This story is complicated so I mustache you to listen closely.
It was this month in 1907 that waiters in Paris went on strike for the right to grow mustaches.
The turn of the century was a boon for facial hair.
Think of all the US presidents in that era who had bushy beards, walrus mustaches or muttonchop sideburns.
Europeans thought whiskers showed extreme manliness and financial success.
So swashbuckling members of the French military and the wealthy grew out their mustaches.
Those who couldn’t grow naturals would wear fake mustaches!
But as The History Guy explains, society had rules as to who could be a dude and who couldn’t.
The French military told low-level soldiers they had to shave.
And those who worked as waiters at restaurants had to be clean-shaven, too.
Paris, by the way, is where the modern concept of a restaurant started.
And the first restaurant owners wanted rich customers to feel like they were eating at a rich friend’s house, complete with high-end food, fancy surroundings and servants.
The waiters in Paris decided they didn’t want to be seen as servants.
They wanted to be manly and successful too.
So in April 1907, they launched a work stoppage.
And while they did ask for better pay and working conditions too, the mustache campaign became the symbol of their effort.
Waiters who left their jobs in the first wave of the strike went to other restaurants where their clean-shaven colleagues were still at work, and convinced them to walk off too.
By some accounts thousands of waiters took to the streets in days.
There was some pushback in the newspapers.
One writer suggested the strike would lead to higher food prices, and then waiters would laugh at diners behind their newly-grown whiskers!
But they had supporters too, who said free people deserved to grow mustaches if that’s what they wanted.
And over the next few weeks, the waiters won that right, though they didn’t get much else.
And the restaurants found a new way to make their staff look like servants when they made them wear uniforms.
Still, you can find their influence today.
There are people with mustaches, beards, all kinds of facial hair in all kinds of careers and workplaces.
Well, pretty much anywhere except the New York Yankees clubhouse.
A team of engineers at Kawasaki has created maybe the best way to get from here to there.
It’s called Bex, because it’s a walking robotic ibex with four legs and big horns.
They’re mostly meant to carry cargo but come on, I would totally ride one.
The Great Paris Moustache Strike of 1907 (The History Guy)
Photo by Eugène Trutat, Fonds Eugène Trutat, preserved by the muséum de Toulouse, via Wikicommons