The Significance of a Pencil Thin Mustache


The Times Richard Reeves proclaimed, “the Procaccino campaign must rank with the worst in political history." In 1969, Democrat Procaccino lost the mayoralty to Liberal Lindsay in an election bursting with gaffes, prejudice, and bickering. Although the candidates argued relentlessly, the media enforced the wide held belief that Italians, especially Southerners, were inferior ethnics who did not belong in a political campaign. A decent media image was crucial to a candidate’s success; however, Procaccino seemed a foolish contestant next to the stunning WASP candidate. Instead, Procaccino stood at “five feet four inches and two hundred pounds, with a pencil-thin moustache and dark, slicked back hair, Procaccino was a living caricature, not only of Italian-Americans, but of all white ethnics.” Furthermore, the Times remarked on Proccacino’s blue suits and pink shirts, which highlighted his speech and gestures. Newspapers began with describing Procaccino’s lack of political acumen, switched to his “neighborhood style” and finished off with a diatribe about Italians. Ironically, the ingrained stereotype also created an identity for Procaccino’s supporters. One aide expressed Procaccino would lose every vote if he ever shaved off his mustache because it was one of his relatable attributes. Regarding the racial discrimination, Procaccino replied, "I am also a minority," he wrote, "[I] struggled to get ahead, [I had] an accent -- [was] labeled part of [the] Mafia -- You think it is tough being black? Well it's equally tough being an Italian with an accent."





Photo from:

Lizzi, Maria. "My Heart Is as Black as Yours: White Backlash, Racial Identity, and Italian-American Stereotypes in New York City's 1969 Mayoral Campaign." Journal of American Ethnic History (2008): 43-80. Web. 15 April 2010.