There are few comforts in this world right now, and even fewer as I write this: Miles Teller’s mustache is gone. May it rest in peace, but surely live on forever in millions of women’s masturbatory fantasies.
In a new interview with People, Teller revealed that his wife “made me shave my mustache” immediately after filming Top Gun: Maverick—meaning it’s probably been gone for a while now. Despite this, ever since watching Top Gun last month, I’ve simply convinced myself that Teller and his mustache are a conjoined, inseparable being, symbiotic partners-in-crime, not unlike Venom and Ed Brock. Truthfully, Teller did not exist to me before I watched him strut onto the big screen in Top Gun, clad in a Hawaiian shirt (famously among the sluttiest items of clothing a man can wear other than nothing at all) with an upper lip adorned in stache. Teller has apparently starred in a bunch of other things—Divergent, Fantastic Four, that one Taylor Swift music video. But post-Top Gun mustache, he simply took on a new life. And then, just like that, as quickly as the mustache had come (and many of us, with it), it’s gone.
If you, like me, are ready to throw hands at Teller’s wife Keleigh Sperry right now, it’s because mustaches are having a major moment. Teller has played a huge part in this, inspiring a wave of thirst TikToks and entire Instagram accounts dedicated to his mustache. But he’s a symptom of a greater movement—a movement he’s very much aware and supportive of, for what it’s worth: “I’m a big fan of [mustaches]. If it makes them more confident, then more power to them. ... But we’ll see, maybe it’ll be a good summer trend and then die out,” Teller told People. (If mustaches do “die out” again, I hope they take men with them—what use is a man with a bare upper lip??)
According to Megan Collins at Style Girlfriend, an online styling service for men, there’s precedent for this: Mustaches became trendy at the height of the covid pandemic, when many of us were stuck at home, anxious and bored and looking to mix things up. “The mustache right now feels sort of like a holdover from pandemic era grooming, where it’s still letting you be a little bit individualistic,” Collins said.
Of course, Summer 2022 is a long way from the bread-making days of March 2020. The sudden collective pining for mustached men right now is also rooted in nostalgia, Collins says. Where 90s and early Y2K fashion are a la mode for women today, this same romanticization of the past is fueling the mustache trend, as men embrace the sensuality and ruggedness of the 70s and 80s with this era’s characteristic “porn-stache.” Think New Girl alum Jake Johnson helping to lead a 70s porn magazine in HBO’s Minx, a well-groomed mustache lining his upper lip every step of the way. The mustache is very much the equivalent of bangs for women. It’s a fast-track to hotness, if for no other reason than satiating the overwhelming, present-day cultural desire to escape this current time period.
“I don’t want to use the word macho, because I think guys are taking the trend and evolving it,” Collins said of the mustache trend. “It’s not going back to guys wanting to be meatheads, but I think that they’re getting back to this sort of more raw, sexual look. Miles Teller is just sexy with a mustache, and I never would have said that about him before.”
Teller with a mustache, Collins says, “reminds [women] of that funny, confident, borderline-cocky guy you knew in high school or college, where he wasn’t maybe the smartest guy in the room, the most athletic, or the tallest guy, but he had this confidence that was very sexy.” Teller is also the perfect style-influencer to convince other men to give a mustache a try, even more so than the many other male celebs who have sported mustaches recently. “For guys, he doesn’t feel too polished, he’s not like a nepotism baby. They see him pulling it off and think, ‘I can do that!’”
Even just a few years ago, mustaches were synonymous with creepiness, with almost comical archetypes for Terry Richardson-looking, white van-driving perverts. Anyone who wasn’t accurately named Sexiest Man Alive Michael B. Jordan wouldn’t have dreamt of even trying one. (Speaking of Jordan, after dividing a nation back in April by appearing in public with a clean-shaven face, I’m happy to report the stache is back as of this week’s Nope premiere.) Mustaches went from being reserved for embarrassing dads to becoming the status symbol of daddies. Now, it’s the year of our lord 2022, and Chris Evans—Captain America himself—is flaunting a mustache on red carpets, asking women if they prefer him “with or without the stache,” practically begging them to picture that patch of blond hair in a very specific place.
Sir, there were children present!
Ultimately, Collins says, even more so than nostalgia and approachable influencers like Teller, the rise of the mustache is also the product of a new cultural context that’s finally assigning value to women’s pleasure and desire. For a long time, she notes, men wanted to look good for other men, to peacock, impress each other, participate in an ongoing collective pissing contest of sorts—being “objectified,” treated like a pin-up girl but for straight women, was once derided, reserved for skinny jean-clad members of boybands. “Now, it’s like this very distinct sort of era of a man that’s sexy, a little bit of a dirtbag—a Ryan Reynolds posing on the bearskin rug, a John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. It’s a willingness to be the object of attention, to embrace their sexuality in a way that’s for women’s gaze, which used to not be seen as a man’s place.”
Perhaps on some level, mustaches are but a Rorschach test—whatever we want them to be. But I choose to believe Collins is onto something. Maybe it’s the undying association between mustaches and porn; maybe it’s the throwback to the heady, lusty days of 70s disco. Maybe it’s the subtle promise of how great a bit of scruff might feel down there. But there’s something about mustaches that almost feels innately in service of women, that hints at some behind-the-scenes generosity—and for that reason, mustaches have become the slutty, essential accessory of the summer.