The Sketchy History of the Pedo Stache
Mustaches get a bad rap. They’ve been associated with dictators and maligned through various nicknames like porn stache and rat stache. But no moniker has cast an unfavorable light on the mustache more than the term pedo stache—a blending of the words pedophile and mustache.
For the better part of the 21st century, the fear of looking like a total creep has kept countless men worldwide from growing a mo.
Where did the term pedo stache come from, and how did it cause such a drastic shift in how we viewed mustaches as a society?
That's what we hoped to find out, but as it turns out, this history is rather… sketchy.
Nevertheless, we did some digging and put together this unadulterated history of the pedo stache because, ultimately, mustaches deserve far more dignity than this.
PEDO STACHE ORIGINS
It’s hard to pinpoint an exact origin date for the word pedo stache, but we can place it sometime between 2003 and 2006.
The first appearance of the words “stache” and “pedophilia” in the same definition occurred in August 2003 on Urban Dictionary. This was used to define the word stache—used as a descriptor of one’s personality.
A person who is genetically predispositioned to have upper lip hair. Usually accompanied by aviator sunglasses, police-issue gloves and a pedophilia like stare down.
”My friend Phil Stache has a stache because he is a stache.”
- by Justin August 15, 2003
It would be another three years before the term “pedo stache” would make its online debut.
In 2006, Adam Morrison was a Junior on the Gonzaga men’s college basketball team. He was a gangly, 6’8” forward with a mop of black hair that hung down over his brow and covered his ears. He wore a mustache—a bold move for any man in 2006—but particularly bold for Morrison, who was barely beyond his teenage years. His mustache was sparse and thin, only visible in the right light. And in 2006, the lights shone brightly on Adam Morrison.Embed from Getty Images
Morrison led the NCAA in scoring during the 2006 season. Despite his dominance that year, he’s remembered primarily for two things—the crying game, in which Morrison collapsed to the court in tears after Gonzaga blew a 17-point lead en route to a gutwrenching loss to UCLA in the NCAA Tournament, and bearing the brunt of all kinds of hostility from rival fans.
Morrison was a big target as the league’s leading scorer, but his mustache took the brunt of the insults. The New York Times ran a story published on March 3, 2006, titled Vaunted and Taunted, that shed more light on the abuse hurled Morrison’s way during that year:
“Two nights later in Malibu, a group of students at Pepperdine debated jokingly whether Morrison's mustache left him looking more like a porn star or a pedophile… "Amber Alert," some students yelled as the Gonzaga players arrived in their team bus.”
We don’t know for certain that basketball fans jeered him with pedo stache chants. Still, three months after the New York Times article ran, pedostache made its first official online appearance—once again, on Urban Dictionary. That first-posted definition reads:
A thin layer of hair, lacking the regality of a full blown mustache, atop the upper lip. Commonly found on individuals with Tony Danza-esque minivans and lots of candy.
”Hey, check out the pedostache on that guy. Hey, where'd little Timmy go…”
- (by J. Agnew June 12, 2006)
PEDO STACHE IS TRENDING
Before 2007, pedostache was a term that existed in the dark corners of the web (and maybe in the minds of college students searching for new ways to distract a basketball player the way only college students can—with unrelenting degradation).
But in May 2007, “pedostache” became a trending search term on Google Trends with an interest score of 51.
Note: Google Trends measures search interest over time on a scale of 0–100. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the word is half as popular. A score of 0 means there was not enough data for this term.
The word would spend the next several years bouncing between relevant and irrelevant before becoming a more commonly searched term around 2011.
So, what was happening between the years 2007 and 2011?
It’s hard to say for sure. One theory is that Movember was gaining steam in the United States during those years, meaning people who weren’t used to seeing men with mustaches were beginning to see more and more men with mustaches. And as we've seen throughout history, when mustaches increase in popularity, so does the pushback against them.
Movember was launched in Australia in 2003. By 2004, its founders were using the conversation-generating ability of lip hair to help raise funds for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. Movember took off and, by 2007, had spread into Canada, New Zealand, Spain, the UK, and the USA. By November 2010, over one million people had participated in Movember since its inception. That number tripled the following year, eclipsing 3 million participants by the end of 2011.
