best mustaches
best mustaches

Lip Service: Pop Culture’s 50 Most Memorable Mustaches of Past and Present, Ranked

Mustache culture has lost its edge over the past few years, thanks to the peak-and-valley trend taking on a new identity as a marketing gimmick. (Thanks a lot, hipsters!) What was once a symbol of masculinity and maturity — growing in your upper lip like you made puberty your bitch — is today plastered in cartoonish design across coffee mugs, shower curtains and ironic T-shirts. You can even make mustache-shaped ice cubes using pricey silicone trays, and that just makes us side-eye.

Yet the real offense is that nowadays every 20-something vegan penny-farthing-rider who hand-dips his own beeswax votives and reads the newspaper on a stick sports one of our favorite facial hair styles — without giving an iota of props to those who blazed the bushy trail before them.

So we’ll do it instead, and just in time for #Movember, that time of year (the month of November) when guys across the globe grow their mustaches to raise awareness of men’s health issues, including prostate and testicular cancer.

Here are pop culture’s best mustaches, ranked from 50–1:

 

50. Billy Dee Williams

best mustaches billy dee williams

Not only did he portray Lando Calrissian in two Star Wars films, but he endorsed Colt 45 in the ‘80s. BDW, you’re cool in our book.

 

49. Kurt Russell

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Goldie Hawn’s live-in lover since 1983 gives good Wyatt Earp.

 

48. Yosemite Sam

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The only proper ginge on this list, Bugs Bunny’s gun-slingin’ arch nemesis made his first official appearance – walrus ’stache and hair-trigger temper to boot – in May 1945.

 

47. Seth Bogart

best mustaches seth bogart

He has one foot in the audio world, having released music with Gravy Train!!! And Hunx and His Punx; the other sits in the fashion world, defined by his work with L.A. boutique Wacky Wacko. Both feet support a perfectly shellacked ‘do and pencil ‘stache.

 

46. JD Samson

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She’s best known as a member of the bands Le Tigre and MEN, as an internationally booked DJ and as a general badass of the modern queer community.

 

45. Reza Farahan

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The Shahs of Sunset cast member’s substantial black-as-tar face fuzz has become such a part of his identity that he was barely recognizable after fellow Bravo star Bethenny Frankel took an electric razor to it in December 2013.

 

44. Colton Ford

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When you were finally old enough to appreciate man-on-man vids it was this hirsute hottie’s mustache that made your daddy issues feel as fresh as the wong is long.

 

43. Cary Elwes

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The actor’s first big Hollywood movie was none other than The Princess Bride, in which he sported the most dainty of upper-lip warmers.

 

42. Damon Wayans Jr.

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The eldest son of comedy royalty Damon Wayans, DWJ — who models his grin after dear ol’ dad’s — has forged his own Hollywood path with starring roles in ABC’s Happy Endings and Fox’s New Girl.

 

41. Adam Lambert

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Lambert’s no Freddie Mercury – in sound or ‘stache – but he’s become a solid frontman for Queen, with whom he’s been collaborating since 2011.

 

40. John Oates

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Half of the duo behind such ‘80s hits as “Maneater” and “Private Eyes,’ Oates was always cooler than Daryl Hall. We’re pretty sure he has the mustache to thank for it.

 

39. Tom Hardy

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Four words: Tom Hardy as Bronson.

 

38. James Franco

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The “is he or isn’t he?” actor/filmmaker likes to keep us on our toes regarding his sexuality, once telling New York magazine that he’s “a little gay” (cue eyeroll), but there’s one thing we’re sure of: The King Cobra producer and star’s ‘stache can experiment all over our face whenever it wants.

 

37. Michael B. Jordan

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We’ll totally forgive you for Fantastic Four, Michael, if you promise to deliver more K.O.s like Creed.

 

36. Cheech Marin

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As one-half of America’s beloved stoner duo Cheech and Chong, Marin’s bushy upper-lip caterpillar surely smells of the good stuff.

 

35. Josh Hartnett

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At 39, Hartnett’s ‘stache has finally evolved from barely there to don’t mind if we stare. It’s just too bad his acting career isn’t on pace; his most recent gig – Showtime’s Penny Dreadful – ended its run in 2016 with a surprise third-season series finale that nobody expected.

 

34. Colin Farrell

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A proponent of same-sex marriage equality in his native Ireland – he even penned an open letter supporting his gay brother Eamon – Farrell proved that he’s a pro at giving mustache rides in his sex tape with model Nicole Narain.

 

33. Borat

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There are two things we remember about Sasha Baron Cohen’s Borat character — his Selleck-ian ’stache and that traffic-stopping chartreuse mankini.

