Move over modern Mo – Victorians show how it’s really done

The staff at Royal Commission on the Ancient Historical Monuments of Scotland compare their moustaches to those in days gone by

WELCOME to Movember, Victorian style.

Government historians have trawled their official records for examples of Scots with magnificent moustaches from more than a century ago.

The “Scotland’s Lost Moustaches” project has been dreamed up by staff at the grandly-named Royal Commission on the Ancient Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS).

Inspired by the Movember charity, they have discovered scores of images showing an age when sporting a titantic ‘tache was considered the norm.

From soldiers to bankers and from the unemployed to gentlemen, the late-Victorian and early-Edwardian Scots all wore their moustaches with pride.

The Movember  charity is raising awareness about men’s health by encouraging the normally clean-shaven to sprout a moustache.

The main job of RCAHMS is to keep records of Scotland’s monuments and ancient buildings, but they also have an extensive photography collection, which includes donations of family albums.


Alasdair Burns, a publications and graphics officer with the body, said: “One hundred years ago, men really knew how to cultivate and look after their facial hair.

“Moustaches were symbols of pride, authority and status. No self-respecting Victorian or Edwardian stiff upper lip was complete without one.

“Our archive photographs are a window on a world of lost moustache.”

The images range from 1889 to 1907 and cover the full range of Scottish society.

One picture shows a group outing of immaculately-dressed and splendidly moustached staff from the Glassford Street, Glasgow branch of the Bank of Scotland, pictured in 1890

This impressivly dressed group are identified as “The unemployed” – though the caption is possibly ironic

Tweed-clad and pipe-smoking masters and guests at the now demolished St Fort Country House in Fife are pictured in 1895, all sporting bushy and beautifully-groomed ‘taches.

Another image shows “gentleman cyclist S R Turnbull” posing with his bike – and impressive facial hair – on the banks of Loch Long in 1904.

Soldiers, curlers and ghillies also feature in the pictures.

One picture of a group of proud and well-dressed moustache wearers purports to show men on the dole, though this title may be ironic and they are simply men who don’t need to work.

Jamie Crawford of RCAHMS said: “It might seem funny, but it tells you a lot about what Scotland was like 100 years ago.

“We chose to focus on moustaches because it shows it highlights a certain way of life. If we didn’t it would be lost forever.”

Mr Crawford, along with the other members of the team who researched the pictures, is growing his own Movember ‘tache, inspired by one of the images.


The picture shows an unknown Bank of Scotland banker from 1890 with a particularly elegant moustache.

He said: “I would be happy to say this guy is my hero.

“Looking at him and the other Bank of Scotland staff in the pictures, compared to Bank of Scotland staff today, shows you how the world has changed.”

Mr Crawford’s mustache was inspired by the elegant ones in the archive

Mr Crawford said the fashion for moustaches took a big hit during the Second World War.

He said: “American troops coming to Britain were told to shave their facial hair to stop lice.

“That’s how Gillette established its shaving empire and introduced the safety razor to Britain.

“It’s suggested British women liked these clean-shaven American GIs, so British men thought they were missing a trick.

“It’s a fashion that hasn’t changed back, but maybe something like Movember might drive a change.”

Ian Thomson, owner of the Gentleman’s Groom Room in Dundee, said: “It’s great that these moustache styles are being brought to light once again. It’s opening it up to a whole new generation.

“It’s amazing how many different styles they wore.

“Moustaches may well have been a status symbol in the late Victorian/ early Edwardian era. There probably was a bit of competition about who could sport the most daring moustache.

“I’m not 100% sure it was purely elitist, but it was certainly a more affluent kind of person who visted the male grooming shops of the day.”

He added interest in moustaches might outlast Movember:  “We get a lot of younger guys sporting them coming in. Some of them are saying ‘you know what, I like this’, and they’ll keep it beyond Movember.”

Movember is designed to raise money for testicular and prostate cancer.

The RCAHMS moustache images will be made available on the organisation’s website.