Everyone Wants to Take Credit For Hitler's Dumb Mustache
It's easy to forget, what with the name and all, that Hitler wasn't the first person to wear a Hitler mustache. We only have to look at wacky silent movies to know that, but the "toothbrush mustache," as it's only slightly less politically known, was controversial way before it became associated with the ultimate evil. It was first worn by working-class men in the late 19th-century U.S. as a symbol of the efficiency and austerity of the Industrial Revolution compared to the froofy mustaches of the European upper classes. You can see why it appealed to the German men of the time.
However, it took until 1908, when a Prussian army officer and race car driver with dumb facial hair named Hans Koeppen became a German folk hero, that it really took off in the country. Even then, it wasn't without backlash: German women weren't exactly pleased with the severe new style their men had adopted. Yes, the Hitler mustache was the man bun of the early 20th century.
It's not clear when Hitler even adopted the toothbrush mustache because everyone wants to take credit for it. A memoir supposedly written by Hitler's sister-in-law claims she compelled him to shave down his grand, twirly mustache in 1912 or 1913 by relentlessly bullying him about it. That's a good story -- as one writer noted, "she writes that in this, as in everything, he went too far" -- but the memoir has largely been dismissed as a fraud.
Much later, in 2007, an essay surfaced that was written decades earlier by a man confirmed to have served alongside Hitler in World War I, Alexander Moritz Frey, claiming that Hitler was ordered to shave down his elaborate mustache to fit under the gas masks they had to wear. Again, it's a good story, but photos of Hitler throughout the war ...
... and shortly after suggest that he didn't adopt the mustache until about 1921. (This throws a real wrench in Bridget Hitler's story, too.)
It's possible he went back and forth, but Frey was also a fantasy author, so he certainly knew how to craft a resonant fable. It seems most likely that Hitler was just trying to fit in with the cool fascists, ruining the style in the same way he ruined everything. It would be a shame if it didn't look so very stupid.
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Top image: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S33882/CC-BY-SA 3.0/Wikimedia Commons