Facial hair is widely perceived as masculine and mature. Be it a well-groomed moustache or a lush and untrimmed beard, prominent facial hair on a male character is used to show them as a bona fide tough guy, a man's man, a veritable buffet of manliness.
The reason for this is that women and young boys usually don't grow facial hair, and the lack of it on a post-pubescent man can make them look "delicate" (see Pretty Boy) so its presence is associated with a gruff, hardened older guy. While a sufficiently muscled and square-jawed hunk can get away with being clean-shaven or sporting Perma-Stubble, he is just as likely to have a thick moustache and/or a full and gorgeous beard. Characters who lack facial hair can be considered less masculine, and the growth of facial hair on someone who was previously unable to grow one or was clean-shaven can be a visual indicator that the guy Took a Level in Badass.
Common "manly" types who tend to have facial hair are the Chick Magnet (who may be sporting a Clark Gable-style mustache), the Mighty Lumberjack, Nature Hero, or Hunter Trapper (in these cases a bushy beard shows their relation to and dominance over nature), The Strongman (who is usually associated with a handlebar moustache), and the Macho Latino sporting one of the Magnificent Moustaches of Mexico. Also often found in military settings, associated with Sergeant Rock, Colonel Badass, The Captain, Father Neptune, and the Ace Pilot. Sometimes the association becomes parodic, as in the case of Testosterone Poisoning types who also sport exaggerated facial hair.
Sister Trope to Carpet of Virility, which achieves the same effect with chest hair, and Lantern Jaw of Justice, the way to go if you want to look manly without a beard. Super-Trope to Beard of Barbarism (where long facial hair is used to mark someone as being from a violent warrior culture) and Seadog Beard (where a bushy beard is on an experienced seaman). Compare Girls with Moustaches, mustached or bearded women are usually presented as funny or disgusting since women should not be manly and should not have facial hair. And note that not all facial hair is manly — a Porn Stache might make people giggle instead, and a Wizard Beard serves more to make them look wise and old. Beard of Sorrow is also not manly, but rather a sign that a man has become depressed and given up on his grooming (though it could be worn by a Heartbroken Badass). A Beard of Evil is also unlikely to be manly, given its likelihood to be worn by an older, wimpy intellectual villain like a Mad Scientist or Evil Chancellor.
In real life, mustaches are considered more professional than beards and they were mandatory in certain services. In the southern parts of India, police officers are encouraged to grow a mustache or have mustaches as part of the uniform because police officers with a mustache were believed to be more effective, more respected by the public, less intimidating, and better at interacting with the community. Mustaches and beards are also considered a sign of innate masculinity and virility in India.
From 1860 to 1916, it was mandatory for British soldiers to wear mustaches and they would be arrested if they removed their facial hair. In Ancient Rome, beards were considered slovenly and a sign of living in squalor but were accepted as long as they were well-groomed and worn by someone in a position of authority. In certain countries note , unkempt beards are considered improper and unprofessional while serving in the military and soldiers will have to be clean-shaven because the organization has to present discipline, hygiene, and uniformity. However, mustaches are only acceptable in certain countries as long as they are neatly trimmed and well-groomed during the soldier's service.
Beards have also fallen in and out of fashion throughout history. The elaborate military whiskers of the Victorian and Edwardian Eras fell quickly out of fashion during World War One because they interfered with the fit of gas masks (except for the toothbrush mustache as it would fit beneath the mask, but it was Ruined FOREVER by one guy). They were out in the 20th century thanks to the rise of widely-available shaving equipment making it easy to get rid of facial hair but made a comeback in the 21st.
Note: it is not enough for a male character to simply have a moustache, sideburns, or beard. The work must associate the facial hair with masculinity in some way.
- Bleach: Following his reawakening from a thousand years of slumber, Yhwach quickly mounts an army to utterly defeat the Soul Society and kill Yamamoto through clever deception; Ichigo's massive attack power only shreds a piece of his sleeve, right before Yhwach slams Ichigo down with relative ease. His mustache was impressive enough in the beginning, but as each subsequent appearance leads to darker events and brings him closer to the Soul King, the mustache increases in size and thickness◊ accordingly.
