Mustache popularity is currently growing in the U.S., with about 36% of men sporting one nowadays, as opposed to only 19% in 1980. Of course, in “Mo-vember,” mustaches become even more popular, as men grow them to bring awareness to prostate and other men’s cancers.
But what kind of message does a mustache send? Does it say “dapper and Clark Gable-esque?” or does it say, “give me your wallet”?
We decided to look at the prevalence of mustache-wearing among criminals vs. the general public, to see if criminals are more likely to have mustaches. Here’s what we found:
Our survey probably wouldn’t withstand the rigors of scientific review, but we did our best to take an adequately-sized sample and to count without bias. We looked at a wide variety of mug shot lists, taken from a random sampling of states, the FBI’s Most Wanted list, terrorist lists, and sex offenders. On each page of mug shots, we tallied every third male who showed a clear mustache or clean-shaven lip, skipping those who simply looked like they hadn’t shaved in a couple of days, or in which we couldn’t tell if there was a mustache present.
Out of a total of 217 mug shots viewed, a whopping 129 of those had mustaches, compared to just 88 in the bare-lipped category. (We didn’t count beards—some of those 88 had beards without an accompanying mustache.) That’s over 59% of the total—significantly higher than the general population. Among specialized groups, sex offenders were 50/50 for mustaches, whereas 75% of terrorists sported them, likely for religious reasons.
Facial Hair Regulations in Prison
Although a mug shot is not a guilty verdict, and some of these gentlemen are probably innocent, we can probably assume a fair number of them will end up in prison. So, do prisoners have freedom of mustache rights, or do they have to shave?
It depends on the prison. Each prison determines its own grooming policy, and most allow facial hair if it is clean and neat, and less than ¼” in length. Several lawsuits have been filed by inmates who claim their religious rights have been violated by the grooming policies of the prisons incarcerating them. Generally, courts find that hair long enough to hide contraband is unacceptable, regardless of religion. So, if you can hide a shank in your ‘stache, you’re probably going to have to shave it when you go to jail.
And, given that the majority of men who end up with mug shots do have a mustache, you might consider shaving yours when Mo-vember is over.