 

32. Albert Einstein

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The German-born physicist, whose name is synonymous with science gave grandpas everywhere license to live facially untamed with his own wild and unruly mustache.

 

31. Fu Manchu

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An archetype of the evil genius, this character of film, TV, comics and radio actually has his very particular style of ‘stache named after him.

 

30. Rollie Fingers

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You’ll be hard-pressed to find a sturdier handlebar than the one this National Baseball Hall of Famer waxes nostalgic to this day.

 

29. Zorro

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Created in 1919 by Johnston McCulley, this masked (and mustachioed) crusader was the secret identity of Don Diego de la Vega, portrayed by more than. Dozen Hollywood greats, including Douglas Fairbanks, George Hamilton and Antonio Banderas.

 

28. Ron Jeremy

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Before the internet introduced you to gay porn, maybe you beat off to your dad’s old VHS tapes starring this guy, the portly adult film star (nicknamed “The Hedgehog” – don’t ask!) whose orchestrated bedroom stylings have claimed the dignity of more than 4,000 women.

 

27. Gomez Addams

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This ghoulish patriarch — originally a cartoon character for The New Yorker in the 1930s — didn’t sport a ‘stache until he made the leap to television, where he was embodied by John Astin. Later, in the films, the late Raúl Julia kept the fuzz.

 

26. Mark Twain

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He’s the literary world’s most famous salt-and-pepper ‘stache, still responsible for forcing high schoolers to crack open the classics.

 

25. Sammy Davis Jr.

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Affectionately known as Mister Show Business, he came into his own as a member of the famous Rat Pack before going on to host his eponymous variety show and recording the number one hit ‘The Candy Man.”

 

24. Sean Penn

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With or without a crumb catcher, Milk star Sean Penn has always looked a little weathered – though we prefer him as a death-row inmate over a surfer-dude doobie lover.

 

23. Johnny Depp

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Clean-shaven for much of the 1980s, Depp tested the whiskery waters throughout the ’90s before going full bro-stache in the aughts. Today, the only time you’ll see him without one is when he’s in character, as with the Mad Hatter in Disney’s Alice franchise.

 

22. Sam Elliott

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It’s no wonder that Elliot’s 40-plus-year acting career has seen its fair share of frontiersman roles. His horseshoe mustache and family heritage – one of his relatives apparently fought in the Battle of the Alamo – make him well suited for Hollywood Westerns.

 

21. Steve Harvey

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The man, the myth, the mustache. This “Original King of Comedy” is a 13-time NAACP Image Award winner, and his stint as host of Family Feud has raised the on-again/off-again game show to the third most-watched on television behind Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! (That flub while hosting the Miss Universe pageant notwithstanding.)

 

20. The Beatles

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If you can believe it, there’s a Beatles Moustache Index online – however unrefined – that chronicles the band’s foray into facial fur, starting with Ringo in 1962. The other three Beatles didn’t don fanny dusters until late 1966.

 

19. Alex Trebek

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Fun fact: There’s now an entire generation who will never know Alex Trebek with hair on his lip. The veteran Jeopardy! host wore his signature lower brow for 30 years before shaving it off in 2001.

 

18. Lionel Richie

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Did you know that while much of the Middle East has an awkward relationship with the United States, Arab states like Iraq hold a torch for Richie and his long-tenured lip foliage. In 2006, ABC News’ John Berman reported that “Grown Iraqi men get misty-eyed by the mere mention of his name. ‘I love Lionel Richie,’ they say.”

 

17. Got Milk? Campaign

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The campaign ran for 21 years starting in 1993 (discontinued in 2014 in favor of the forgettable “Milk Life” ads) and featured a diverse roster of popular celebs wearing chalky cookie-dusters, including David Beckham, Whoopi Goldberg, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and Suze Orman, to name a few.

 

16. Nick Offerman

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Offerman stole our hearts as Parks and Recreation’s sometimes-sentimental everyman Ron Swanson – whose lip toupée is among the best we’ve ever seen – but it was only when we discovered that he’s a grown-up teddy bear in real life (who’s married to gaycon Megan Mullally) that he earned our five-star rainbow rating.

 

15. Little Richard

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Here’s a guy who has done more than shake, rattle and roll the foundation of rock music; he’s also inspired every pencil mustache to come thereafter. Good golly, Miss Molly, indeed. And yeah, he recently claimed he’s “no longer gay,” which is … odd … but we still love you, Little Richard.

 

14. Groucho Marx

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Known for his quick wit and innuendo-laced patter, Groucho – one-fifth of the successful family comedy act the Marx Brothers – established his signature mustachioed character with greasepaint in the early 1920s before growing the real deal in his later career.

