Robin Olds: the man, the legend, the facial hair

Moustache Motif

Some of the greatest fighting men in history had epic beards – all of the Vikings, the Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant and Henry VIII just to name a few.

These famous bearded men led the charge with awesome growths adding to their power. But modern militaries generally frown upon having any kind of facial hair, whether full beard styles or an upper lip cover.

But someone always breaks the mould…

Facial hair and air-to-air combat

“Moustaches will not extend downward beyond the lipline of the upper lip or extend sideways beyond a vertical line drawn upward from the corner of the mouth.”

That’s the modern day guideline for growing a moustache in the United States Air Force – but every March, airmen across the service grow big, bushy, bulletproof moustaches to defy these stringent regulations.

Moustache March is held to honour Robin Olds, one of the USAF’s greatest heroes, a triple ace who shot down 16 aircraft in the second world war and the Vietnam War.

And he did it all with an extravagantly waxed handlebar moustache…

Growing facial hair brings rebellion

The story that Olds is most famous for comes from his days leading the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing in Vietnam.

Morale was low and losses were mounting, so Olds instituted a more aggressive approach, enhanced by growing his moustache to almost absurd lengths to inspire his men as he led them on highly dangerous sorties.

This defiant set of facial hair brought Olds a lot of trouble from higher ranks, but he continued to grow it, saying, “it became the middle finger I couldn’t raise in the PR photographs. The moustache became my silent last word in the verbal battles…with higher headquarters on rules, targets, and fighting the war.”

Growing facial hair brings pride

Olds was a fearless combat leader who led by example – and now through Moustache March, his example is exalted to this day.

So, what can we learn from his defiance of regulations? Easy. Growing facial hair – whether awesome beards or big bushy moustaches – can bring enormous pride and fulfilment; making you feel stronger and tougher and able to take on the world.

Just imagine if Olds had grown a full beard – he’d have been unstoppable!

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