Perhaps it’s coincidental, but in November 2011, the term “pedostache” reached a new high on Google Trends with a score of 80.
The other theory—and probably the correct theory—is that a young Justin Beiber grew a pencil mustache in 2010, and entertainment outlets started calling it a pedo stache, leading to an influx of teenie boppers googling the term.
Either way, pedo stache was officially on the map by the end of 2010.
THE MUSTACHE GETS THE CREEP TREATMENT
When The Lonely Island released the music video for their song, “The Creep” featuring Nikki Minaj, in 2011, the idea that mustaches were creepy was hardly new.
The comedy trio formed by Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg, and Jorma Taccone took aim at the pencil mustache style worn by John Waters. Waters was in on the joke—he introduces the song by saying, “Hi, I’m John Waters, and this is The Creep.”
The song is a two-minute and thirty-nine-second satirical celebration of voyeurism. But it’s rooted in our cultural ideas of what a Peeping Tom looks like. Schaffer, Samberg, and Taccone all sport thin pencil mustaches and clear, aviator Jeffrey Dahmer style glasses. (Note: Dahmer was a grade-a-certified creep).
Now pull your waistband up like you expectin' a flood
And slick your hair down flat like it was covered in mud
Trim up your pencil mustache and pop them peepers
Put this in your speakers; you a certified creeper
While “The Creep” wasn’t directly tied to the pedo stache, it plays into the image of the socially inept, sexually deviant mustached man we frequently saw in the media in the early 2000s. It’s Kip, and Uncle Rico in the 2004 indie hit Napolean Dynamite or Ryan Gossling in the 2007 film Lars and the Real Girl, in which the blonde-mustached Gossling falls in love with a sex doll. There’s also Jake Gyllenhaal’s mustache in Brokeback Mountain, to which one Boston Globe film critic wrote, “When Jake Gyllenhaal shows up in the latter half of “Brokeback Mountain” in a mustache, he’s trying to wear it for real. He’s supposed to be a cowboy. But every time I saw the movie, the audience laughed.”
One last thing about “The Creep.” It has been viewed on YouTube over 100 million times. A ton of people have peeped it.
THE PEDO STACHE GOES MAINSTREAM
In February 2015, pedostache hit peak Google search interest, with a score of 100 on Google Trends, its highest score ever.
In 2016, The Daily Squat, a British satire site that is no longer online, ran an article with the headline, “Thousands of men to look like pedophiles for charity” in advance of Movember. The tropes about pedophiles and mustaches were pretty low-hanging fruit by that time.
And in 2020, Justin Bieber again made headlines for having a "pedo stache."
That brings us up to today. But it still leaves one central question unanswered…
IS THERE ANY EVIDENCE THAT SUPPORTS THE PEDO STACHE MONIKER?
We did some digging and researched high-profile cases related to pedophilia and other related crimes—child molestation, kidnapping, etc. There was no shortage of cases, but there weren’t many mustaches on the mugshots either, at least not ones that would fit the pedostache moniker.
However, we did find one—Tom O’Carroll.
O’Carroll, who published Paedophilia: The Radical Case in 1980, was possibly the most outspoken supporter of adult-children sexual relationships ever. He would be convicted of conspiracy to corrupt public morals for contact ads published in the Paedophile Information Exchange a year later. He would later be convicted for child pornography as well.
O’Carroll’s mugshot fits the bill for the 2000s definition of the pedo stache. It’s spot on. And if you add the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer, Edmund Kemper, Ted Bundy, and John Wayne Gacy, you could maybe start to have a case for the origin of the word.
Howevrer, it’s worth noting that all of these men were brought into the public spotlight between 1973 and 1991 when mustaches were very much the norm. In those years, their facial hair would have hardly been considered creepy.
It appears the pedo stache as we know it is a retroactive adjustment—a reflection on how we felt about mustaches at a time in the mid-aughts when mustaches were nowhere to be found. It’s revisionist history.
Unfortunately, we know all too well how one man can ruin a mustache for everyone—or at least one type of mustache. The damage has been done, and the term pedo stache likely isn’t going away anytime soon. So if you’re going to grow a mustache, we might suggest growing a thicker, fuller mustache style like a chevron or walrus.
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Keep on Growing.
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