Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
Nearly every aspect of the father of modern Turkey's life was freighted with historical significance, and his upper lip was no exception. The soaring mustache Ataturk wore as a young army captain (above, in 1907) was popular in the Ottoman era, modeled on the grooming style of Kaiser Wilhelm II, which reflected the influence of German culture on the Turkish intelligentsia of the period. But by the time Ataturk took office as the autocratic ruler of the new Republic of Turkey in 1923, his mustache had been pared back to a conservative bristle; as he guided Turkey toward economic and political liberalization in the years that followed he shaved it off entirely, as a symbolic example of Turkey leaving behind its Ottoman past in favor of a modern future.
But the Turkish mustache was not so easily vanquished; it continued to advance and retreat, in both size and significance, in the decades that followed. In the 1970s, a walrus-style mustache became a popular accessory among Turkey's leftists. By the 1990s, it had evolved into a class symbol distinguishing the hirsute lower and middle classes from the clean-shaven urban elite. It returned to power in 2002 atop the lip of current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a gesture of his populist appeal.