EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Kevin Gilbride’s mustache, a legendary lip adornment that won two Super Bowl championships and was respected as one of the most enduring examples of responsible facial hair in sports, died last month in a shaving accident at the Giants’ practice facility here. It was believed to be about 41.
Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times
The offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride in 2010.
Gilbride, the offensive coordinator of the Giants since 2007 and a football coach since 1974, confirmed the death in an interview Thursday by pointing to his face. The cause was an inadvertent cutting of half the mustache when Gilbride, 61, was momentarily distracted by something a fellow coach said as he was performing some routine trimming in the days leading up to the Giants’ Aug. 24 preseason game with Chicago.
Left with part of his lip clean and part of it covered, Gilbride said, there was no option but euthanize the rest of the mustache.
“It was difficult,” Gilbride said. “But at that point, I had no choice.”
Not surprisingly, the mustache’s sudden demise prompted emotional responses. Gilbride’s mustache had a storied career, at one point being the target of an infamous punch from Buddy Ryan on the sideline in 1994, but more recently featuring prominently as the Giants won N.F.L. titles during the 2007 and 2011 seasons.
Gilbride did not address the accident with his players when he ran the offensive unit meeting a day afterward, but said he could tell just by looking around the room that the loss made an impact.
“It was just shocking,” the Giants backup quarterback David Carr said. “I think it’s bigger than if it happened to Tom Selleck, honestly. It had been there so long you almost wondered, like, what’s under there?”
In the days since, fans have expressed dismay. Representatives from the company Party City even sent a fake white mustache to the Giants as a possible replacement so that Gilbride would not feel uncomfortable, though Gilbride declined to wear it.
“When we lost to Dallas, they sent more!” Gilbride said. “Believe me, if I knew that was why we won the Super Bowls, I’d wear them.”
Gilbride added that his granddaughter, upon seeing him sans mustache, remarked, “Pop, you look weird!”
Initially, Gilbride said, his plan was to regrow the mustache from scratch. After several players, including offensive lineman Chris Snee, told him that he looked “5 to 10 years younger now,” he is reconsidering.
Going cleanshaven would be significant. Gilbride first grew the mustache as a student at Southern Connecticut State in the early 1970s, he said, noting that “at that time, with everything that was going on in the world, everyone was doing something.” It fit well, he said, with his long, curly hair then and helped offset what he said was a pronounced baby face. He had had it ever since, he said, save for a two-year “California phase” when he was the head coach of the San Diego Chargers from 1997 to 1998.
“In the beginning, I wanted it because it made me look older,” he said. “Now, it’s the opposite. So I’m not sure what I’m going to do.”
While perhaps not as famous as other mustaches in the sports world — even at its peak, Gilbride’s was never as popular as, say, that of the former Met Keith Hernandez — it nonetheless resonated within the mustachioed community.
Aaron Perlut, the chairman of the American Mustache Institute, said in an interview that Gilbride’s mustache was a perfect example of the so-called Chevron design, which is “your standard-issue, law enforcement-style mustache.” Perlut admired Gilbride’s consistency, he said, as Gilbride stuck with the same look throughout his career, eschewing styles used by other N.F.L. personalities like “Andy Reid’s walrus or Shad Khan’s Mario Brothers Handlebar.”
Perlut added that the institute was saddened to hear of Gilbride’s loss but hoped the coach would reconsider his decision to potentially remain hairless around the mouth.
“We’d remind Mr. Gilbride that there are religious ramifications,” Perlut said. “According to the Dead Sea Scrolls, each time a mustache is shaved an angel falls to Earth from Heaven.”
Survivors in the Giants’ locker room include defensive tackle Rocky Bernard’s well-kept growth, known as a Skyraider, according to the mustache institute Web site. Asked if his son, Kevin Jr., who is also a Giants coach, would consider growing a mustache, Gilbride shook his head. “He’s cleanshaven all the way, I think,” Gilbride said.
Giants players, especially veterans who have been around Gilbride for many years, expressed disbelief about the possibility the mustache might not return. Kevin Boothe, an offensive lineman, said he was stunned when he first saw Gilbride without it and did not know what to say.
“At first, I just kept staring because I knew something was different but I just couldn’t figure out what — it was like it didn’t even occur to me that it could be the mustache,” Boothe said. “It took a while to sink in. I remember seeing him on TV, way back when, and that mustache was there. It was always there. It was epic.”
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