BBC article about HM
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Is wearing a 'Hitler moustache' a good idea?
By Tom Geoghegan
BBC News Magazine
A comedian has grown a toothbrush moustache in an attempt to break its association with Adolf Hitler. So how did people react and could it ever be fashionable?
Herring says he could sense people judging him by his moustache
Moustaches come in all sorts of styles but the sight of a toothbrush moustache, with its narrow width and straight, untapered sides, is very rare.
Since World War II it has not been popular, but long before Hitler rose to power, the toothbrush was the signature look of Charlie Chaplin.
Chaplin even played on his likeness to the German leader by sending him up in The Great Dictator, although when filming stopped his false moustache would be packed away with his trademark walking stick and hat.
Now comedian Richard Herring is sporting a toothbrush moustache for his Edinburgh show, Hitler Moustache, in which he rails against voter apathy and the BNP.
I felt quite afraid and a bit upset
He first grew it more than three months ago and the first few days were very unsettling for him.
"As people passed they would start laughing about five yards behind me. A group of lads called me 'Adolf'. I haven't had any sense of anger but I think some people were intimidated or scared."
The moustache made him so paranoid about what judgements people were making that he shaved it off after the first week.
"I thought that at any moment someone might smack me in the face. I was being judged by my appearance and being a white, middle-class man I've never looked to draw attention to myself before.
AbdalÃ¡ Bucaram, former Ecuador president
Grange Hill's Mr Bronson (pictured)
Blakey, in On The Buses
"I felt quite afraid and a bit upset. Then I wondered if I was upsetting anyone, and was it worth it if I had done."
His parents' impending golden wedding celebrations gave him another excuse to shave it off but he grew it back with added purpose, because the BNP European election gains had given his forthcoming Edinburgh show - and his facial hair - a political focus.
"After I grew it back again, I knew that if anyone challenged me, I had a reason to give them.
"I was trying to reclaim it as a political protest against the BNP. I'm using the Hitler moustache to oppose fascism.
"It feels like a victory for Hitler that, 70 years on, he still has a vestige of a victory that this is still his moustache and not, for instance, Charlie Chaplin's."
The toothbrush became popular in the 1920s, says Herring, as a response by working-class men to the more flamboyant, flowing Kaiser-style moustaches of the upper classes.
After his show, Herring supplies everyone in the audience with a fake toothbrush moustache, and he hopes to organise a day when, like a red nose for Comic Relief, everyone wears a narrow moustache to champion democracy and emphasise the important of voting.
"In order to change the meaning of a symbol, it requires a few people to go out and change opinions, in the way that gay men did with the skinhead.
Charlie Chaplin and Adolf Hitler
Hitler trimmed his moustache in World War I so it could fit into a gas mask
"I'm not convinced it will work but people seem to be getting behind the idea. I'm not anticipating it becoming a fashionable thing again but it would be good if people could grow one without the fascist association."
Since World War II there have been some notable toothbrush moustaches.
The late actor Michael Sheard was one of its most prolific exponents. Not only did he bring it into the Grange Hill classroom as the authoritarian teacher Maurice Bronson from 1985 to 1989, he also played Hitler five times. There was also the former Ecuador president, AbdalÃ¡ Bucaram.
But style commentator Karen Kay says the chances of it ever becoming fashionable in the UK are very remote.
"It's so comical. The way it's neat and rectangular. Hair isn't meant to have square edges, it's natural and flowing.
"At least if you are going to have one, make it curly and flowing, but to have a rectangular block on your lip is very strange."
Perhaps a geeky comedian or singer could pull it off, she says, but no man should grow one to improve their attractiveness because the only man in history who has ever looked good with a moustache is Tom Selleck.