No style of facial hair makes an impression the way a mustache does, and the king of all mustache styles is the handlebar mustache.
After going dormant for nearly a century, handlebar mustaches began to burst back onto the scene in the early 2010s. In the 19th century, there was a refined savagery to the handlebar mustache—its wearer equally likely to be a back-alley bare-knuckle boxer as he was a fop. But what does the handlebar mustache say about its wearer in the 21st century? Is he a hipster? Is he antiquated? It doesn’t matter because the handlebar mustache is about as badass as it gets when done right.
So, how do you grow and style an epic handlebar mustache that would make the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis and Charles Bronson shudder in envy?
We’ll show you the ropes in this ultimate guide to the handlebar mustache.
WHAT IS A HANDLEBAR MUSTACHE?
Do you even curl, bro?
A handlebar mustache requires Mustache Wax or other styling aides to achieve a mustache that resembles bicycle handles. The handles can be styled in a curl, straight out, or left more natural.
The “handles” of the mustache are grown long enough to style. They are not connected to the face anywhere other than the corners of the mouth, an important distinction that separates the handlebar mustache from different styles like the horseshoe mustache (pictured below on Hulk Hogan).
There are several different handlebar mustache styles:
The Handlebar Mustache – The traditional handlebar mustache curls upward and sometimes back in on itself. The curl can be slight or a full loop a la Rollie Fingers.
Famous handlebar mustaches: Greg Berzinsky, Rollie Fingers, William Howard Taft, and Daniel Day-Lewis.
The Petite Handlebar Mustache – The petite handlebar is a tinier version of the traditional handlebar mustache and is a good option for men whose mustache hair doesn’t grow long enough for any other styles.
The English Mustache – The English Mustache is similar to the traditional handlebar mustache, except the handles are styled to point straight out instead of curled.
Famous English mustaches: Jimmy Edwards.
The Hungarian Mustache – The Hungarian mustache is big and burly, covering the eternity of the upper lip. The handles swoop lower than the traditional handlebar mustache.
Famous Hungarian mustaches: Franz Ferdinand, Eric Bandholz, Greg Berzinsky, Jeffrey Buoncristiano, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Seth Bullock, and Rich Uncle Pennybags (the Monopoly guy).
HOW TO GROW A HANDLEBAR MUSTACHE
All you need to grow a handlebar mustache is time and a little help from your genetics. It can take four to six months for the mustache hair to grow long enough to allow you to create a full handlebar mustache. And ultimately, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to grow one. Remember, the handles are grown solely from the hair at the edges of the mustache, and for some men (myself included), that hair doesn’t grow long enough to get much of a handlebar.
For most styles, you can do light trimming of the mustache hair to keep it from getting in your mouth as it grows. But be careful not to cut the corners of your ‘stache as you’ll need all the length you can get there.
If you’re growing the Hungarian style, just let that mo’ go full walrus and don’t trim it.
You can grow a handlebar mustache on its own or with a full beard. Or pair it with a puffy soul patch for a Three Muskateers style Van Dyke. We think it looks exceptionally badass when paired with just a little bit of scruff on the cheeks and chin—a style known as a beardstache.
HOW TO TRIM A HANDLEBAR MUSTACHE
The handlebar mustache requires a good deal of grooming and frequent trimming. Pulling off this style is all about keeping your mustache tidy. Keeping the center of the mustache neat is essential to giving a clean, flowing look. Stray hairs and flyaways will take away from the overall look of your mustache.
Here’s what you’ll need: A Beard Comb and a sharp pair of Beard Trimming Scissors or electric clippers. We prefer scissors since they give you more control and precision. Mustache Wax or another styling aid can be helpful but isn’t absolutely necessary.
6 STEPS TO TRIM A HANDLEBAR MUSTACHE
- Use your comb to divide your hair into three sections—left, middle, and right. The middle section will be the mustache hair directly beneath your nose. The left and right sections are the hair that will make up your handlebars.
- Comb the left and right sections of your mustache out of the way towards their respective sides. Comb the hair in the middle area down and towards the center of your mouth.
- Use your scissors to cut hairs from the middle section of your mustache that have grown too long. Follow the natural curve of your lip, and make small, careful snips to prevent over-trimming.
- Comb the handlebars of your mustache back in towards your mouth. Trim the hair until you have a smooth transition from shorter mustache hair near the middle of your upper lip to longer hair at the ends. Use your scissors to blend any spots that look uneven.
- Apply a small amount of Mustache Wax or Styling Balm to the ends of your mustache, using your comb to push your handles back towards the sides. Use your fingers to smooth each of the handles into a point. Pull the handles straight out to see if one is longer than the other. Trim as necessary to make the handles even in length.
- Lastly, lift one of your mustache handles and shave or trim any hair that grows beneath them. Repeat on the other side. (If you are pairing your mustache with a beard, skip step 6 and move on to styling your handlebar mustache).
Trimming a mustache is delicate work. Unlike trimming your beard, you have less hair to work with, and mistakes will be far more noticeable. We recommend watching the video below to let Greg Berzinsky walk you through the abovementioned steps.
HOW TO STYLE A HANDLEBAR MUSTACHE
Styling a handlebar mustache comes down to three steps:
- Training your mustache
- Properly applying wax
- Curling your mustache
Many guys skip step one and don’t take the time to train their mustache, but that little extra work makes everything a lot easier. Now, let’s get into styling that mustache.
What you’ll need: Mustache Wax, Beard Brush or Beard Comb, and a blowdryer.
1. Training your mustache
One of the biggest frustrations among first-time mustache growers is how hard it can be to curl a mustache—and keep it curled throughout the day. Much like the gunslingers that popularized handlebar mustaches, mustache hair is ornery and wild. It isn’t predisposed to fall naturally into a swooping curl. This is why you need to train your mustache.
The best way to train your mustache to curl is by applying hot air from a blow dryer to a wet mustache while using a Beard Comb or Round Brush to help form the desired shape. By applying heat, the hair will begin to hold that shape naturally. Switch the air temperature to cold as the hair gets closer to dry to help lock in the new hair pattern. Doing this alters the chemistry within each strand of hair on your mustache.
Then, when it comes time to apply Mustache Wax, you’ll be using it to refine the shape you’ve already created instead of using the wax to try and force your ‘stache into submission.
2. Applying wax
Mustache wax isn’t very malleable when it’s at room temperature, and applying it this way can leave you with thick clumps in your ‘stache—not a good look. Instead, scrape off a small amount of wax with a fingernail and then begin to warm the wax between your fingers. Once it has softened up, start applying it to your mustache.
Pro tip: heat the wax with a blowdryer before scraping it out with your fingernail. Warm wax is significantly easier to work with.
Use a boar’s hair Beard Brush or Beard Comb to evenly spread the wax through your mustache.
3. Curling your mustache
Scrape off a little more wax and use your thumb and index finger to smooth your mustache handlebars to a point. Just applying pressure to the hair should be enough to get the hairs to gel together. It might be tempting to twist or roll the mustache, but this is unnecessary and doesn’t look as clean.
Once your handles are formed, curl them into the shape you desire.
Pro tip: If your handlebar mustache isn’t holding up throughout the day, you can use a stick of Elmer’s glue to solidify things. Elmer’s glue is a secret ingredient often used at mustache competitions. However, we don’t recommend it for everyday use so save it for special occasions.
It takes some practice to ultimately get your mustache to curl the way you want it to, but with great mustache, comes great responsibility.
Have questions about your mustache or need advice on your beard? Text “STYLE” to 512-879-3297. Our resident beard and style expert will text you back with personalized advice—for free.
Keep on Growing.
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