 

13. Ned Flanders

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Homer Simpson’s overly religious neighbor, with chipper catchphrases like “Okilly-dokilly!” and “Hey-Diddly-Ho!” has only parted with his pushbroom a few times in the show’s nearly 30-year history — once when Homer implied that people were mocking his facial hair behind his back.

 

12. Hulk Hogan

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He’s more recently known as the guy whose sex tape took down media giant Gawker, but Hogan’s famous blond horseshoe ‘stache makes him one of professional wrestling’s most iconic characters.

 

11. Teddy Roosevelt

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The former president and current guardian of New York’s American Museum of Natural History (in statue form) has the dubious distinction of having the largest mustache on the planet: Its carved-granite depiction on Mount Rushmore is 20 feet wide and about five feet tall.

 

10. Tom of Finland’s Kake

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The world’s most famous gay erotica artist, Touko Laaksonen (aka Tom of Finland, the subject of a brand-new biopic), basically crafted the template of the gay man in the ‘70s when in 1968 he created Kake, a dark-haired leatherman sporting a mustache, tight denim, a white tee and his trusty motorcycle.

 

9. Lyft

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OK, so it’s not a legitimate mustache — in fact, it’s called a “Glowstache” by Lyft insiders — but you’ve got to hand it to the ride-sharing service for its clever branding. The company has made it easy to spot its vehicles in the sea of taxis when your vision is less than 20/20 and more 20-proof.

 

8. Charlie Chaplin

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His toothbrush mustache — that today is practically synonymous with his name — came in handy during the rise of Hitler (who sported a similar style), which the silent-era star used to his advantage when he parodied the world’s biggest asshole in the 1940 film The Great Dictator.

 

7. Burt Reynolds

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Sometimes the man makes the mustache, and sometimes the mustache makes the man. The verdict’s still out in this case, since you can’t have one without the other. Few men had bigger star power in the 1970s than Reynolds, star of Smokey and the Bandit, Cannonball Run and Boogie Nights, and who can forget that notorious Cosmopolitan spread, in which he was decked out in nothing but a mustache and a smile.

 

6. Frida Kahlo

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Kahlo, whose revealing self-portraits effectively capture her physical and psychological suffering, had affairs with both men and women — and she didn’t shave her lip for any of them.

 

5. Clark Gable

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Often referred to as the King of Hollywood, Gable is the epitome of what a leading man is supposed to be — complete with a smoldering gaze, come-hither smirk and a tightly trimmed tickler that frankly doesn’t give a damn.

 

4. Salvador Dalí

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Indicative of his flamboyant personality and grandiose behavior, Dalí’s mustache manipulations (he once fashioned it into an infinity symbol for a photo shoot) became a trademark of his appearance beginning in the 1920s. Influenced by 17th century Spanish master painter Diego Velázquez, the surrealist’s mustache was voted in a British Movember poll as the most famous of all time, edging out Hulk Hogan’s handlebar by 6%.

 

3. Freddie Mercury

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There’s a laundry list of reasons to appreciate the genius that was Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, starting with any one of his band’s 15 albums, but not the least of which was the time he told an audience full of admiring, screaming fans that a lot of people hated his mustache — but he didn’t give a fuck. “It’s my mustache, and I’m gonna keep it!” he exclaimed before a crowd that only went wilder for the posthumous Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Famer.

 

2. Tom Selleck

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As private investigator Thomas Magnum on Magnum, P.I. in the 1980s; as Dr. Richard Burke on Friends in the ’90s; as casino owner A.J. Cooper on Las Vegas in the late 2000s; and as police commissioner Frank Reagan (the role he currently plays on the CBS series Blue Bloods), Selleck has spent three decades redefining how to rock a serious ‘stache with class and panache (and its own Facebook page). In fact, one of the only times you’ll see this sex symbol without his legendary mouth mirkin is in In & Out, still one of mainstream Hollywood’s few attempts at a comedic “gay movie,” which in its day (the now-so-distant 1997) was widely noted for its 10-second kiss between the former California Army National Guard sergeant and co-star Kevin Kline.

 

1. John Waters

best mustaches john waters

Yeah, we’re totally biased. We admit it. But even the best argument against gay filmmaking and fashion icon John Waters reigning supreme as pop culture’s most memorable mustache is about as thin as his own renowned pencil-thin facial hair. The Polyester director brought his suave style to the forefront in the early 1970s, as a young auteur in Baltimore. That ‘stache isn’t all God’s work, though. Waters relies on a little (perhaps Divine) intervention, filling in his closely clipped mouth coif with Maybelline Velvet Black eyeliner. Totally mondo trasho.

 

Featured illustration by AlisaRed via iStock