Traditionally a Handlebar Mustache is worn without a beard, making a distinctive style statement in every aspect of life, be it at work, leisure or with family. However, in the less conservative and more modern day world, a Handlebar Mustache with beard, usually thick and bushy to balance the wholesomeness of such a unique appendage, is a recognized style, but somewhat plays down its peculiarity.
WHAT IS A HANDLEBAR MUSTACHE?
Whilst there are a great variety of mustaches that come under the Handlebar title, their common attribution is of a mustache of length with curved ends, usually an upward flourish with the help of styling aids such as mustache wax. The famous Handlebar Club in London, UK, describes it as "a hirsute appendage of the upper lip and with graspable extremities". (However, with the stiff upper lip of Great British society, they also have a ‘no-beard’ policy for their members!)
THE FAMOUS HANDLEBAR MUSTACHE
Named after its resemblance to bicycle handlebars, this fashion statement has stood the test of time, from Iron Age Celts who inhabited the European continent two thousand years ago, Wild West icons such as Wyatt Earp and Buffalo Bill Cody in the late 1800’s, soldiers throughout Europe from 19th century thru to the First World War, the ‘Gay Nineties’ (1890’s – the decade when America celebrated the decadent arts and scandals of Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley, among others, and not to be confused with the modern usage of the word), the Roaring 20’s, a brief revival in the 90’s and to the current hipster culture where this iconic manicured mustache is somehow integrated with a divers and disordered fashion style. Other famous wearers include retired professional baseball pitcher Rollie Fingers, 27th USA president William Howard Taft, contemporary Norwegian ski jumper Robert Johansso, (known as ‘the flying mustache’), and Rich Uncle Pennybags, aka Mr Monopoly of board game fame!
HOW TO GROW YOUR HANDLEBAR
So you’ve decided that the ordinary haired lip is not for you, and you want to try something with a little more panache, a bit more ‘wow factor’ and a head-turner to boot. Here at Real Bearded Men we give you the lowdown of growing such a beauty in 6 easy steps:
1) GROW: Let those hairs grow... and grow and grow! Quite simply, let the hair on your lip emerge, shoot out and thicken, but under no circumstances trim it! Nope, not even a little snip anywhere! You need as much hair as possible to groom and shape towards its lengthy sideward destinations and until you’ve got your new style under control, any sort of pruning, however slight, will lessen your chances of success. Even those annoying areas at the corners of your mouth should be left intact as every hair will count towards your final appearance.
2) PATIENCE: Be patient! It can take up to three months to grow something that can be deemed a Handlebar style, which is made up of long hairs trained to head towards your cheeks and beyond, with a thick and bushy countenance.
3) COMB: While you’re being patient there are actions you can take to help it along. Once it has grown to a comb-able length, do just that! Train the hairs to grow outwards by first parting them vertically directly under your nose, then combing each side in the correct direction using a natural fine toothed comb. Choose a comb you feel comfortable with, and although we’d recommend our sandalwood comb with its uncomplicated handle and sleek look, some guys reckon a lice comb or even a toothbrush make useful tools. Combing once a day will go a long way to helping the hairs lay the correct way.
4) WAX: Best applied while your hair is still damp after showering, warm a little wax product between your fingers and apply. Start in the middle (under your nose), dab the wax along the upper edge of the mustache and work along each side. Use your comb to disperse it down into the hair, checking that it’s evenly spread throughout. At the same time, remember to comb those little hairs in the right direction, towards your cheeks, to help train them into position. If you find you’ve used too much wax just comb the excess out and discard.
5) TWIST AND SHOUT SHAPE: Once the hairs have grown long enough at the ends to twiddle with, twist them with the help of wax into the start of a curl, upwards and inwards. As these ends become longer, you can twist them tightly around your finger or a pen, and experiment with exactly how you want them to look. Without this extra shaping your new look will droop and simply become a Walrus Mustache rather than the Handlebar you crave, so it’s worth the effort to create a shape, whether that includes large loops or more refined twists. The wax will dry, leaving your desired style in place. You’ll find that the occasional hair doesn’t want to comply; don’t fret – and don’t cut! Let it grow until it becomes long enough to style into the overall shape you’re aiming for.
6) TRIM: Yes, at last we’re using the trim word, but only if it’s necessary! Depending on the ultimate style required, now you could trim the ends if your desired look is to remain as dapper as a Handlebar will allow. But if you’re after the big impressive swirl, put the trimmers back down, they’re not needed! Whatever you envisage, never trim the bottom edge of the mustache above the lip under any circumstances. You need these hairs to grow and remain long to comb into the overall shape of the mustache.
MAINTAINING A HANDLEBAR MUSTACHE
Now you’ve finally grown this distinctive facial feature, you will need to maintain it to keep it in good order by washing, combing, waxing and curling daily. Brush out any debris and wax residue with a natural bristle brush then use a good quality beard wash to remove grime, making sure you get down to the skin under the hairs. After this routine, follow the steps above for combing, waxing and curling.
Although the hairs of your mustache are trained away from your mouth, because they are long they will easily attract soups, crumbs and food morsels as well as beer and any other liquids you imbibe. Be aware! Wipe your lips regularly to avoid an ugly food and stain build up and perhaps avoid the sloppier altogether dishes until you’ve mastered the art of bushy-mustache-craft! Nothing revolts those in your company more than your mustache consuming over and above your own ration quota!
SHOULD YOU GROW ONE?
The Handlebar Mustache is certainly more than just a fashion trend; it’s an enchanting ornament, an icon of the mustachioed man. The more extreme your ‘graspable extremity’ becomes, the more superior the overall effect. Rarely seen worn by the younger generation (why not, unless used as an anarchic statement?), it takes a while to grow. And, as with almost all beard and mustache styles, you’ll need the time and patience to keep it looking good.
Is it worth it? Hell, yes!