November 6, 2014

Movember and Mustaches in American Culture

The training group in Kerala, India was comprised of 18 participants, 12 were men. Nine men had mustaches, a few also had beards. When I started the session, I asked the group to ask me any question they had about working in the US. 

One of the men asked me, "What do Americans think about mustaches? Can I keep my mustache when I go to work in the US?" 

My answer was, 
Sure, why not? Though many American men may not have mustaches, or not as many as in this part of India, I have not heard of an office forcing anyone to remove a mustache. I have had many Indian male friends who have worked years and decades together in the US, in cities or even small towns and they have successfully done so with a mustache. My husband also worked in the US for more than twelve years with a mustache without any issue!

Of course, the men were very relieved to hear that! And, they would be more relieved to hear that the incidence of mustaches and beards are on the increase. Some of the Americans reading this post may recognize the image of Tom Selleck in this article. He was a famous American actor who was well known for sporting a mustache and making it look desirable. Maybe he made such a stir because many American women do not prefer mustaches on men, I don't know. Interestingly, according to a recent article in the Washington Post, it's not only Movember that has decreased sales of men's shavers, but the general culture is moving away from buying men's shavers due to the sheer cost. You could say the sheer cost of shearing facial hair is driving men away from doing it as regularly as they once used to. 

I find it fascinating to understand the why behind such sociological changes. I agree with a lot of theories in the Freakonomics book. I believe it's not just personal choice that allows people to do or not do things, but economics. When the economy is good and people have more money, they would not be so reluctant to purchase things to beautify themselves. However, as the economy gets bad and money dries up, even if people want to keep beautifying themselves, they simply restrain themselves for economic reasons. Here simple economics drives the choice over personal choice. I am sure many American men would prefer to shave more often, but have somehow gained a new comfort with facial hair that they haven't experienced in the more recent economic good times. 

Interestingly, I wonder if the exact opposite is happening in India. Over the past decade or so, I have heard the number of men with mustaches or facial hair is dwindling. The younger ladies also prefer a more clean shaven look, I have heard. If this is true, is this more possible due to the economic growth over India in the past decade. As the article does point out, and our pocket books do feel it, shavers can be and often are very costly accouterments. 

Author, Jennifer Kumar prepares your India-based teams to work effectively with Americans from India or onsite as expat workers in the US. Contact her for your training and coaching needs today. 

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