The Handlebar Mustache: Tips for Trimming, Styling, and Maintenance
The handlebar mustache made its comeback in recent years — with a bit of flare. With modern mustache technology at its peak, we’ve decided to revisit this 19th-century sensation in 2022.
Whether you’re a hipster, a businessman, or anyone in between, you can pull this look off with a little work and patience. You just need some relevant information first to set you up for success, and we’re here to show you the way.
From Wyatt Earp to William Howard Taft to Buffalo Bill, the handlebar mustache has quite a legacy in the world of facial hair. Kurt Russell even called this facial hairstyle a work of art.
What Is a Handlebar Mustache?
If you need an idea of what actually constitutes a handlebar mustache, look no further than the Handlebar Club out of the United Kingdom. They define acceptable handlebar mustaches as “a hirsute appendage of the upper lip, with graspable extremities.”
While this is definitely a slightly snobby way of defining the handlebar mustache, it’s pretty accurate. The origin of the name comes from the shape of push-bike handlebars. However, over the past hundred years or so, various procedures developed regarding its exact styling and shape.
The original style that started it all is called an imperial mustache. This archetype is our focus and point of reference in this guide. Other mustache styles that fall under the umbrella of the handlebar include the walrus, the chevron, the English, and the Hungarian.
Now that you know what a handlebar mustache is, let’s take a look at how to grow this beast of a ‘stache yourself. We’ll dive into the ideal rituals for the trimming, styling, and maintaining of your newfound look.
To Trim or Not To Trim? That Is the Question
Before we go one snip further, let’s clarify that if you are starting from scratch or with a lack of mustache length, then trimming is your enemy. Don’t trim. Don’t do it. We know your skin itches — but resist the urge.
A mustache like this takes months to grow and perhaps upwards of a year to perfect. Patience and commitment are key, and “innocent” trims of the ends can set you back.
As far as growing techniques go, we suggest growing a beard first just to alleviate the stress of awkward mustache stages. Even though you’re a mustache guy now, beards are your friends.
How Do You Train and Tame Your Handlebar Mustache?
As your mustache comes in, you’ll have to train its growth to get the style you want. A classic handlebar needs to defy gravity, and the way to do this is by starting early on. The way you trim, brush, and comb your beard will all impact the way it grows in the long run.
A beard brush is helpful to push all those short hairs to the side and up. We recommend brushing each side regularly, especially after showering or washing your face. Once the hairs become pinchable, then it is probably time to switch to the mustache comb.
Over time, you’ll come to value your trusty comb more than any other tool in your beard care arsenal. When you’re growing a handlebar stache, your comb becomes the only line of defense between a properly groomed mustache and a bad day.
At this point, you can also start using mustache wax to hold those stubborn, stubbly hairs in place. The eventual goal is for the mustache to retain its hold and shape on its own, but some high-hold products can be a lifesaver in the earlier stages of growth.
Maintain a Steady Course, Gentlemen
You put in the work and committed to growing it out, and now you have the handlebar mustache of your dreams. It’s a glorious feeling, and make no mistake — you are now part of an elite group of men that spans hundreds of years.
Never forget, though, that your journey doesn't end here. No, this is a new beginning. From here, you’ll need to keep maintaining your mustache to keep it from getting out of control.
Be careful with how you shape that glorious stache. Don’t twist enough, and you could lose your curl. Twist too tight, and you risk breaking the strand ends. Twist just the right amount, and you’ll keep your handlebars looking pristine.
Maintaining a proper handlebar mustache is both difficult and rewarding, and some new rules enter the field of play at this point. For one, trimming is back on the table but read on before doing anything reckless.
An Excerpt from the Trimming Bible
Barbers can be expensive, and we highly recommend learning how to trim your mustache at home without any outside assistance. Take a look at the steps below to familiarize yourself with the basics of trimming a handlebar mustache.
- Block off a wall of time to complete all the following steps. This is never a process that should be rushed. Practice makes perfect, so don’t feel bad if it takes you a while to groom your mustache at first.
- A clean mustache is a happy mustache. During your shower, prior to trimming, make sure to clean your facial hair with a shampoo specifically meant for facial hair.
- Once it is dry, grab that mustache comband comb it out as normal.
- Beginning in the center, apply wax like you usually might. This is why it’s important to always have some on hand. Applying the wax pre-trim may seem counter-intuitive, but it is essential to judge what actually needs to be trimmed.
- Once the mustache is shaped as perfectly as it can be, buzz off any strands that fall far enough to reach your lips.
- Grab some beard scissors and target the hairs closest to your nostrils, leaving a small separation.
- Finally, focus on the ends of either side and delicately cut away any rogue members until everything appears even. Aim small, miss small.
If you stay in these lanes and take your time, then you’ll rarely have a bad mustache day ever again.
Can You Handle It?
At its best, a handlebar mustache promotes power, confidence, and individuality. This unique class of mustache draws in people of all cultures and backgrounds because of its distinct look.
Furthermore, as one-of-a-kind as the style is, it actually has a diverse range of looks. Each look is unique, which is a quality that matches its wearers quite well.
Folks who mock this style simply can’t comprehend the tradition that comes with the handlebar stache. The right people will always understand. Those are your people. We are your people.
If you commit to the process and stock up with the proper essentials, then you’re already further ahead than every novice dreaming up a manly stache. Theirs will remain in their dreams, but yours can become a reality.
Remember to always trim, style, and maintain the handlebar properly, but also, at the end of the day, feel the freedom to grow in your shaping skills and get creative with that hair on your face. It’s your face, after all.