Actor Sam Elliott from Paramount+’s ‘1883’ attends Deadline Contenders Television at Paramount Studios on April 10, 2022 in Los Angeles, California
Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Deadline Hollywood

The Phenomenon of Sam Elliott's Mustache + 10 Pictures of Him Without It

" It's just hair on somebody's lip."

-Sam Elliott on his signature mustache

Throughout Sam Elliott's career, he's become synonymous with his mustache. Somehow, it's almost as famous as he is. He's had it for decades, one of the first in his generation to have one, and it quickly became part of his identity. Despite the fascination, he's certainly not the only man in Hollywood to grow a mustache. Just look at Tom Selleck or Nick Offerman. Even actors like Jude Law and Ryal Gosling have dabbled. But for Sam Elliott, his mustache has become a pop culture phenomenon people just can't seem to get enough of.

Thrillest ranked all of his best mustaches throughout his career (Tombstone won first place). Someone started a Twitter account called @MustacheElliott. In 2019, Fandango tweeted, "Let Sam Elliott and Sam Elliott's mustache host the Oscars." What is it about this mustache that is so special? If you ask Elliott himself, he doesn't have a clue. He told the TODAY Show that it's just facial hair.

"Yeah, it's a weird thing, isn't it? It's just hair on somebody's lip," Elliott said. "I'm comfortable with it or without it. I've worked without it a number of times over the years."

And as much as his fanbase might be uncomfortable with a bare-faced Elliott, he actually is fine without it. He's gone without the stache a few times over the years, notably early in his career and then sporadically for a few roles. He makes such a statement with his signature mustache that he's nearly unrecognizable without it until you hear that deep voice. We'll never really know what it is that has turned the mustache into as much a legend as Elliott himself, but it's an entertaining craze that will continue to follow the beloved actor until the end of his career.

Here are some photos over the years of Elliott without the iconic stache. If you're anything like me, you won't be able to look away. Dare I say, he looks a bit like Scott Bakula?

1968- 24-year-old Sam Elliott

Sam Elliott, circa 1968

Photo by Getty Images

Just a fresh-faced Sam in his twenties, years before his mustache would set him apart from other actors in Hollywood. You almost forget that there was ever a time Elliott didn't have the stash and grey hair because he's been rocking that look since Mask.

1971- Mission Impossible

Sam Elliott leaning against a truck in a scene from the TV series 'Mission Impossible'

Screengrab via YouTube

Another photo of young Elliott early in his career when he jumped around TV shows here and there. He appeared in Mission Impossible season 5, among other hits like Lancer and Gunsmoke.

1972- Frogs

Sam Elliott as Pickett Smith in 'Frogs'

Screengrab via YouTube

One of Elliott's early big breaks was in the horror film Frogs, which is about killer frogs. Look at that seventies haircut!

1974- Hawaii Five-0

Sam Elliott guest stars in an episode of 'Hawaii Five-0'

Screengrab via YouTube

Maybe it's the angle, but Elliott in an episode of Hawaii Five-0 looks just like Jon Hamm. Right?

2000- High Fidelity premiere

Actor Sam Elliott attend the "High Fidelity" Hollywood Premiere on March 28, 2000 at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California

Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Fast forward a couple of decades when the mustache was in full force, and here we have Elliott at the peak of his career, showing up to a movie premiere bare-faced. He still has the twinkle in his eye and the easy breezy smile, but there's just something missing.

2001- Jurassic Park III premiere

Actress Katharine Ross, actor Sam Elliott and daughter Cleo Rose Elliott attend the "Jurassic Park III" Universal City Premiere on July 16, 2001 at the Universal Amphitheatre in Universal City, California

Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Apparently, around this time, Elliott went a fair amount of time without the mustache. Here he is with his family in full dad mode, checking out the premiere of the new Jurassic Park movie.

2001-Sixth Annual Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards

Actor Sam Elliott attend the Sixth Annual Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards on January 22, 2001 at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, California

Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

I just can't look away. Was he experimenting during this time? Why the need to be fully shaven?

2002 - We Were Soldiers

Mel Gibson and Sam Elliott in a scene from the film 'We Were Soldiers', 2002

Photo by Paramount/Getty Images

It makes sense for him to be clean shaved in this movie since he is in the Army. But just look at this doesn't even look like him!

2015- Grandma premiere

Actor Sam Elliott attends the "Grandma" premiere during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival on January 30, 2015 in Park City, Utah

Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Sundance

15 years later, Elliott lost the stache again. In 2015 he went bare-faced for his role in the modern western series Justified, not for any particular reason, he told Vulture.

"I didn't have it when they cast me, and I didn't have time to grow one that I wanted to wear on weekly episodic TV. So I left it off, and I'm glad I did. It helped me a lot with this guy to look different than I did in most of the work I've done. And I never combed my hair straight back, either, so that's a new thing. That seems absurd, probably, but it's that little subtle stuff that makes all the difference in the world."

2015- Park City, Utah

Actor Sam Elliott is seen on January 27, 2015 in Park City, Utah

Photo by Mark Sagliocco/GC Images

And here's our favorite Hollywood cowboy one last time, pictured walking around Park City, Utah. At least he brought back the mustache for Yellowstone prequel 1883.

READ MORE: Sam Elliott, Then & Now: The Hollywood Cowboy's Life in Photos