When Justin Bieber shaved off the mustache he’d been sporting throughout the promotional tour for his new album, Changes, this weekend, not only did fans rejoice, but so did the singer’s intimates: “Yeeeeee,” his wife, Hailey Bieber, née Baldwin, commented on his Instagram announcement. (“Yeeeeee” is good. Well, depends on context, but here it’s good.) “Ya praise God,” his mother, Pattie Mallette, added. Outlets everywhere reported the news with relief: Our long national facial hair nightmare was over.
Mustaches die and sprout every day, sunrise, sunset, and we can’t boo-hoo over every fallen set of hairs. But despite the widespread celebration surrounding this mustache’s disappearance, I must admit that I’m going to miss it. I’m not trying to defend the mustache per se—it was objectively disgusting, and I don’t begrudge the entire world for hating it and calling for its death. You looked at it and you could only see a man who should be playing a goon in the movie I, Tonya. But that won’t stop me from lamenting the loss of what it represented.
Here’s what I liked about the mustache: Bieber was having fun with it. A source told People that he was “amused” by how much people hated it: “The more people want him to shave it off, the more he wants to keep it. It’s staying for now. It’s making him feel like a rebel and he likes it!” An insider echoed these comments to Page Six: “He feels that for years he’s been the pretty boy and loves how much everyone hates it and thinks it’s hilarious … He doesn’t even like it himself, but the more people hate it the longer he wants to keep it.”
You see, Bieber knew the mustache sucked. He was just trolling! This attitude reached its height when Bieber posed for a photo with @dudewithsign, a popular Instagram account wherein a guy posts pictures of himself holding up pithy protest signs. In this photo, the dude who helms the account held up a sign reading “Justin Shave Your Mustache,” and next to him stood Bieber himself holding a sign that said, simply, “No.” I’m sorry, I just love it.
I know trolling is frowned upon under many circumstances, but I personally think Bieber deserves this one. As much as he tries to project the image of himself as some kind of cool dirtbag who loves his sexy wife and God, but in a chill way, the sad, needy child star within him always seems to be lurking somewhere too close to the surface. I worry that everyone in his life is using him, and as Slate’s Carl Wilson wrote, it can be especially hard “to feel confident he’s going to be OK.” In this light, mustache trolling seems like a much healthier coping mechanism for dealing with the scars of child stardom than a lot of the stuff Bieber used to get up to.
I thought the mustache was going to become a long-term bit, even more so than it already was—a low-key ongoing thread for pop culture to latch onto for months, or even years. It was the kind of thing that could even reach the level of performance art. I wanted viral clips from an Ellen interview and Saturday Night Live sketches about the mustache. (Pete Davidson would have been sick in these sketches.) But it was not to be: Bieber abruptly dashed these dreams when he took clippers to the thing a few days ago, posting a photo where he labeled himself “Baby face BIEB.” Ultimately, he couldn’t not give his legion of fans and admirers what they wanted from him. Why couldn’t we just let him have this? He did leave the door slightly ajar, at least, for future facial hair antics, writing in the caption, “MUSTASHIO went on holiday, but he will be back in due time.” From his lips to God’s ears back to his upper lips. Some sunny day, I hope the two meet again.