The Great French Mustache Strike of 1907

In April of 1907, high-end waiters in Paris were on strike to demand better pay, more time off, and one unusual thing: the right to grow mustaches. Mustaches had been common among French men for decades, but waiters, domestic servants, and priests weren’t allowed to have them. Sentenced to forced shaving, indignant waiters finally had enough and walked out of their fancy restaurants en masse, along with an estimated 25,000 francs ($630 in today’s money) a day. Those who stayed were berated by strikers who wanted them to join the movement. It wasn’t long before France had to confront the injustice that had long been festering right under its nose. Eventually, the men striking for the right to have a mustache won out, and the restaurant owners caved to their demands. Some socialists at the time complained that waiters should have fought harder and longer in order to achieve greater demands, but this strike wasn’t about socialism or capitalism; it was about the little guy getting trampled by those in power and how they fought back and won.