- Fullmetal Alchemist:
- Major Alex Louis Armstrong, despite being totally bald save for one lock of hair, sports a prominent handlebar moustache. Fittingly he's one of the most overtly manly characters in the series: he's got incredibly large muscles and has one of the most physical fighting styles among the State Alchemists.
- Sid, Izumi's husband, is a bearded butcher who's equally as tough and muscled as Armstrong and can fight alongside him despite not being an alchemist himself. Notably, when Armstrong meets him for the first time, Sid's face is one of the things he admires.
- Invincible: The Viltrumites are a race of physically powerful and genocidal space conquerors who prioritize strength. Perhaps fittingly, it is cultural tradition among their males to sport thick mustaches. When Mark becomes the Emperor at the end of the series, he has to justify why he remains clean-shaven.
- Samurai Grandpa: Ojichan has a white beard that reaches down to his waist, and his samurai skills haven't been dulled by his old age.
- The Sponge Bob Square Pants Movie: When SpongeBob and Patrick feel like they're not manly enough to make it to Shell City, Mindy decides to use her "mermaid magic" to make them into men. What she actually does, however, is stick seaweed on their faces to make it look like they have moustaches. With their newfound confidence, our duo head back on the road... but they then run into Dennis the bounty hunter, who not only tears off their fake moustaches, but shows them what a real moustache looks like by instantly growing one himself.
- Balibo: FRETILIN soldier Ximenez sports a beard, which is used to help portray him as a grizzled veteran.
- Rod of the film Hot Rod wears a fake moustache when performing stunts in order to make himself manlier. He claims to have some kind of hormonal imbalance that prevents him from growing a real one, but at the end of the movie he's starting to grow one for real anyway.
- The Hunter: Martin has a well-trimmed beard and is a stoic, brave, and cunning hunter of dangerous animals.
- Police Academy: Hightower has a thick mustache and is one of the toughest characters in the franchise.
- The Princess Bride: The contrast in physical capability between facial hair haves and have-nots can be seen in the main characters.
- Westley was clean-shaven as the innocent farm boy at the beginning. By the time he turns up again as the formidable fighter the Dread Pirate Roberts he's gotten a moustache. Master Swordsman Inigo Montoya has a fairly bushy moustache of his own, while the strong giant Fezzik has healthy sideburns. The villainous yet competent Rugen, Humperdinck's main enforcer, has a Beard of Evil.
- These stand in contrast to the sniveling Vizzini, the Prince Charmless Humperdinck, the elderly Max, and the creepy Albino, who don't have facial hair.
- Flashman is quite proud of his cavalry whiskers (or "tart catchers", given that women find them quite attractive).
- Judge Dee:
- The Judge himself has a magnificent beard that often gets him mistaken for the Judge of the Underworld. His lieutenants, who provide the majority of the action scenes, go for long mustaches instead.
- Subverted in the first book, where a retired philosopher has a much larger one than the judge yet turns out to be a criminal with a false beard (the judge is unmistakably smug when it comes off).
- Villains by Necessity: The legendary hero Sir Pryse was a paladin who sported a manly 'stache; apparently he set a trend since every other paladin who shows up in the story is described as boasting a thick, neatly-trimmed mustache. When Blackmail removes his helmet and reveals his identity, he's still got the same mustache he had as Sir Pryse, now just slightly graying from age.
- Subverted in Cracker when DS Beck shaves off his moustache because they've now become trendy among homosexuals, and he's tired of being ribbed about it.
- Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation. Not only is the man himself Rated M for Manly bar none with the strength and toughness that comes with it (by sitcom standards, of course), the mustache itself is badass enough to come back to full form within mere days of being singed or trimmed off. In fact, when Ron got back with his ex, Tammy 1, the loss of his moustache is legitimately seen as a sign of emasculation by his friends and co-workers.
- Commander William Riker from Star Trek: The Next Generation is famous for his beard, as well as for being a commanding leader (even The Captain of his own ship as of Star Trek: Nemesis) and a confident ladies' man.
- Stephen Foster wrote a song "If You've Only Got a Moustache" about how growing some fine whiskers will make you attractive to women. This song was also featured in A Million Ways to Die in the West.
- Russkaja's song "Barada" (Russian for "beard") is dedicated to this trope, namedropping legendary bearded figures such as Fu Manchu, Chuck Norris, and ZZ Top.
- "Macho Man" Randy Savage always had a beard and/or moustache (usually both) on.
