Why Hitler's moustache wasn't the big Prussian one he liked

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BERLIN -- His moustache is the most instantly recognizable -- and sinister -- in history.

Yet, according to new research into Adolf Hitler's early life, the distinctive, toothbrush shape that adorned his scowling face was not his first preference.

A previously unpublished essay by a writer who served alongside Hitler in the First World War trenches reveals that the future Führer was only obeying orders when he shaped his moustache into its tightly-clipped style. He was instructed to do so in order that it would fit under the respirator masks, introduced in response to British mustard gas attacks.

Had that order never been issued, the tyrant who brought most of Europe to its knees would be remembered as a man with a large Prussian moustache.

The prosaic explanation comes in a new biography of the writer Alexander Moritz Frey, who came to know him when both were lowly privates in a Bavarian infantry division.

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D. M. Giangreco - 5/9/2007

I have no doubt that this tale will gain currency simply by being repeated a lot, but moderately trimmed mustaches extending fully across the upper lips did not impede the wearing of WWI gas masks, especially the ones being produced in the last couple years of the war or the original "bag" types that appeared shortly after the introduction of poison gas. Although Corporal Hitler's is indeed too long, many French, and a considerable number of Germans sported bushy 'staches. The principal hindrance to a good fit was hair around the jaws and neck. Chin hair was OK. Consequently, there are hundreds (thousands?) of WWI photos that illustrate this. Moreover, pictures of Hitler in 1914 and shortly after the war (undated) show him to be wearing a conventional mustache.

The shape of the fuzz on Hitler’s face is simply his personal fashion statement, not something that was a result of military orders. The Chaplinesque mustache which he had adopted well before the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 was popular in Germany and the US, and was not uncommon among US Army officers between the World Wars. For example, there is a fine circa-1930 photograph of Colonel Harry S. Truman talking with pilots at the Fort Riley, Kansas, airfield when he was commanding a Missouri National Guard artillery regiment at a training exercise, and another of Colonel Charles Willoughby (of Douglas MacArthur fame) several years later when he was assigned to the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.