By Tom Etuata, Museums Wellington Digital Communicator
The time when you see the odd gentleman sporting an unfashionable bit of hair growing between their nose and lip that’s called a ‘moustache’.
Grown not only to provoke weird looks from the general public, but also to raise money to tackle prostate and testicular cancer, men’s mental health and suicide prevention.
Although Movember has lost a bit of its mojo in New Zealand since it began in 2006, it has not gone away completely. The bearded male is still a common everyday sight in Wellington, and Movember is still a popular movement globally. Their tagline – ‘Grow a Mo to Save a Bro’ has inspired many men around the world to grow a moustache for a just cause.
It has also inspired many museums around the world to share their own collection of photographs that show times past – when a well-kept moustache and beard were the normal facial hair-piece of a man’s attire.
So for this blog, I will try and track down some moustaches and ‘mo-bros’ that reside here at Wellington Museum.
Starting with the Attic.
In the Attic of Wellington Museum you will see a number of wooden sculptured heads of old prominent Wellington business men on the wall. These came from the Royal Albert Hotel, known as the ‘Old Identities’ Hotel.
One of these is the bust of William Hort Levin (1845 – 1893), who was the first Chairman of the Wellington Harbour Board. Also known as ‘Willie’ Levin, he helped establish the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company, becoming a wealthy businessman and philanthropist.
The town of Levin is even named after him.
Even though his sideburns were more impressive than his moustache – Levin’s full but sophisticated mo was a nice alternative to the bushy colonial beards that were the preferred style for men in New Zealand during the early 1900’s.
Also in the Attic you can find the rather lucky Isaac Giles Sykes who escaped death twice – after being severely wounded at both Gallipoli and the Somme during the Great War.
Maybe his moustache was a lucky charm?
And if you peep through the What We Do in the Shadows display, there’s a spooky moustache of the Wellington vampire kind – via a painting of ‘Vladislad’ a.k.a Jermaine Clement. Vladislad’s slickly groomed moustache is accentuated by the tuft (soul patch) on his bottom lip.
The von Kohorn Boardroom has a wall full of Mo-Bros.
The male portraits that adorn the boardroom have many decent moustaches and beards.
My particular favourite is this one of Robert Fletcher.
With a trim look and full shape, Robert Fletcher’s moustache definitely has a Magnum P.I. quality about it.
Robert Fletcher was a member of the Wellington Harbour Board – and was Chairman from 1910 to 1915. After a brief stint in Wellington City Council, where he contested the mayoralty (coming second), he became a member of Parliament for the Liberal Party having won the Wellington Central Electorate. He died at a rather young age of 55 due to illness.
Reading his obituary he was a chairman who was; ”…clear… practical, firm, and fair…”
Much like his moustache.
Not to be outdone by our predecessors, we’ve carried on this hairy tradition in the office.
Our Director Brett Mason sports an impressive moustache, with appropriately 1970’s style hair to match. Cue classic rock from the Allman Brothers.
Deputy Director Anton Carter also wears his one with pride (even though it’s really a bearded goatee).
Events Programmer Benjamin James rocks his ‘Ginger Baker’ style mo. He is a musician/sound technician after all. Cue loud drum solo.
I managed to get in on the act as well, with a wanna-be ‘Bernie Fraser’ mo.
And let’s not forget our former deputy director Paul Thompson, who had the most stylish mo at the Museum. I’m sure he grew a handle-bar moustache at one point.
So, here’s to the Mo-Bros of Wellington Museum from yesteryear and today. Cheers.
For more info on MOVEMBER visit https://nz.movember.com/