By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

If you stood 30 cops shoulder to shoulder, three-quarters of them would have a mustache. Hopefully none of them were female! Why? It’s not required and it’s a personal choice but for some. there’s a reason. When I came on the job, I didn’t have a mustache—never even thought of growing one. Good thing; probationers were not allowed to have a mustache unless his training officer and 7/8 of the watch said it was ok. You also weren’t allowed to wear short sleeve uniform shirts or combat boots until you had been around for a while. If you tried to wear these items you were called salty and given a stern lecture. You might even find yourself working station security every time it rained.

If you grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and survived you probably were in the hippy period. I remember when the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan with their long hair. Yea, I’m that old. I thought, “They’ll never last.” Most of my favorite bands had clean cut hair and wore suits with thin ties! Well, we saw the hippies wearing long hair but they weren’t cops.  A lot of cops’ pre-police photos show long hair and sometimes outrageous mustaches. Once on the job, you had a very strict dress code: close-cut hair, side burns that couldn’t be lower than your ear canal. We had regular inspections and it was not unusual for an officer to be told to get a haircut.

There were also strict guidelines for mustaches. They had to be neatly trimmed and could not extend past the corner of your mouth. We were some of the best dressed cops in the nation. I used to shudder when I saw pictures of cops from back east. They had long hair and mustaches that made you think of a motorcycle gang. Now days some departments allow beards and goatees. Not my style.

So why did I grow a mustache? It was simple. I joined the Los Angeles Police Department at the ripe old age of 21. I was thin and still produced a face pimple now and then. I kept my hair short from my academy days. I didn’t grow a mustache to be one of the guys but I grew a mustache to be taken seriously.

I once went on a radio call and the PR (Person Reporting) was an elderly woman.  As I was interviewing her she stopped me in mid-sentence and asked me, “Are you old enough to be a cop?”

I assured her that yes, I was old enough and told her I was married with a son.
She said, “How Sweet.” But I got the feeling she thought I had just come from my high school prom! It wasn’t the first time I had been asked that question.Another time I was in a bar during a robbery investigation and the bartender asked me rather sarcastically, “Are you old enough to be in a bar.” I replied I was old enough to arrest him! I wasn’t generally a smart ass but I got tired of that question.

That was it. I had just three years on the job and I was on vacation. I have a whole month off. I’m going to grow a mustache, just for kicks. My wife’s vote just barely lost in a closely-contested campaign. I grew my mustache just before my daughter’s birth. To this day, she’s never seen me without a mustache.

Funny, I never again was asked if I’m old enough to be a cop! I also haven’t had a face pimple since 1973! I’ve made up for my youthful appearance in my later years. I no longer get asked if I qualify for the senior citizen discount. My mustache has turned grey but I keep it trimmed. It now grows past the corner of my mouth but then the inspections conducted by my wife are rare and less restrictive.

When did you grow a mustache? Male replies only.
Hal