The Gruesome Accident That Led to The Beatles Growing Mustaches

Mustaches have gone in and out of style for centuries. Some consider them powerful and masculine, while others consider them downright silly. Today we even have a fake mustache trend where people joke about the look by holding up paper cutouts of a mustache or draw a mustache shape on their inner finger to hold up to their face.

We love to laugh about a character twisting his mustache “handlebars,” but this isn’t a new phenomenon.

At one time the Beatles wore mustaches and even made it into a joke by providing mustache cutouts to their fans. However, the 60s trend almost didn’t happen. Here’s the story of the accidental reason the Beatles decided to grow a mustache. 

Paul McCartney suffered a gruesome accident

Paul McCartney performs onstage
Sir Paul McCartney | Roberto Ricciuti/Redferns

It turns out that the hairy upper lip, which became such an iconic Beatle’s look, was all because of a moped accident. In December of 1965, Paul McCartney lost control of his moped and crashed. After smacking his face on the pavement, McCartney left the scene with a split upper lip and a chipped tooth. 

According to the Beatles Bible, McCartney explained the accident in the Beatles Anthology. His friend and Guinness heir, Tara Browne was along for the ride that night.

“We were riding along on the mopeds…” McCartney said. “He [Browne] was behind me, and it was an incredible full moon… I suddenly had a freeze-frame image of myself at the angle to the ground when it’s too late to pull back up again: I was still looking at the moon and then I looked at the ground, and it seemed to take a few minutes to think, ‘Ah, too bad- I’m going to smack that pavement with my face!’ Bang!”

Why did the accident lead to growing mustaches?

The accident caused McCartney’s tooth to slam against his lip and split it open. He also lost a small corner of that front tooth in the impact.

A friend of theirs, who happened to be a doctor, came around to help McCartney stitch the wound closed. During the Anthology, McCartney explained that the stitches were done without anesthesia, and even had to be done twice because the doctor lost the thread from the needle’s eye on the first try.

The event left McCartney with a wicked scar on his upper lip. 

Both the chipped tooth and the scar can be seen in the videos for their songs Paperback Writer and Rain, which were filmed shortly after the accident. But the mark embarrassed McCartney so he soon decided to grow a mustache as a cover for the scar. 

The Beatles changed their look often and when one member of the group tried a new trend, the other members often followed suit. The other guys liked the mustache and according to McCartney, it became a “revolutionary idea” that men of their age should grow a mustache. 

The ‘Sgt. Pepper’ album wouldn’t have been the same without the mustaches

The new-look fit right in with the concept for the Beatle’s next album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. McCartney designed the album concept and according to him, Sgt. Pepper had a droopy mustache.

The group even included cardboard cutout mustaches with the album, which fans could hold up to their own face to get the Sgt. Pepper style. There were also cardboard badges and sergeant stripes to complete the look. 

The artwork on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was unlike anything people had seen before. It was a goofy collage of famous faces that included Bob Dylan, Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein, and many more. Wax models of the Beatles band members stood front and center of this group, wearing their iconic mustaches.

Without the facial hair, the portrait wouldn’t have been the same. So in a way, McCartney’s accident was a stroke of good luck because it helped create one of the most famous album covers in history.