Police Moustache [Growing guide and history]

When you think of a police officer, you almost certainly think of a police officer with a moustache. Police moustaches are a common sight among police departments throughout the world. The stereotype of an officer with a police moustache may come from the military influence on the police force. It may be that a moustache is the most practical form of displaying masculinity on your face.

A police moustache is typically as wide as the corners of the mouth and does not extend over the top lip. This shape is deemed the most professional and practical for the daily role of a police officer.

  1. No wider than the corners of the mouth
  2. Not over the lip
  3. Not upturned
  4. Kept neat and tidy

Why do cops have moustaches

There are several theories about why a police officer is stereotypically wearing a moustache.

Police officers have moustaches because it is a nod to the frontier sheriff’s history of their profession. The military influence on modern policing also respects the growth of a moustache. Alternatively, it also signifies maturity in the police department and helps build respect.

1. Because they can

Due to the dangerous nature of the work, there are many rules and regulations for police officers. Many codes and regulations determine what police officers should wear and how they should appear professional and keep themselves safe.

A moustache can be grown in most police departments around the world, and it is one of the only types of facial hair that they are allowed to grow.

In fact, the Massachusetts State police (a state that forbids officers from having a moustache) sued the government to allow them to grow a moustache.

2. Frontier sheriff history

Some people say that it is the historical prevalence of moustaches of frontier sheriffs. TV and history books are full of sheriffs from rural police forces sporting an impressive moustache.

Perhaps a cop moustache is a nod to the history of the sheriffs that faced so much danger in the early stages of police work.

3. Military tradition

Much of the police culture and tradition is inherited from the military. The military also has a historical connection to wearing a moustache. The higher the position in the military, the more likely the person is to have a moustache. A moustache often distinguishes between a trainee and a full officer.

Some cadets are not allowed to grow a moustache until they graduate.

A moustache signals a transition from trainee to full-blown military recruit, and the moustache can be an external sign of that achievement.

In the UK, It was the law for officers to have Moustaches. From 1860 to 1916, the British Army imposed mandatory dress regulations on their soldiers, including the requirement to have a moustache.

4. Beards are unsafe for cops

It could be that moustaches are the most practical use of facial hair. Beards are very unsafe for the daily activities of a police officer for various reasons, including:

  • Seal around masks
  • Criminal pulling at it
  • Getting trapped during duty

These simple dangers mean that police officer are prohibited from beards but not moustaches. A moustache becomes an obvious and only choice for those who want to grow facial hair during a career as a police constable.

5. Respectability

The last reason police officers are encouraged to wear moustaches is that it signals a dominance that the average person respects.

Because we have societal respect for our elders, a moustache can help criminals understand that the police officer and the establishment respect conservative values and law-abiding actions.

In India, police officers in some provinces were awarded an extra allowance for a moustache because it improved respectability. They were given up to 250 rubles a month if they sported a healthy moustache.

Types of police moustache

Many types of police moustaches have evolved and been famous throughout the year. The 80s and 90s were prone to cop dramas and movies with a moustache wearing police officers.

Let’s take a look at the 80s and 90s cop moustaches and the distinguishing features of each.

80s cop moustache

One of the most famous cop style moustaches to come out of the 80s is the big full moustache of Magnum PI.

Magnum PI is an American crime drama starring Thomas Selleck as Thomas Magnum a private investigator living in Hawaii. It ran from 1980 to 1988 and consistently ranked in the top 20 US crime dramas.

At first glance, this moustache is much wider than a regulation moustache for a police officer. It is about 1 ½ cm away from the corner of his mouth meaning it is not quite regulation.

This is not surprising as the character is a private investigator. However, the regulation police officer moustache can also be seen in the image.

A 80s cop moustache is very thick and full and held into place with a little bit of wax at the edges.

90s cop moustache

One of the most famous cop moustaches to come out of the 90s was found in NYPD Blue. Dennis Franz played NYPD detective Andy Sipowicz.

The series was broadcast on the ABC network and debuted on September 21, 1993. It was ABC’s longest-running primetime one-hour drama series and aired its final episode in March 2005.

The moustache sported by Dennis Franz is a little longer than the sides of the mouth and droops a little bit below the corners of the mouth. Not exactly regulation in NYPD, but it may have been overlooked for the show.

The bottom line of the moustache does not extend below the top line of the lip, and it is very thin and straight.

How to grow a police moustache

Growing out a police moustache is very quick and easy compared to growing a full beard.

After only a couple of months, most people will be able to grow a neat police moustache of their choosing.

Here are all of the steps for growing a police moustache that follows all of the regulations for police officers.

1. Grow out for two months

the first thing you need to do for a police moustache is to get as much length as possible to work with.

If you are growing your moustache from a fresh shave, you will need to wait up to 2 months for a full and even growth.

Other people will be able to grow an even moustache in approximately one month. Still, a two-month weight for most growers will ensure that your beard is full and looks thick and substantial compared to the clean, shaved cheeks.

