The unsung hero of the Indian pilot story? His moustache

Stephen Doig
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman being released  - Xinhua / Barcroft Media

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has returned home to India to a hero’s welcome. In a story line straight from a Bollywood version of The Dam Busters, fighter pilot Varthaman was shot down over Pakistan and taken captive. It’s reported that he swallowed confidential documents before being beaten by a mob and captured, filmed and paraded on video - in one clip, bizarrely, drinking tea - before being released by the Pakistani military on Friday. And in homage to his bravery, a curious trend has swept social media across the world; emulating Varthaman’s thick, fulsome moustache

It’s certainly majestic in its proportions; a moustache that tapers down to his chin and then, like a jet scrambling for cover, diverts upwards on each side of the jaw into two sculpted points, a follicular kamikaze run across the face that’s somewhere between a “mutton chops beard” with a touch of “handlebars” theatrically thrown in for good measure. It’s a wing commander in its own right, taking flight across his cheeks.

Gillette’s glorious glossary of beard shapes - a veritable almanac for the hirsute - features a style called, appropriately, the Gunslinger, which Varthaman’s beard bears a likeness to. Although befitting the swashbuckling antics of our action man, we prefer to think that his moustache is a sculpting of his own creation, matching his pioneer status. After all, this is not a man who follows the rule book in the throws of capture (he ditched his documents in a pond after hoodwinking his pursuers) or the bathroom cabinet.

Twitter users are paying homage via their facial topiary

It’s certainly hit a nerve; social media in the region and beyond has lit up in hairy tribute, with Twitter users posting snaps of themselves with the hashtags #abhinandanmoustache.

Who would have thought that the one thing to unite the two countries would be a glorious tale of fighter jet heroics and heavy duty facial hair? It’s testament to the booming men’s grooming industry that men are getting creative with the razors as an act of national pride.

Tempted into a similar call to razor action? The secret to the cut is its shape, which is sharp and precise. Fuzzy lines and extraneous growth - you need to keep the hair short and trim - border into grizzly mutton chop territory and run the risk of looking like an early settler, or worse, a Hoxton hipster. Keep the chin closely shaven and allow the winged glory of the moustache and the two sculpted slithers on your cheeks to speak for itself. You’ll be groomed for military glory.