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100 years ago: Waiters with moustaches

15 December 2023

December 14th, 1923.

A KENSINGTON hotel-manager, it seems, has decreed that whiskers are proper to waiters, or at least to his own waiters. The announcement was bound to attract the attention of “The Londoner” of the Evening News, whose erudition and wit illuminate so many sayings and doings of modern life. He is moved by the dignity of whiskers. Yet he sees that the hotel-manager has checked the growth of whiskers; if waiters wear them other men will refuse them; not because the waiter’s calling is not most necessary and honourable, but because men do not willingly bear the hall-mark of a strange caste. If the clergyman, says “The Londoner”, should take to wearing whiskers of such trim that they should be known as clergymen’s whiskers, no laymen would wear them. His memory, perhaps, does not cover those days when “the Roman inch” was the clergyman’s whisker, the badge, with the M.B. waistcoat, of the “ultra” or “rather ultra” cleric of the ’seventies. To-day the clergy have discarded even the inch; for the most part they conform to the sensible rule of “grow all or shave all.” The East grows all; the Latin West — with charitable exception for missionaries and the delicate-throated — shaves all; the English Church allows a Christian liberty of choice between the two, misliking both the shaven upper lip which suggests Nonconformity, and the moustache which — as has been accurately said — is not one of those ornaments of the minister which are to be retained. Yet where East and West meet, on the coasts of Dalmatia, even a Latin prelate may wear a moustache beneath his mitre, for in that land he would be considered effeminate if he shaved all, and would be mistaken for an Orthodox if he grew all.

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