the remark that: "Kissing a man without whiskers is like eating an egg without salt." If this remains the general female opinion, then salt today is sadly lacking from the erotic menu.

There is a peculiar type of male who shaves certain areas of his face and leaves on other areas various festoons, spikes, pompoms and frills of hair apparently for the purpose of adornment or of expressing his individuality. And your really erratic shaver does express it far more than he realises, to a studious observer.

People have sometimes doubted me, but I again aver as an absolute fact that I once knew a commercial traveller who, at table, invariably tucked the ends of his tremendously long, thick moustache behind his ears before partaking of soup or porridge. I have seen him do this, not only once, but scores of times. He was something of an eccentric in other regards, and so, every other man I have known who exploited the eccentric in facial adornment had a mental kink, pleasant or unpleasant, of some description.

And this brings us to Germany, the natural home of hirsute grotesquery.

From the "monkey frill" of Wagner to the "mutton chop" embellishments of Bismark and his alleged master, Frederick, we come to those three outstanding war-time figures: Ex-Kaiser Wilhelm, Von Tripitz and Hindenberg. With that elaborately trained representation of the German eagle that reared arrogantly from his upper lip the ex-Kaiser was a hoarding, advertising all the bombast, vanity and childish fustian that his tragic acts later revealed. Behind his forked beard von Tirpitz, lurked, threatening but ineffective, even as his fleet lurked in the Kiel Canal. But those pendulous pothooks that droned aggressively upon the Hindenberg cheeks were eloquent of savage obstinacy, of ruthless and ponderous persistence. They resembled nothing so much as a pair of strange, barbaric weapons designed for torture and brutal tenacity.

And so I am brought naturally to the comical moustache of Herr Adolph Hitler, and to an abrupt end. For, should I try to set down all of the concentrated egotism and erratic mentality that even the printed effigy of that comic moustache suggests to me, I should be here writing for a week.

Herald, 17 October 1933, p6

Also published in The Courier-Mail, 30 December 1933, p9, under the title "Whiskers".

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002-08