BY DANIEL STRAUSS
Published September 8, 2009
A strange correlation of sports fandom is that the more diehard the fan, the more dignity to sacrificed to support his or her team of choice. Grown men paint their entire bodies primary colors, dress as animals and chant rhymes like their lives depend on it.
But one group of Michigan football fans has taken the reverential humiliation one step farther. You might have seen some of its members at Saturday’s game — they were the guys who looked like they just stepped off the set of a ’70s porno.
Mustaches for Michigan is a movement started by a group of University alums who think the best way for diehard Michigan fans to support their team at the first game is to bear their allegiance on their upper lip.
“This is kind of our response to being all in for Michigan,” said Keith Patterson, who helped found the movement with three alumni who are also living in Los Angeles. “It's just kind of something that started among us four that's like, ‘Let's grow a mustache for that opener,’ and it kind of grew from there.”
Along with Patterson, mustachioed Michigan men Jeff McKibben, Will Bransdorfer and Joel Morgan spread the word to other fans through a blog they have diligently tended since July. The message: grow a beard throughout August and shave it into a luxurious ‘stache for game day.
The posts on MustachesforMichigan.com are a combination of anticipatory enthusiasm for the start of the season and advice on mustache care.
“Have you thought about what style of mustache you will be sporting on Sept. 5?” reads a post on Sept. 1 that linked to an illustrated styling guide. “Hopefully, you've taken into consideration shaving and grooming into account as you fantasized about this coming Saturday. So allow us to be the first to tell you, if you don't already know — there are bunches of ways to style the 'stache! Will it be the classic (and white trashish) chevron? A handle-bar? The pencil mustache? Decisions, decisions.”
Paul Cummings, a graduate student in the College of Engineering, just chose to trim his usual facial hair to meet the movement’s call. His eight-person football group all followed suit, with all the men growing mustaches and one woman sporting a fake one.
But mustaches made appearances elsewhere besides Ann Arbor. At a Michigan alumni gathering in Washington D.C., 2007 LSA graduate Dan Taylor said he ran into other bewhiskered fans.
“We went down to the alumni bar down in D.C. yesterday, and every 10 or 11 people you'd see with a mustache and you'd give them a high five or a handshake,” Taylor said.
Sadly, Taylor’s whiskers were short-lived, since his wife was not a fan and Taylor suspected that his consulting clients wouldn’t be either. But Taylor plans to continue the tradition and sport a nice, thick handlebar for next year’s season opener.
To the Mustaches for Michigan founders, the lip cover is the appropriate symbol of support for Michigan football — and the ultimate expression of strength and style.
“It almost harkens back to the tale of Samson and Delilah in that one's power grows as one's mustache increases,” Morgan said. “Delilah shaved Samson's head, he lost all his power. I'd like to think that if my mustache were shaved off of me in the middle of the night then I'd feel like less of a man in the morning.”
It's hard to predict the future of fashion — the handlebar mustache may very well never grace the pages of Vogue as one of the season's high fashions. But if it does, the Mustaches for Michigan founders have one unanimous sentiment: “God help us.”
Regardless of what fashion dictates, we probably haven’t seen the last of the Michigan mustache.
In a postgame e-mail, Patterson wrote how he thought Saturday was a success — for both Michigan football and the supporting ‘staches.
“We had a solid mustached showing,” he wrote. “Our team won, and definitively so. Does one have anything to do with the other? Only our mustaches know the answer to that question.”