By Jeff Labrecque
September 24, 2010 at 09:23 PM EDT

Image Credit: Carlos Marino/Getty Images; Mary Evans Picture Library/Everett CollectionAs I mindlessly shaved my stubbly face this morning (it was Friday after all), I didn’t bother to consider how my actions might impact the future course of human events. Those orphaned specs of hair lurking in my sink will never tickle my daughter’s belly or grow natty with lunchtime pizza grease. More importantly, they will never invade Poland, invent the theory of relativity, or win seven Olympic medals.

It was impossible not to ponder such what-ifs after reading the 20 Mustaches That Changed History, The Atlantic‘s gallery of iconic soup-strainers. Aaron Perlut, chairman of the American Mustache Institute, compiled the eclectic list that dared weigh the global impact of historic facial hair. It’s a fun but puzzling collection, especially since the momentous headline resides above a photo of Hulk Hogan. Perlut defends his selections throughout, but it’s rather discombobulating to see that Burt Reynolds ranks one spot ahead of Hitler. To be fair, it wasn’t Hitler’s mustache that began World War II, just as it wasn’t Reynold’s ‘stache that drove the ambulance in the Cannonball Run. But Hitler’s crimes so offended the world that his mustache rightfully disappeared from the face of the earth — that is until Michael Jordan decided it was time to bring it back.

But I’d like to nominate three crumb-catchers that have made as great an impact as Reynolds’: 1) The Beatles, circa Sgt. Pepper: What the Fab Four had already done for men’s hair in the 1960s, they extended to their upper lips. 2) Clark Gable, circa Gone With the Wind: What would the most dashing rascal of his time be without his slick stache? 3) Ned Flanders: In the modern age, the “moustachio” is so associated with the Simpsons‘ cartoon Christian that its real-life existence is deemed hopelessly square.

What else should make the list of history-changing mustaches? (The Got Milk? ads don’t count.)