Confucius said that a man without a mustache is a man without a soul. How to trim a pencil thin mustache.
Studies confirm it. Sort of.
Most adults trust men with facial hair more than they trust those with none. However, some people detest mustaches and beards. Where do your characters fit?
Consider this male protagonist in the opening paragraph of a romance novel:
Brock waded toward Rebecca, his crooked smile framed by a salt-encrusted seafarer’s mustache. When at last he reached her, he pulled her close and kissed her. She inhaled the scent of his delectable nose-tickler—a sweet scent redolent of ocean zephyrs.
Even mustache haters might be induced to like Brock. Rebecca sure seems to.
Movements of a character’s mustache and lips often provide clues about his underlying motivation(s). For example, if he’s pulling on or stroking his mustache, he might be mulling over a problem at work. Or maybe he’s thinking about a planned rendezvous with his mistress.
Unless your intent is to misdirect readers, include appropriate context. Exercise care with misdirection, though. Readers will only tolerate so much before they abandon a book.
Resting a finger on mustache
Covering lips and mustache with one hand
Biting on or chewing on mustache
Pressing lips tightly together
Biting on or chewing on mustache
Insecurity, uncertainty, worry
Rolling mustache between thumb and forefinger
Sexual attraction or come-on
Biting on or chewing on mustache
Now, try this: If you don’t have a real mustache or access to a fake stache, draw one on your upper lip with an eyebrow pencil or dry-erase marker.
Stand in front of a mirror and watch how it moves as you mimic various emotions.
The way a character grooms or neglects facial hair will reveal truths about his personality.
Well-chosen adjectives create mental images that stick with readers. However, misplaced opinion adjectives muddle point of view, and too many stacked modifiers dilute rather than augment writing.
Visualize the mustache depicted by each adjective that follows. Some are serious, while others are humorous or deprecatory.
Absurd, abundant, adolescent, aggressive, alluring, ambitious, aristocratic, aromatic, big, Bohemian, boyish, braided, bristly, broad, brushy, budding, bushy, cheesy, chocolate-dipped, choppy, coarse, cocky, comical, conspicuous, crisp, crooked, cruel, crusty, curly, curved
Dandyish, dapper, dark, debonair, delicate, dense, developing, dingy, disheveled, droopy, elegant, embryonic, enormous, faded, faint, false, fearsome, feathery, feeble, feral, ferocious, fine, flamboyant, flaming, floppy, florid, flowing, fluffy, foppish, formidable, formless, full, funny, fuzzy
Garish, gaudy, genuine, gigantic, glossy, goofy, graceful, grandiose, greasy, great, half-grown, handsome, heavy, huge, idiotic, immature, immense, impressive, inconspicuous, indistinct, infinitesimal, innocuous, insipid, irregular, jaunty, kinked, kitschy
Limp, long, lush, luxurious, meager, meticulously shaped, micro, milk-covered, mini, miniscule, miserly, moist, monstrous, mousy, muddy, narrow, nascent, nasty, neat, nebulous, needle-thin, needy, negligible, nubby, odd, oiled, outdated, oversized, pathetic, pencil-thin, perfect, perky, pimply, pitiful, pointy, precisely trimmed, prim, prodigious, prominent, puny
Quaint, quirky, quixotic, ragged, rakish, rambling, ratty, razor-thin, real, rebellious, reedy, refined, regal, remarkable, resilient, resplendent, revolting, ridiculous, rimy, roaming, robust, rudimentary, rugged, rummy
Salty, savage, scanty, scarcely perceptible, scraggly, scraggy, scrawny, silken, sinister, sizable, sketchy, skimpy, sleek, slender, slight, slim, sloppy, small, snazzy, sodden, soft, sparse, splendid, sporty, stern, sticky, stiff, striking, stringy, stubby, stylish, subtle
Tapered, tattered, tawdry, tentative, thick, thin, thrifty, tidy, tight, tiny, tousled, trendy, twirled, unconvincing, uneven, unkempt, unsuccessful, untidy, unusual, upturned, vagabond, vast, vestigial, vile, villainous, voluminous
Wavy, waxed, waxy, weird, well-cared-for, well-defined, well-kept, well-maintained, well-trained, wide, wild, wiry, wispy, wooly, youthful, yokelish, zany
Some of the most memorable passages in writing stem from imaginative similes and metaphors. Here are a few to loosen your creativity gears.
A mouse of a mustache wriggled beneath his oversized nose.
He hid his insecurities behind a monstrous mustache.
His mustache drooped like a limp faux-fur stole.
His mustache functioned as an impenetrable [name of character who hates mustaches]-shield.
His mustache remained his most valuable asset.
His mustache reminded her of a bat nesting on his lip.
His mustache was a beacon of self-confidence.
His mustache, a curtain of virility to the women he met, obscured a sadistic twist of his upper lip.
His needy mustache reminded him that he couldn’t afford a razor, never mind a __________.
His untamed mustache was as feral as his attitude.
It rested on his lip, not a hair out of place, as tailored as his $5000 suit.
The monkey on his lip was bigger than the monkey on his back.
Mustache color should complement hair color. Mismatches might imply that a character is wearing a false stache.
