Well, if you did, you were sorely mistaken, since the graffiti artist has gotten wind of your schemes and now so have we. Waldo began scrawling “moustache” over the clean-shaven famous faces he saw on NYC subway ads back in 2010, and though his work was put to an abrupt end last year after a run-in with the law, his work is easily identifiable amongst street art fans and commuters alike. And really, it’s one thing when a monolithic company picks on someone their own size, quite another when they knock off independent artists’ work and try to claim is at their own. We’ve seen everyone from C. Wonder to H&M to Urban Outfitters try and fail to get away with these kinds of shenanigans, which really makes us wonder whether their design team understands that the Internet works both ways.
We talked to Waldo about his street art career, copycats, and what he’d like to see Zara offer him in return (hint: $$$):
Styleite: Where did the mustache concept come from? Why “moustache” vs “mustache”?
Patrick Waldo: I was at my subway station in Times Square one night and I saw a poster with what looked like a moustache drawn on it. I realized as I got closer it was just some graffiti writer’s name. That’s when the idea popped into my head that if anything should be written on someone’s upper lip, it should just be the word “moustache.” That was March or April 2010.
I decided on the british spelling, “moustache,” because I wanted it to look fancy and dignified. Plus with 4 letters on each side of the T I could always aim to write the word so the letter T landed right on the cleft under the nose. It’s all about the symmetry.
What’s your favorite place you ever put a mustache?
I hit a billboard in LA. It was Tyler Perry’s big, dumb Madea face. That was by far the most exciting spot- right on Santa Monica Boulevard, so high up, I could see for miles and miles of smog.
Did you have any close calls before you finally got arrested?
I had a few close calls. One night I was hitting some posters at a station in Brooklyn. It was 4am so the place was deserted, and it was so quiet the squeaks of my marker were echoing throughout the station. A cop heard me, turned the corner towards me, and I just took off. Thankfully he was a fat cop so I got away.
How did you find out about the Zara shirt?
My friend posted a picture of it on my facebook wall saying “either you’re designing for zara now or I smell a lawsuit.” I was driving through the Texas desert when she posted it and all I could see was her caption. I couldn’t load the picture but I knew right away it was going to be some rip-off in some way of my work. I kept trying to load it and finally just called her to ask her what it looked like.
Is this the first instance you’ve seen or heard of someone knocking off your work?
This is the first I’ve heard of a company trying to profit off my work. There were a bunch of copycats when I was doing them in the subways. I saw one a little over a month after my first moustache. It was on the exact same poster I’d already tagged, but the poster had been replaced. I guess they thought they were doing me a solid by putting a moustache back in that spot, but it looked so shitty it just pissed me off. Some fakes were really good- you could tell people studied my stache and tried to replicate it as best they could. Others looked like they were written by Michael J. Fox.
Would you have offered your services to Zara if they had come to you and asked?
It would’ve been nice to help pay off the legal fees from my arrests, sure. If they made a reasonable offer I think we could’ve come to some sort of agreement.
If you were to do a t-shirt of your own, what would it look like?
Hmm, probably something simple like a woman’s face with my moustache. I don’t know. I’m not a visual artist. I can write the word “moustache” in cursive and that’s about it.
And if you could collaborate with any designer or brand, who would it be and why?
I’m gonna go ahead and say Apple so they send me a new iPhone. The one I have now sends me the same text message 3 times in a row.
Any final comments? A message for Zara?
Show me the money! And with that HILARIOUS and super timely Jerry Maguire reference, I will now plug my one-man comedy show at the UCB Theatre in New York — “Moustache Man: Confessions of a Graffiti Artist” Thursday, September 19th at 9:30pm!
this is some kind of spaceship or something.
Disclosure: Verena von Pfetten and Patrick Waldo were former co-workers at The Huffington Post.