Wyatt Earp. Joseph Stalin. Mr. Monopoly. An odd company of men, yes, but these famous (and infamous) chaps have one thing in common: the ‘stache that’s lush and bushy in the middle and slightly curving out at the ends. The handlebar mustache is unmistakably iconic not just for its feature role on prominent men but for its spellbinding appearance, too.
Small wonder then that many (i.e., indie-rock loving, suspenders-wearing hipsters) would attempt to grow one. But here’s the thing about growing a bold, powerful lip broom that demands attention: it could make you look debonair or inspire your friends to hum “bow-chicka-wow-wow” whenever you walk into a room. Your ‘stache could see some ladies swoon or become your calling card for filmmakers casting roles for ‘70s porn stars.
How do you grow a long mustache that symbolizes your awe-inspiring manliness but doesn’t turn you into a punchline?
How to Grow a Handlebar Mustache
The main thing to remember about growing this type of mustache is the necessity of grooming and shaping. It’s not just some lip furniture you can let grow wild, like an old man who’s been living in the mines like a Wild West version of Howard Hughes.
Without any kind of grooming routine, your lengthy ‘stache is going to thrive and curl recklessly, making eating undignified and smooching a turn off. But if genetics is preventing you from growing facial hair or it’s turned it into a wait-and-see game, then you won’t have to worry about turning into Grizzly Adams in the first several weeks.
To grow a handlebar mustache, you’ll have to wait a couple to three months. Three months is when this type of mustache typically reaches its full hipster potential. So you need to be patient; the way you’d be patient if you plan to get a massive and intricate dragon tattoo on your back, requiring multiple appointments.
If you don’t already have the makings of a peach fuzz, in this season of facial hair gone rogue amid a pandemic, start with step one. Otherwise, move to the subsequent steps.
Step 1 Grow a full beard
Your beard could turn out in several ways, depending on your testosterone and genetic make up. Some men could see a tidy Michael B. Jordan mustache in the first few weeks and others may endure Justine Bieber’s miserable patches for months.
Again, patience is crucial here. If your full beard starts to make you look like Henry Cavill prepping for a villain’s role, trim the sucker with care. Use a natural bristle brush to get rid of dead skin and hair.
Step 2 Use wax to improve hold
The itchiness will come in weeks into growing your long mustache. But hold on because it only lasts for about two weeks. After this AF stage, that beard will grow long enough for you to comb to the sides. You’ll need mustache wax to keep it in place and prevent it from drooping, and then you’ll be well on your way to sporting this hipster mustache. Toward the end of the three months, focus on waxing the tips.
Step 3 Comb in the desired direction
Depending on the type of handlebar you’re going for, you need to comb the ends upward or outward. You want to keep the center neat and to make sure your beard isn’t getting in the way when you’re eating or drinking.
As your lengthy mustache matures, you need to trim and groom it.
How to Groom and Trim Your Mustache
What do you use for your handlebar?
The well-groomed man can’t be cheap, so you need to make room in your budget for some key tools:
Beard comb – this is a separate comb from your hair. A pocket-sized version allows you to comb stealthily, freeing your lip rug from dirt and food without the curious looks.
Beard trimmer – cut stray hair strands with trimming scissors — not clippers. Scissors will help you be more precise and not waste weeks of handlebar growth by taking off more than you should.
Brush – yes, brother. You’ll still want a brush even though you’ve already bought a tiny comb for your impressive beard. A natural brush made of boar’s hair will exfoliate the skin, which will evenly spread essential oils through your ‘stache. This type of brush also helps the hair grow in the direction you want.
Wax – the wax keeps your beard in place, especially the tips. You want them ridiculously upward like Salvador Dali? Get a strong hold wax. You want them to extend outward and slightly curving like retired baseball pitcher Rollie Fingers? Get a medium hold wax.
Balm – the wax holds it whereas the balm moisturizes it. With a good balm, you could also smell like you’re the mack daddy of making out.
The Types of Handlebar Mustaches
A handlebar mustache is a collective term for any long ‘stache that extends and goes beyond the upper lip. Just as there are different types of mustaches, from the world domination vibe of fu manchu to the law enforcement favorite lampshade, so are there different styles of the handlebar.
Take your pick.
The English or the French
Divided at the center and extending outward, the English is similar to the French mustache. Except the latter is bushier and curls upward whereas the former is finer and extends into straight points at the ends.
Big and bushy, the Hungarian extends outward. Its steep in history and meaning, symbolizing manliness and privilege for the men who grew it during the late 1800s. It is similar in style to the Imperial.
It’s probably the most flamboyant of the handlebars. The tips are curled upward in contrast to the Hungarian’s outward direction.
The walrus mustache. Best worn by the man’s man, Sam Elliot. It looks like the Chevron except the bushy whiskers need to be brushed down, so the ends aren’t going to extend out into curves like the Hungarian.
So if you want to go balls out and go full handlebar with your ‘stache, the Imperial would be a striking choice. But if you don’t want the tedious grooming routine it’ll command, a pulled back French or English mustache should be right as rain. You’ll still need to trim it as your hair grows out.
Does a Handlebar Mustache Symbolize Something?
Preconceived notions are part of personal style. Just as getting inked signified prison life or some other sinister idea, beards used to be associated with something unsavory. Most people deemed it more appropriate for men who partied, and partied hard.
But today, the long mustache has been adapted by hipsters, making it appealing and acceptable for many.
In tattoo symbolism, the upper lip strip of furniture is associated with some form of evil force; that it represented the devil, according to religion. In other cultures, it meant virility and strength. So you’ll see some women tattoo mustaches as a symbol of their inner strength and to convey equality between the sexes.
As for a tattoo of the handlebar, it’s generally intended as a joke when done on the finger.
Can I Handle a Handlebar Mustache?
Clearly, growing a handlebar mustache is not as easy as other types of mustaches. It needs more than the usual attention in grooming and trimming. It’s likely going to cost more money than you’d care to share with your buddies. And it takes balls — balls to say to the world, I’m digging how I look.
If you’re ambivalent about going with this style of facial hair, ask yourself the following:
If you were in a bar fight, could your long mustache be weaponized and used against you?
Do I wanna look like William Taft if I grow old with this handlebar mustache?
How badass do I want to seem with a hipster mustache?
Will I look fashionable AF in any outfit?
Is my girlfriend or wife going to approve of or ridicule my handlebar mustache?
And when I come in for a kiss, will sunlight shine and reverence be given to my man-sized beard?
When you’ve gone through all the questions and find your desire for growing a handlebar mustache is still compelling, then let go of the razor.