Does Saddam impose a mustache mandate in Iraq?

Answers to your questions about the news.
March 5 2003 5:29 PM

Does Saddam Impose a Mustache Mandate in Iraq?

Expertly manicured mustaches seem to be ubiquitous among Iraqi men, particularly those in Saddam Hussein's inner circle. Is the hirsuteness a Saddam-mandated requirement or merely part of Iraqi tradition?

Mostly the latter. Iraqi men have taken tremendous pride in their mustaches since at least the 16th century, when the whisker-loving Ottomans ruled the region. The bushier the better is the general rule of thumb, as mustache thickness is believed to be directly proportional to masculinity. As Newsday correspondent Matthew McAllester noted in an Iraqi mustache primer last October, an impressive man is often complimented with the adage "an eagle could land on his mustache."

Advertisement

Mustaches also serve as metaphors for personal honor. Iraqi men will swear on them, much as many Americans will swear on a Bible, and to tug a rival's mustache is tantamount to a glove-slap in the face. Early Wednesday, in fact, at an Islamic summit in Doha, Qatar, an Iraqi official insulted a Kuwaiti heckler by shouting, "Curse be upon your mustache, you traitor!"

Saddam Hussein's preference for a Stalin-esque mustache has only increased the look's popularity, of course. During the Iran-Iraq War, young conscripts were urged to grow Saddam-like facial hair—partly in homage to their president and partly to differentiate themselves from the Iranian troops, who favored ayatollah-inspired beards. Given Saddam's suspicion of nonconformists, not to mention his wild megalomania, soldiers are well-advised to mimic the dictator's grooming habits—which reportedly include frequent dye jobs, to fight off unflattering gray.

Brendan I. Koerner is a contributing editor at Wired and a columnist for Gizmodo. His first book, Now the Hell Will Start, is out now.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

The Ludicrous Claims You’ll Hear at This Company’s “Egg Freezing Parties”

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM Going Private To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  Life
The Eye
Oct. 1 2014 9:26 AM These Lego Masterpieces Capture the Fear and Humor of the “Dark” Side
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 8:46 AM The Vintage eBay Find I Wore to My Sentencing
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 7:30 AM Say Hello to Our Quasi-Moon, 2014 OL339
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.