The Cookie Duster Canon (1-5)

Over on Facebook I’ve been posting about moustaches. I had these posts to be of little consequence whatsoever, little more than an excuse to write in an overly florid manner about some of my minor pop cultural obsessions and engage in some coarse and unseemly flights of fancy/fantasy.

It’s gone down surprisingly well amongst friends, with some encouraging me to make a ‘zine out of the whole thing eventually. I think I’ll probably end up collaborating with some artists and comics creators on it, with the money raised going towards a legal and/or strike fund for the UVW/IWGB/IWW or other radical independent union.

Here’s numbers 1 – 5. 6-10 to follow.

Day 1: Patrick Cowley

My embrace of the tache is, somewhat childishly, but with a certain amount of sincerity, a riposte to anti hipsterdom – a meaningless and reactionary tendency and rhetorical backwater swum in by sexless, styleless lifestylists and lumpen larpers to signal their singular misreading of the relationship between aesthetics and politics, a deadening impulse to limit the ambitions of working class visual expression generally enacted by comfortably middle class people for whom hiking boots – irrespective of whether or not one is actually hiking or not – and a North Face fleece is meant to somehow signal a radical authenticity.

But it’s also an embrace of my queerness, confidently expressed after many years of confusion and quietude. A cookie duster dollop of pride in my bisexuality flanking my filtrum, a sage nod to the lineage of hirsute lipped leather Daddy’s and butch biker boys, a Tom of Finland fantasia of furriness.

There isn’t anything radical about this, I must make clear. I find the dreadful liberal thrum of politics by screenshot and cod motivational queerness embodied by all that “my existence is a radical act” stuff empty if its not connected to a serious, materialist, communist analysis of sexuality under capitalism.

Nevertheless, I reserve the right to revel in the ascendence to mainstream fashion once more of the tache, triggering as it does in a certain brand of uptight, insecure, smart-casual sort a palpable sense of unease as they sit across from me on public transport playing a silent, internal game of “hipster or homo”/”wet or threat”.

So here’s to tache icon number 1, Patrick Cowley: dreamy synth daddy, erstwhile conjurer of porno soundsapes and electronic esotericist genius. 

Day 2: Graeme Souness

In stark contrast to yesterdays entry, here we have the nil plus ultra of hetro hardnuttery, the very barometer of preternatural aggression, a tache of simmering, palpable, unashamedly retrograde masculine violence. There’s a bestial menace to the Souness tongue tickler, redolent as it is of not just his own individual aggression as the kind of footballer who could move you to tears with the classiness of his touch and decepitvely sophisticated technique while simultaneoulsy retaining the aura of a man who would atavistically rut animal, vegetable or mineral come mating season, but as a representative of a time now largely forgotten.

A time in living memory when the tache was a fixture in the national collective unsonscious as likely to rustle up associations in the mind with Embassy reeking, weatherbeaten leather jackets over militaristically functional knitwear atop eye wateringly tight denim and John Smiths soaked sambas giving a man a kicking in a pub car park for no real reason other than he unknowingly beat the wrong person at a game of a pool in a windowless bar on an estate boozer.

The kind of tache that arms a man with the kind of unhinged, suicidal confidence to plant a Galatasaray flag into the centre circle of Fenerbache’s pitch.

It’s the tache as unbridled Id made hair, the homosapien equivalent of bright colours signalling poisonous danger in the animal world.

Day 3: Gordon from Sesame Street

There’s an immensely satisfying density to Gordon’s nostril scarf, not to mention a gorgeous balance between width and length that frames those kind, worldy features so perfectly. It’s such an aesthetically pleasing work of rectangular folicle embellishment, one so perfectly judged and meticulously maintained that it almost *requires* total baldness of the wearer.

I’ve no idea whether Gordon went bald naturally or his shorn dome was the result of a highly astute biccing, but this classically avuncular top lip truffle renders all other hair unnecessary. It’s all there in that solid, steady wedge: it represents dependability, sure footedness, approachability. It’s the ultimate accesory for the fundamentally fair minded educator which in the wrong hands could scream noncery, but here is simply a signifier of sensitivity, openess and decency.

It keeps Gordon’s upper lip as warm and fuzzy as his good heart, softening the blow of hard bitten realities and difficult emotions as they tumble forth from his mouth beneath into the worlds of the young in direst need of guidance and support.

It’s a tache that trades in fairness and neighbourly compassion and I salute it’s long lived iconic status. 

Day 4: David Ervine

In a bid to ensure you, dear reader, that none of my selections are based on the strident, politically blinkered, ruthlessly sectarian metrics that constitute my usual standards of judgement, yet maintaining a throughline of one of my chief para-academic and historical hobbyist interests, today’s entry is perhaps the most controversial of all. I submit to you the absolutely outstanding mouth mirken once sported by this unusually erudite, departed figurehead of Ulster Loyalism.

Now, in a *further* bid to head off any moral and political criticism of this spicy little entry in the cookie duster canon, and to disabuse you of the notion that my impeccable left revolutionary credentials might be grubbied by the inlcusion of the man his more lumpen Loyalist contemporaries would often accuse of having swallowed both a dictionary and too much Republican Kool-Aid, I want to make it quite clear that my deep admiration for Mr Ervine’s monumentally well kept fuzz ferret does not equate to an endorsement of his reactionary politics.

