A ’stache grows in Providence

Sex Confident Dept.
By MARION DAVIS  |  November 18, 2009

 TJI_MrIntrospective_main

Beards are easy. Almost any guy can grow some scruff, and in some circles, it's almost de rigueur. But a mustache — that takes work, and it takes guts. A mustache is bold.

And be advised, it's about to become the epitome of sexy. Or rather, "sex-confident." That's the term coined by photographer Ricky Chapman and his models, a group of students and alumni of Rhode Island School of Design who just published "The Moustache Calendar 2010," an artistic tribute to the perfect strip of facial hair.

It started this spring in a studio class. Chapman and his wife, Amy, a 2006 illustration graduate, were working with students, and he told a story about putting together a mustache calendar at his old college in California when he was broke and needed money.

The students jumped on the concept. Already, mustaches were sprouting up on unexpected faces, the first hint of a trend. It sounded fun. Yet it was still early enough that they'd stick out on campus; "a lot of guys at RISD wouldn't do it," Chapman says.

Even for those who did, it was a leap. Would it look good, or just cheesy? Their mustached mentor steered them right.

"I just kept telling them, 'You should look sexy and confident, because you have a mustache,' " Chapman says. "If you have a mustache and you're wearing it well, the only way you should look is sexy and confident."

The photos — all black-and-whites, shot by Chapman at various locations, including his own house and yard — showcase mustaches in many forms. There's the "Caveman," thick and wide; the "Professional," neat and trim; "Conquistazuma," pointed at the ends; the "Casanova," thin and curved; the "Lumberjack," bushy and paired with a couple days' beard.

For all the artifice, however, the mustaches are pretty . . . natural. "It became a lot more classic and elegant than I think anyone expected," says Chapman.

"I think they're all real mustaches," says Nathan Phipps, a senior and industrial-design major who's "Mr. Introspective," the trim, buzzcut-wearing March model. "These are not mustaches for competitions; this is about the man wearing the mustache."

"You see a lot of hipster kids who will grow these obnoxious mustaches that are just there to say, 'Look at me,' and then you've got the World Beard and Moustache Championships every year . . . and they build ships into their mustaches, but they're just not very functional," Chapman adds. "You look in the '60s, the '70s, and there were just classy actors, musicians who had clean, functional, very beautiful mustaches, and that's what we're talking about."

So is it catching on?

Phipps and Chapman certainly think so. Phipps, who'd grown a mustache for a few days before but never kept it, has grown his hair out and a full mustache with it; his girlfriend likes it, he says, though "she makes me keep it pretty trim."

The calendar just came out a few days ago, and it's now selling for $15 at the RISD and Brown University bookstores, plus online at themoustachecalendar.com and sexconfident.com. The proceeds will go first to covering costs, Chapman says, but then part may be donated to men's health causes through a mustache-themed charity called Movember Worldwide.

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