Ashen, auburn, black, bleached, blond, brown, copper, fair, fawn-colored, flaxen, frosted-[insert color], frosty-[insert color], golden, grey, greying, grizzled, ruddy, rusty, salt-and-pepper, sandy, satanic-black, silvery, snowy, sorrel, straw-colored, sun-bleached, tawny, white, yellow, zinc-grey
Whenever a person is exposed to scent, it transfers to facial hair. Your character’s mustache could retain smells such as:
A barnyard, a dead skunk, a dirty toilet, a latrine, a pine forest, a pine freshener, another man, another woman, arterial blood, beer, breath mints, bubblegum, bug spray, burnt cork, burnt rubber, burnt tires, buttered popcorn, camphor, chewing gum, cigarettes, cinnamon, citrus, cleaning fluid, cottage cheese, disinfectant, fish, French fries
Garlic, gasoline, glue, incense, lawn grass, leather, mildew, moldy diapers, mouthwash, musty laundry, peanut butter, peppermint, pepperoni, pipe tobacco, road kill, room freshener, rum, salami, sandalwood, sawdust, spearmint, stale burps, stinky cheese, sweat, toothpaste, vomit, wildfire smoke, wine, yogurt
Some of these shapes and styles function well as nouns. For example:
The Abe Lincoln on his upper lip reminded me of my father—honest but human.
He sported a handlebar that put my Harley-Davidson to shame.
Ensure that your audience will identify with the words you choose. While almost everyone in the world will recognize Einstein, Cantinflas might puzzle readers in Australia or Europe.
A la Souvarov, Abe Lincoln, beardstache, blocky, boxcar, Burt Reynolds, Cantinflas, Captain Hook, chevron, Clark Gable, cowboy, curbed pyramid, Dali, Dallas, Dear Watson, double boxcar, Einstein, English, freestyle, Fu Manchu, Gandhi, General Lee, George Michael, gunslinger, Guy Fawkes
Handlebar, Hitler, horseshoe, Hungarian, imperial, lampshade, Magnum P.I., Manchu, Mandarin, military, natural, painter’s brush, pencil, petit handlebar, Prince, pyramid, Ringo Star, Santana, spiked, square, Stalin, Super Mario, thin Lizzy, toothbrush, traditional, Viking, walrus, Wario, wild west, Zapata, Zappa, Zorro
A pencil mustache might lie flat on the upper lip, but it can still grow, prickle, twitch, et al. These verbs will help you personalize mustaches that suit your characters.
Absorb, appear, arouse, astonish, awe, beguile, bend, billow, blanket, camouflage, coil, conceal, cover, creep, crook, curl, curve, cushion, dazzle, develop, disguise, drift, droop, engross, entice, excite, extend
Fascinate, filter, flap, float, flourish, flutter, frizz, grow, hide, impress, insulate, intrigue, itch, kink, knot, lengthen, loop, matt, mature, meander, mesmerize, obscure, ooze, prickle, protect, quiver
Rest, rivet, shield, shroud, sieve, snake, snarl, spiral, spread, sprout, strain, tangle, thrive, tickle, titillate, transfix, tremble, turn on, twist, twitch, unfurl, unroll, vibrate, wiggle, wind, wriggle, writhe, zigzag
Mustaches have existed for centuries, during which time people have referred to them in countless ways. This list contains a few modern monikers.
Beer sieve, bristle baton, brocha, bromerang, bro-mo, bro-stache, caterpillar, chester, cookie duster, crumb catcher, crustache, dirt squirrel, doormat, double hamster, face furniture, face lace, fash, Fellowcro, flavor saver, flea catcher, grass grin, handlebars
Lip cap, lip carpet, lip caterpillar, lip doily, lip foliage, lip luggage, lip rug, lip shadow, lip sweater, lip toupee, lip wig, louse farm, lower brow, manometer, mistache, mo, molestache, mountain-man stache, mouser, moustache [Gr. Br.], mouth merkin, mouthbrow, mouth-stache, moz, Mr. Tickler, mustachio, muzzy
Nose bug, nose neighbor, Old Bulletproof, Ottoman stache, pirate’s stache, push broom, smoke filter, snot catcher, snot mop, soup strainer, stain on the upper lip, stash, stereotypical [insert formal shape or style], tache, tea strainer, upper lipholstery, wing
Mustache grooming affects how readers perceive characters. Likewise with skin flaws hidden under a stache. Others might not know about those flaws, but a well-informed reader will, and that reader will understand resultant interactions.
Acne, comb, depilatory cream, detailing razor, dye, electric razor, feathers, fluff, food, freckles, frost, hand mirror, leaves, lighter, lint
Magnifying mirror, match, mole, mustache wax, pimples, razor, safety razor, scissors, shaving brush, shaving foam, shoe polish [for an improvised touchup], snow, trimmer, tweezers, wax, zits
Although I couldn’t find any mustache idioms, some of the words in this post are cliché. Whenever you encounter a word or phrase that you’ve seen hundreds of times, transform it.
For instance, rather than refer to a mustache as a soup strainer, how about calling it an orange-juice sieve? A tea strainer could become a coffee filter. And a cookie duster, an Oreo whisk.
“Imagination will take you everywhere.” ~ Albert Einstein