Of Schnurrbarts And Zwerbels

Men, we need to have a serious discussion. Ladies may read on, but we will be discussing a subject one presumes is repugnant to ladies, which is facial hair. For men, however, moustaches and beards are heavily symbolic items in the meager collection of accessories available to the male of the species. Clean-shaven metrosexuals may sport their well-cut suits and sparkly bling, but those are mere male versions of existing female paraphernalia. Men have little else to work with, as Damian Domingue was pointing out the other day. 

“Men’s only accessories are facial hair and belts,” Damian said, sitting on a brilliant spring day at a picnic table at the Flat Rock Playhouse, where he has worked since 1993 as one of its “resident creatives”, doing everything from acting to writing music for productions. One would like to add that Damian’s hair was ruffled by a light spring breeze as he spoke, but Damian is bald, a career-related result of once appearing in a production of “The King and I”; and, besides, a full head of hair would have detracted from the splendid moustache and muttonchops that grace the lower portions of his facial anatomy, a bold accessorizing statement if ever there was one. (Disclosure: this writer has what might be considered by the more charitable as a beard and moustache, paltry compared to Damian’s, but possibly injecting a faint note of tonsorial jealousy into this article.)

Categorizing Damian’s moustache as a handlebar yields only a weak and unmasculine impression of its impeccable shape and clean lines. Its curving ends are authoritative and definite, their movement up and down as Damian speaks providing emphasis to his words. Then, too, there is the contrast between the clipped and waxed certitude of the moustache and the bushier cascades of beard along his jaw line, dissolving into a tinge of gray as they nearly, but not quite, touch on his chin. “I started shaving in the seventh or eighth grade,” said Damian, who is 39, “but I can’t remember when I had my first moustache. I don’t think I had my first real moustache until I was in my early thirties.”

Damian’s moustache is more properly identified as a schnurrbart, a fact he discovered during a visit to Innsbruck, Austria, after attending the 2005 World Beard and Moustache Competition in Berlin. “There was a little shop selling all kinds of grooming tools and shaving items, and when I walked in, the shopkeeper complimented me on my schnurrbart,” Damian remembered. “I don’t speak German and I’d never heard the term before, so I asked all about it.” We must briefly digress at this point to a short German lesson, courtesy of Damian. While “schnurrbart” is the German word generally used for moustache, its etymology is more descriptive. “Bart” means beard, and “schnurr” means nose; so Damian’s moustache is a “nose beard”, and to beard devotees, a schnurrbart is a particular kind of moustache characterized by those curling tips. Austria’s Franz Josef had one; Mark Twain occasionally arranged his white moustache into one; and one of the champions of last year’s World Beard Competition had one whose ends were so long, they nearly touched his ears. “The shopkeeper also thought I had nice zwerbels,” Damian added, “which turns out to mean, roughly, ‘curlicues’.

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