The Morning File welcomes the American Mustache Institute to Pittsburgh, even though we have no personal experience of what it's like to have a mustache sans beard.
Why, after all, would we have a mustache, if we never were a 1970s porn star, played a 1980s private detective on TV or killed millions of innocents as a 20th century dictator?
The reason we're smiling about last week's announcement that the institute would move here from St. Louis is that its officials have a sense of humor, which is a precious commodity regardless of anyone's possession of or opinion about facial hair.
Let no one minimize the benefit we can all derive from our furry-philtrummed friends, who offer the best potential for local laughter (now that the Pirates can no longer serve that purpose) since that time way back in 2013 when the city toyed with the idea of vying to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.
The officials of the American Mustache Institute, including new president Adam Causgrove of Mount Washington, give the impression that their institute is a little less serious than the name implies. You don't often hear the heads of, say, the Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases or Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science touting their "moderate humility and extreme attractiveness," as Mr. Causgrove did in accepting his new position Friday.
So don't expect to see some sprawling new complex in Pittsburgh of Ph.D.-laden researchers resembling Tom Selleck or Wilford Brimley who use advanced computer simulation models to analyze the best way to steer a mustache clear of food and beverage intrusion.
It seems that the AMI instead fulfills its advocacy role through an occasional public statement calling attention to an important mustached person, lightly reminding people that such individuals represent a sometimes-put-upon minority.
When U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was taking heat on Capitol Hill for the Obama administration's various positions and controversies, the institute noted, "Holder has found the role as the first mustached-American attorney general in nearly 70 years to be a difficult one. The jealousy and scorn he has suffered from those on Capitol Hill who fear the power he holds is palpably apparent."
For a time, the institute backed mustached businessman Herman Cain in his bid for the 2012 Republican nomination for president, only to reverse course in tongue-in-cheek fashion when allegations of sexual improprieties derailed his candidacy.
When Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod proclaimed he was so confident of victory in three key states (including Pennsylvania) that he would shave his well-known mustache on television if the president lost any of the three, the promise was lambasted by the institute's president at the time, Aaron Perlut.
"There are very few people in positions of power who are mustached Americans, so for he to even jest about removing his lip sweater is somewhat offensive to the entire American mustached community," said Mr. Perlut, a public relations executive in St. Louis.
In addition to its annual Robert Goulet Mustached American of the Year Award, won by our own Mr. Causgrove in 2012, the institute sponsors other contests such as one to name the "greatest sports mustache" ever, won by former baseball star Keith Hernandez. It also has (lightly) lobbied Congress to pass the STACHE Act (for Stimulus to Allow Critical Hair Expenses), which would provide a tax refund of up to $250 annually for mustache-related expenses.
At an annual Stache Bash, to be held here Oct. 26, the institute, to its credit, raises money for a charitable cause unrelated to the hardships incurred by the mustached community.
The natural curiosity for a bearded person is to wonder if there is an American Beard Institute, or something comparable. Our Internet search turned up nothing directly similar, but we were relieved to come across this January 2010 olive branch from the AMI president:
"Our position has been that the beard represented the halfway meeting point between the utter weakness of the clean shaven and the sheer, unbridled power of the Mustached American. However, upon deeper thought, prayer and discussion ... I believe the beard to represent an equal level of facial hair commitment, strength and power."
The statement made an exception, however, for goatees. Even in diplomacy, after all, there remain standards.
We'd like to suggest, meanwhile, that since the institute will be announcing its top mustached American here in October, it should take advantage of its new headquarters to gain local attention by naming a Mustached Pittsburgher of the Year.
Would it be an everyday visual presence in our lives like KDKA's Stacy Smith? Someone who reminds us of our city's championship status, such as former Steelers coach Bill Cowher? Or could an underdog like state Sen. Elder Vogel Jr. of Beaver County sneak in to win by a hair?
Gary Rotstein: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1255.