A mustache clad Robert Downey Jr. at the Japanese premiere of Iron ManWhen you consider the sheer number of mustaches appearing in Hollywood films and even on the red carpet these days, some of us are nervously wondering: is the mustache about to make a comeback? As painful as it is to watch, A-list stars the likes of James Franco and Robert Downey Jr. (pictured) have been showing off their upper lip hair on and off the screen. Could 2009 really be the historic year that marks the return of the long-scorned stache?

Following the life and death of a clandestine facial hair trend can be a tricky thing. When it comes to down to it, a good fad is pretty much dead by the time anybody in the news media has found out about it. But this mustache thing has the makings of a honest-to-goodness sea change.

Hot and Hairy - Our Favorite Manly Men

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A good mass trend starts in a maligned but powerful subculture of fashion-obsessed trendsters. For the past few years, hipsters have revived the beard and all of its variations to a segment of the population that once preferred razors and Brut by Faberge. Check.

Next, Hollywood steps in and pumps it out to the masses. In November, Brad Pitt flexed his mustache muscle, claiming that it was a fashion statement. Of course, it was also necessary for the filming of his latest flick, Tarantino's WWII epic Inglorius Basterds. Earlier in the year, James Franco has a hard time giving up the porn stache he grew for Milk.

Then, of course there are other seemingly connected phenomenons like Celebritymustache.com and the super nostalgic making of Magnum PI: The Movie -- in which Matthew McConaughey will likely join the mustache revolution.

Lastly, a broad cultural shift brings the trend into the mainstream -- enter the recession of 2008. According to at least one grooming theory, tough times are good times for hairy men. As the theory goes, the hairiness of manly men is found more attractive during tough times because it appears to symbolize security. Don't ask us why? But it seems like a pretty pro-mustache development.

Sure, the Times may have totally missed the mark here -- just because there's a wall cloud, that doesn't mean there's going to be a tornado -- but you have to admit that conditions are optimal for a mustache comeback event. Disturbing as it may be, we may be in for a very hairy 2009 in more ways than one.

[via Gawker]