2. Trim sides

A police moustache is not long on the sides, and any hairs or shape that resembles a walrus moustache or handlebar moustache should be trimmed immediately.

Most police moustache regulations say that it should be no wider than the corners of your mouth. Luckily, most people’s moustache naturally tapers downwards at the sides and therefore achieving a contained and neat moustache on the sites is relatively easy.

3. Trim bottom line

The moustache hairs mustn’t cover your top lip. A clean and straight line should be trimmed into the bottom of the moustache that closely follows the top line of your lip.

This line is the hardest to get perfectly straight, but seeing a professional or investing in a good quality pair of sharp scissors will help you keep it very straight and regulation compliant.

4. Keep it very tidy

A police moustache is kept very tidy.

Keeping your moustache tidy means ensuring that there are no flyaway hairs and that all lines are kept very straight and sharp.

An important part to consider about your moustache is the area where your moustache connects with your nose. A clean and tidy moustache has a clear line between the nose and mouth and avoids any nasal hairs blending into the moustache.

Carrying a small moustache comb will help you tuck away any of those flyaway hairs that may escape during the day.

5. Add wax or balm to hold

Adding a small amount of moustache wax or balm with a wax component will help keep your police moustache regulation ready.

Just a small amount of moustache wax or beard balm will also hydrate and nourish the moustache hairs ensuring that it looks healthy and shiny and it avoids being dry and prone to damage.

How to care for a police moustache

Caring for a police moustache is relatively simple, and it requires some very simple and easy to acquire tools such as a sharp pair of scissors and a good moustache comb.

1. Scissors

One of the defining features of a police moustache is how neat all of the lines are kept. You must invest in a good pair of sharp scissors to trim up the bottom and sides to regulation.

If you find that scissors cannot cut through your thick moustache, you can purchase a good pair of tremors to make the job a little bit easier.

2. Cleaning

A good moustache is a clean moustache, and cleaning your police moustache regularly will keep it looking tidy. During the day, the moustache can easily pick up food and other contaminants, so regular washing is important.

Use a good quality beard shampoo to completely clean the moustache and use your fingertips to get right to the bottom of the moustache hairs.

Regular shampooing of your moustache can potentially dry out your moustache, and therefore you will need to return the nourishment using a good beard and moustache conditioner.

3. Nourishment

To keep your moustache in tip-top shape, you should use a good beard conditioner or beard balm with plenty of natural butter (such as Shea butter and cocoa butter).

Ensure that your beard conditioner has plenty of oils and butter to deep treat your police moustache.

4. Combing

Combing is one of the easiest ways for keeping your police moustache clean and tidy.

Carrying a small moustache comb in your pocket will allow you to brush your moustache to remove food and other contaminants and tuck in those nasty flyaway hairs.

Police moustache rules from around the world

There are some general rules for police moustaches is around the world, and put simply these are:

Moustaches must be neatly trimmed and must not extend beyond the upper corner of the mouth. Beards and goatees are strictly prohibited.

 All of these rules are to keep officers looking “professional” and “uniform.”

Unless your moustache is raising money for a charity such as Movember, these rules apply. It’s great that police officers are given the flexibility to contribute to important causes such as Movember.

Here are the rules from around the world for police moustaches. They pretty much follow the same rules with some slight variations.

Australia

Officers must be shaved from the bottom of the jaw to the shirt collar, and moustaches must not be wider than the outer edge of each eye or extend past the bottom edge of the upper lip.

The use of ‘handlebars’ and ‘horseshoes’ is prohibited.

While on duty, Victoria Police officers must be cleanly shaven.

The web guidelines state that “beards are not permitted unless you have a religious, cultural, or medical exemption.”

“As long as the moustache does not extend below the bottom lip, it is fine.”

NYC

As far as the NYPD is concerned, the moustache rules tend to be:

  • no earrings, excessive jewellery, or chains
  • absolutely no facial hair (not even a moustache) and short (army style cut) hair only in the academy
  • Mustache only with sideburns over the earlobe and properly trimmed hair UNLESS
    • Assigned to the covert unit
    • Has a shave-related medical concern
    • Has a religious document (mostly exclusive to Sikh, Muslim, or Jewish police officers)

Some officers break some of the rules, but it is enforced more strictly in some departments.

UK

The Royal College of Policing advises recruits that facial hair is OK but should be kept ‘neat and tidy.’

In addition, “moustaches must be clear of the upper lip and not projecting below the mouth line or be upturned,” according to Police Scotland.

Summary

Police moustaches are very tidy and typically follow the rules, including their width and length.

There are some historical reasons why police officers have moustaches. Still, primarily, it is the only type of facial hair that is practical for a role that could see a beard pulled by a criminal and cause the officer danger.

The most important thing about a police moustache is to keep it no wider than the corners of your mouth and ensure that the hairs’ bottom line does not extend past your lip line.

The Author


Andy Stapleton

Andy is a writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. He has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. He is an avid beard grower and after many years of growing and trialing different beard styles, he started this blog to share the tips, tricks, and science that he has learned along the way!