This is a decision made purely on the aesthetic and semiotic merits of the tache in question. Besides, I’ve got a cracking entry from the other, more inarguably correct side of the Republican/Loyalist divide to come further down the line, so calm your passions, fans. Anyway, we all make mistakes in our misspent youth, and while I have never personally been arrested while driving a stolen car containing five pounds of commercial explosives, a detonator and fuse wire, I also wasn’t brought up in a warzone, so let he who is without 7 months on remand in Crumlin Road Gaol and a guilty charge of possession of explosives with intent to endanger life cast the first stone.

Cast aside your presumptions about the onetime Butchers Apron bumping big lad and focus instead on the (pro) imperial majesty of that soup strainer. It’s the unfathomable solidity of the tache that grabs the attention initially, a quality shared with Gordon from Sesame Street (yesterdays entry) but that sharply diverges into more uncompomising territory in terms of it’s implications.

Ervine’s effort is an altogether more hard bitten beast, the result not of the warm hearted, example setting reassurance of order inherent in the tache of a broadcast educator, but the product of a punishing military regimen. It’s a tache that must withstand both purposeful volleys of armalite fire and industrial amounts of pipe tobacco, a bushy breakwater of stolid intransigence that remained even after our subjects drift towards the prioritisation of political settlement and truth and reconciliation over armed struggle.

A reminder, no doubt, of those military credentials, of the mild threat of a return to the strongarm tactics of steroid-loaded Sounessism (see entry number 2) threatened by those who balked at the Good Friday agreement. The definitive tache of those negotiating the bullet and the ballot, yet a deceptively sensual little number you can imagine caressing the inside of your thigh with a surprising level of kindness and care, in stark contrast to the violent ferment it has sprung forth from.

A mixed bag, for sure, and a lesson to all on the deep ambiguity and ethical baggage we must negotiate when we take up the heavy burden of tache wearing. This is the Hitler/Chaplin dialectic.

I never said this was going to be a comfortable ride, readers. Not as comfy a ride as it would have been to straddle Ervine’s lip and wear him like a feedbag, that’s for sure. You wouldn’t have to tell me there’s No Surrender twice, Dave. I wouldn’t even need a safeword for a trip to *your* space mountain, you articulate UVF hunkazoid.


Day 5: Brookside’s Terry Sullivan

Thus far in this series we’ve primarily been confronted with taches that construct and amalgamate various forms of masculine strength, whether refracted through the prism of queerness, unmitigated phsyical threat, wholesome decency or Ulster loyalist paramilitarism. Along the way, we’ve learned of how the wearers in question have sculpted their nosehole voles to symbolise to the world their most potent qualities, for good or for ill. Up to now we’ve encountered taches of bristling physical dering-do, fierce ideological commitment, steadfast indefatigability and flamboyant self expression.

But what of the tache that represents not power and self empowerment in the face of hostility and provocation, but instead presents us with the inverse: a tache of unrelenting pathos and dispiriting tragedy, a mug rug that acts as a visual shorthand for failure and thwarted upward mobility? Step forward Terry Sullivan, “Teh” to his friends.

It’s the lack of commitment that gives it away. What at first sight appears to be a commendable (if generic) medium density bristler crumbles on closer inspection as the lack of coverage, so obvious when stretched out atop that most nervous of smiles, reveals itself. The length and width may be pleasing enough, but it’s of shoddy quality when it comes to consistency and vibrancy: it’s an outwardly pleasing house built on the flimsiest of foundations, an apt metaphor for Terry’s sorry travails and serial failures, from the heartbreaking lack of connection with his Dad to his squandered potential as one of Merseysides most promising youth footballers.

Initially, the Terry tache had more in common with the hatchet men and strongarmers of this series, perhaps being inspired by his footballing hero Graeme Souness (see Day 2) to grow one in the first place. It was a decision that at first brought ravishing results, with a period of petty crime and nihlist excess under the malign tutelage of career villain Barry Grant. From driving cars into the sea to claim insurance, pickpocketing pensioners and mildly harmful arson, Terry and his tache were well on their way to joining the ranks of common or garden hirsute hardmen.

This ascendence was stark in it’s suddenness, but retrospectively, something of a high point given the constant, veritably ritual humiliation that Terry would go on to be subjected to throughout the remainder of his time on Brookside. He became a byword for roasterdom on the close, a man living in a cul-de-sac whose life had become one, pilloried and lampooned even by the contemptuous and preposterously wigged Ron Dixon (albeit, with typical Dicko cowardice, from the fortified outpost of his mobile shop, from where he would hurl both opprobrium and pastries at his onetime friend after a series of betrayals and breaches of trust).

The tache here reveals itself as it’s own hidden reverse, a prison of it’s own making. The vibrancy and daring of youthful transgression was outstripped by the reality of a past it no-mark, an aura collapsed. The tache seemed to sense this decline, and was itself a sorry state thereafter, like the front lawn of a widower who gives up living with the death of his partner and slowly waits out his own end from a broken heart. In those final years on Brookside it was limp, inconsistent, atrophied.

I’m happy to report, however, that in real life Terry’s tache fared much better as a portent of phsyical force and ruthlessness, as actor Brian Regan was charged with the murder of a doorman in 2011, and there’s nothing more dominant and victorious than besting someone in phsyical combat to the point that you literally kill them, so fair play. Yet tragically, the curse of the tits-up tache struck again when the court found that Regan, now indinstuguishable from the fictional character he once portrayed, hadn’t killed the bouncer at all, but instead had only been the getaway driver for the assassin and his sawn off shotgun.

Once again, the opportunity to have his name up in lights was blown. Relegated once more to a comedically downtrodden support act, it is unknown whether Terry/Regan is still sporting facial hair at all.

Terry declined to be interviewed for this piece.

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