That lifestyle is chockablock with mystery, humanitarian caring, and rugged handsomeness, according to the institute, founded in 1965.
The award is named after the late singer and actor, who famously sported a thick mustache. The winner will get "a lifetime of glory, significant media attention, the Robert Goulet celebratory crown," and hair-trimming supplies from the contest's sponsor, Causgrove said.
Balloting for this year's award began Oct. 7 and is scheduled to end at 11:59 p.m. Friday. Last year, more than one million votes were tallied, the institute said.
Other nominees include Mike Brown, who plays right wing for the Edmonton Oilers; fictitious news anchorman Ron Burgundy, played in movies by Will Ferrell; and longtime TV personality Geraldo Rivera.
"We do believe [Rivera] has been able to promote the sexually dynamic mustached American lifestyle well into his 70s, which is a feat very few bald-faced gentlemen have been able to duplicate," said Causgrove, of Pittsburgh.
The description for Hanes, 66, on the online ballot does not include the phrase "sexually dynamic," but extols other qualities.
"In July, he let his lip garment do the talking as he began fighting his state's anti-gay-marriage ban by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, believing Pennsylvania's Marriage Act to be unconstitutional" and fighting for his "Mustached American" beliefs, the online ballot reads.
Hanes said he never imagined he would be contending for such an award.
"It came as a total shock," he said Monday. He learned about it in a recent e-mail from his daughter, who somehow came across it.
He acknowledged that growing a 'stache was not a life goal. He first let his stubble go unchecked after getting out of the Army in the early 1970s. The woman who became his wife told him to shave or be hairy alone. The razor and companionship won.
As a young lawyer in the 1980s, Hanes said, he grew back a mustache, this time keeping it neatly trimmed, in response to clients who thought he looked too young to represent them.
Hanes said he was humbled to be a finalist. He even sent a little smack talk Rivera's way.
"He has a great mustache. I've got a better mustache," Hanes said. "I think I'm going to win."
The ballot for the Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year is at http://www.americanmustacheinstitute.org/goulet-voting/