Moustache Man, NYC's Irrepressible Subway Artist, Humbled at the Hands of the Law

Moustache Man, NYC's Irrepressible Subway Artist, Humbled at the Hands of the Law
For street artists, sometimes acclaim can be the worst enemy. Case in point: Moustache Man (aka Moustache, aka the Moustache Bandit) beloved by New York City subway riders for his simple but witty trick of using a felt-tip marker to write the word "moustache" (always with the European 'u') in curly cursive script on the upper lip of people in various advertisements. He had successfully eluded the police for more than a year, but authorities announced that they managed to track down the rogue artist last week based on his "Internet bragging," the Daily News Reports, arresting him near his place of work, Gray Line Tours.

So who is the Moustache Man? Turns out he is Joseph Waldo, a 26-year-old who now faces charges of felony mischief, misdemeanor criminal mischief, graffiti, and "possession of a graffiti instrument," according to the cops. His quirky mustache graffiti is alleged to have caused more than $1,500 in damage to New York Transit property. Waldo was released without bail after his arraignment, and is due back in court September 15.

And why did he do it? The impetus behind the Moustache Man's art was to "raise awareness for the tens of people in the world who are born with the horrible, unsightly condition where your moustache grows into the word moustache," Waldo joked to the Subway Art Blog in May. On a more serious note, he situated his practice within the broader tradition of "subverting advertisements," claiming to be inspired by Banksy, as well as such lesser-known lights of the NYC street art scene as Elle, Judith Supine, Primo, Quel Beast, QRST, Shin Shin, and Specter. He also said that he engaged in a separate above-ground — as in not in the subway — street art practice that was stencil-based and closer in spirit to Banksy or Faile ("nothing like the moustaches.")

In the same interview, Moustache Man said he hit five to ten subways stations a week, described various brushes with the law, and claimed to have been active since April 2010. It was not clear what the authorities meant by his "Internet bragging," but Moustache Man's success had spawned copycat "moustaches," a fact which had stimulated him to defend his craft in the streets by annotating the fakes.

According to a statement to the investigators in the case, Waldo has renounced his mustache art, stating, "I'm sorry for my actions and have agreed to fully cooperate and never do it again." Moustache Man's brush with the law follows in the footsteps of Poster Boy, aka Henry Matyjewicz, the New York artist known for cutting up and reassembling subway ads, who faced serious jail time after being busted for his guerrilla collage