- Dwarfs from Warhammer Fantasy never stop growing beard hairs and never willingly shave their facial hair, and as such a (male) dwarf's beard length is directly associated with his age and position in the social hierarchy. As such, this trope is in effect for dwarfs In-Universe, with long-bearded dwarfs automatically being given reverence and respect for their age, wisdom, and their long beards. On the flip side, being forcefully shaved is just about the worst thing you can do to a dwarf, and many who suffer it willingly take the Slayer's Oath over the loss of their beard. The dwarf language of Khazalid contains several words on respect or disdain owed to a particular dwarf's magnificent or scruffy-looking beard.
- The indie platformer game, Beard Blade, where you're a badass warrior with a prehensile BEARD have you kicking ass while turning your beard into fists, blades, maces, and assorted weapons. Early in the game, the wizard who gave you your powers claims "everyone has a special trait that grants their worthiness in magic", and apparently your special trait is your awesome beard.
- Dead In Vinland, being set in The Viking Age, is unsurprisingly chock full of these. Almost every single male character, from The Hero to random mooks, has a beard, including non-Norse characters, and they tend to be ornate Beards of Barbarism, decorated with gold rings, braids, dreadlocks (in the case of eccentric African griot Cisse), and the like. Only Brother Angelico, a timid young Italian monk who's basically a male version of the White Magician Girl, is clean-shaven.
- Zig-zagged in Deep Rock Galactic, whose dwarves all exhibit Stout Strength and are brave/bonkers enough to willingly delve into the monster-infested mines of Hoxxes IV. The Scout and Engineer classes by default have facial hair, but the Gunner and Driller — who both handle rapidly-rotating equipment — are clean-shaven. But a quick trip to the in-game shop lets you spend your gold on a variety of mustaches and beards to customize your characters, and truly magnificent beard styles, embellished with armor plating or gilded jewelry, are rare and valuable cosmetic items.
- The Legend of Zelda: Whenever Ganondorf sports a beard, he's depicted to be brawny, having a stout body, and heavily emphasizes on swordsmanship. So confident in his skills, he doesn't use magic in his Boss Fights, a stark contrast to his other appearances which put heavy emphasis on dark magic.
- Pokémon Black and White: Used as Tertiary Sexual Characteristics in the Jellicent line. Both male (blue) and female (pink) Jellicent have white lining underneath their eyes; in females, this resembles a puffy collar, but in males, it resembles a moustache.
- Shing!: It's no coincidence that Wilhelm, the manliest member of the player characters, who walks around bare-chested and slaughters Yokai by the hundreds with an axe, is also the only one with a beard.
- Street Fighter: Zangief, who's characterized by his muscular physique, boisterous attitude, and herculean levels of strength, has a very iconic beard that stays consistent across all of his appearances. He's also got a strong Carpet of Virility to go with it.
- The Wolf Among Us: Sheriff Bigby Wolf's normal style of facial hair is a 5 o'clock shadow beard that grows into a medium-length beard with a stubble mustache when he gets angrier and is forced to use his innate powers. As a character, Bigby is a tough fighter as many fables have gone into brawls with him, he smokes a lot, and is hot-blooded. Bigby's fighting prowess and toughness were the exact reasons why he was chosen to be the sheriff of fabletown as he's the most iconic fable (resulting in his high durability) and he is considered one of the best fighters in fabletown.
- Wulverblade: A great many men in the game, including Caradoc and Brinnus, have facial hair, and are all warriors fighting for the future of Britannia.
- The captain of the ship to Menagerie and Mistral has a full and shaggy white beard and side-burns, and full moustaches. It initially helps make him seem grandfatherly when he first tries to bring the anti-social Blake out of her shell. Once the sea dragon attacks, it helps give him a calm, level-headed, no-nonsense air of authority; he is portrayed as a grizzled veteran who instantly takes command of his young crew and the two young Huntsmen that are travelling on the ship.
- Ghira has a very large and full beard that blends in with the rest of his hair and compliments the hair on his chest and arms. When forced to fight by the White Fang's attempt to assassinate him, his style is very physical and includes physical intimidation such as flexing his muscles while roaring. Even being stabbed in the back doesn't stop him from fighting, or holding up a large section of a falling ledge with his arms and shoulders to stop Ilia from being crushed.
- In the world of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, moustaches have mystical powers. Dan McNinja earned the leadership of his clan simply by showing off his impressive moustache, and Gordito - a ten-year-old boy - grew an even greater pair out of sheer force of will, instantly cowing the grown-up civil worker witnessing this.
- Cyanide and Happiness: In one strip, two characters are comparing their manly mustaches. One of them has a mustache that is so manly, it can flex itself like flexing arm muscles.
- Overly muscled manly man and Awesome Aussie Saxton Hale of the Team Fortress 2 webcomics displays a thick and prominent moustache.
- In El Goonish Shive, Sam as a transman used to wear a fake beard in an attempt to look more manly. After he gains a spell that allows him to transform his body to be fully biologically male, his transformed self sports a real beard.
- The Amazing World of Gumball: In "The Mustache" the teenage Gumball and Darwin take a muscle-building supplement out of a desire to become men, and turn into heavily ripped and mustachioed strongmen.
- Centurions: Max Ray (who was modeled after Tom Selleck) sports a Porn Stache, while Rex Charger has a sandy blonde beard that gives him a Viking-like appearance. Both characters (like all the other Centurions) are manly Action Heroes.
- Chowder: Mung Daal claims his mustache helps him with the ladies.
- The Cleveland Show: Zig-zagged with protagonist Cleveland Brown. While his mustache is a great source of pride for him (at one point he's shown to have an entire grooming kit for it), he displays few stereotypically "masculine" traits in connection with facial hair. While losing his mustache causes his voice to noticeably rise in pitch (no filter), his level of vanity in regard to his facial hair could be considered stereotypically feminine.
- Cupcake & Dino: General Services: Everyone in the eponymous club in "The Manly Men's Man Club" has a manly mustache. Cupcake himself grows one to join the club, only for it to become a rampaging monster.
- Dexter's Laboratory: Has an episode where Dexter uses Hollywood Science to give himself a bushy red beard, in emulation of his hero Action Hank, and Dexter even ends up fighting alongside him against various bearded villains. Unfortunately he loses his prosthetic facial hair in the process, but Action Hank reassures him that "It's not the beard on the outside that counts, but the beard on the inside."
- Family Guy: Peter grows a moustache and becomes innately more badass: he rescues a guy from a burning building. However, the moustache is burnt off in the attempt, reverting him back to normal.
- The Simpsons: In "The Haw Hawed Couple", Homer's revised ending to the Angelica Button book has Greystash activate his "mustache powers," causing his mustache to enlarge and flex like muscular arms that punch Malicious Krubb into submission.
- The Village People's first recruitment was through a flyer that read, "Macho Types Wanted: Must Have Moustache".
- Pedro Pascal usually sports a groomed mustache while acting or making public appearances. He discussed this trope in an interview from the Triple Frontier press tour, claiming that someone warned him that he resembles a "grandmother" during his rare clean-shaven appearances. (Interestingly, one of his Triple Frontier character's nicknames is "Catfish," after an animal known for appearing to have long whiskers.)
- Not only is Chuck Norris considered the archetypal Memetic Badass, but his beard is also portrayed as a force of nature unto itself.
- Zig-Zagged with Hipsters, many of which favor traditionally manly face fuzz like handlebar mustaches, muttonchop sideburns, and big, bushy, Grizzly Adams-type beards, yet the popular image of hipster is of a skinny, vaguely-effeminate guy who's obsessed with his own personal sense of stylishness and a strong desire to appear trendy; traits that demand a rather loose definition of "manliness".
- Similarly, the "soy boy" internet stereotype is meant to throw shade at certain men who are not deemed masculine while usually depicting said men as sporting a large beard.
- Played with in tank ace Otto Carius' memoirs Tigers in the Mud. While he lamented that he could only grow peach fuzz upon joining the Nazi German armored corps, his fellow tankers were jealous that he barely had to shave at all, as shaving supplies were in short order on the front.
- Theodore Roosevelt's epic manliness was complimented by an impressive mustache.
- Robin Olds, an Ace Pilot who grew a mustache worthy of an RAF officer about to fight the Red Baron.
- Danny Trejo tops off his intimidating look with a mustache of warning. As do Sam Elliott and the late Charles Bronson.
- Lord Kitchener (and his mustache) Wants You!