Dear reader, I have a confession to make. I have a handlebar mustache. I’ve had one casually off and on throughout the past few years but I would only keep it for about a month or so before chickening out and clipping off the ends. I just wasn’t ready yet. Only recently did I decide to really commit to growing “a hirsute appendage of the upper lip, with graspable extremities”, in the words of The Handlebar Club (Which is, in fact, a real organization ). I am not quite sure what spurred my decision on except for maybe noticing a few more men sporting the ‘stache throughout my facial-hair-friendly city of Austin, TX. Perhaps I was afraid of growing one and being alone in the universe with my cultivated curl. Whatever the cause, I one day looked in the mirror and said to my mustache, “Let’s do this.” How to groom a handlebar moustache.
It may be a bit of a stretch to call this a life-changing decision, but having a handlebar mustache has certainly affected my day-to-day routine in unexpected ways. Some of these ways, unfortunately, have been negative. The handlebar mustache is viewed with some disdain by society because it is often associated with the vaguely defined “ hipster culture.” The word “hipster” has never had a concrete definition but if you ask almost anyone to describe the visual appearance of a hipster, the handlebar mustache will usually be cited. Comedian Marc Maron once wrote, “I have no patience for contemporary handlebar mustaches. They anger me. They look indulgent and ridiculous. If you have a handlebar mustache, that is pretty much all you are. You are a delivery system for a handlebar mustache.”
So there are times when I have walked into a room and felt slightly judged for having this on my face. If you decide to grow one, you have to be prepared for a bit of resistance from some of the people you come in contact with. You may also start fearing that people are making fun of you behind your back. And yet, I absolutely believe that the positives outweigh the negatives. If you want to grow one and your face is capable, absolutely do it. Life is too short to not pursue your interests. But if you’re on the fence, let me clue you in on some of the benefits.
1. IT WILL DISTRACT ATTENTION AWAY FROM FACIAL DEFORMITIES YOU MAY HAVE
Do you think your nose is too big? Are your cheeks wrinkling at speeds you’re uncomfortable with? Is there a weird-looking mole on your forehead that you should consult a doctor about? Well, if you grow a handlebar mustache, you can distract attention away from whatever makes you wince. People’s eyes will naturally be drawn towards your curly mustache because it will be the most stylish thing on your face. It can even serve as a natural conversation starter when you meet new people because you will be asked “So how long did that take to grow” instead of “So what do you do for a living”.
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Sure, this is a pretty vain reason to grow a handlebar but if I am being completely honest, so much of my self-esteem is tied to my visual appearance. I am sure it is probably the same for you too, unless you are blessed with the gift of absolute contentment. This is definitely an embarrassing thing to admit but when I am displeased with the way I look on a particular day, that entire day will feel “off”. Since growing this mustache, however, bad hair days or oily skin days are a thing of the past. Sure, I still comb my hair and look presentable, but merely as a formality now. Okay, just kidding on that last part. I still take pride in my personal appearance but I no longer fret about it for fear of being judged on something I can’t control.
2. YOU CAN TURN YOUR MUSTACHE INTO A WORK OF ART.
You are the auteur of your mustache and you get final cut (except don’t cut it). To my eyes, a truly beautiful handlebar mustache can hang in a museum. They contain an inherent elegance. The length of the ends, the shape of the curl, the thickness of the hair. Do you brush all the hairs out to opposite ends or do you let some hair hang over your upper lip? Do you keep the curl big and wide or do you twist it tightly so that it’s small and subtle? There are endless ways to shape, grow, and maintain your mustache and, like jazz, there is always room for experimentation. In fact, I would argue that trying out different looks is essential to getting it just the way you want it. For me, it took months to get it into a shape that I was happy with and, during that time, I felt like I had a new mustache every day. It kept things lively and slightly dangerous, as I wasn’t quite sure what the response would be from people once they realized what I was doing. But we all need a little danger in our lives.
The only thing to be aware of is that it will be very easy to get too caught up in what your mustache looks like. Any time you walk past a reflective surface, you should fight the urge to look at your reflection and search for imperfections. Oh no! There are some hairs out of place! Egads! The ends are slightly lopsided! This is a trap. If you try to be too meticulous with it, you will end up standing in front of the mirror waxing and twisting for hours. You’ll also be tempted to fix it throughout the day, perhaps carrying a tin of wax with you in your pocket. I kindly urge you to not do this. Let the mustache do what it wants throughout the day. It will look better and it will feel better. Do not let the mustache control you. You control it.
3. IT MAKES YOU DISTINCTIVE
“Jeremy,” I hear you say. “Why are you encouraging people to grow handlebar mustaches if one of the perks is that they make one distinctive? If everyone had them, that would go away.”
My response is that all mustaches look different because everyone’s face is different. Everyone’s hair (Or lack of hair) is unique even though styles will sometimes overlap. It is certainly the same with mustaches and beards. Even if you grew a more commonplace mustache, it will still have your own naturally unique spin on it. But with a handlebar, you can really add some personality to your overall facial aesthetic. The curls can change the feeling of your face in any way that you want. You can adjust it so that you look a bit mysterious, with your eyes poking out from behind the curls. You can have a more surreal flavor, by going full-on Salvador Dali and growing out the ends so long that they reach up and over your head. Or you can go in a direction that nobody has ever gone before. A handlebar mustache makes the world your oyster.
Another interesting thing about handlebar mustaches is that there are very, very few living famous people who have one. The only person who comes to mind is the baseball player Rollie Fingers, who could hardly be considered a household name. There is also comedian John Hodgman, but his mustache comes and goes. Probably the biggest recent inspiration for a new generation of handlebar growers is Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal of Bill the Butcher. While this was, indeed, an actual person, Day-Lewis only had the mustache while playing the character so it probably does not count. What this means is that if you choose to grow this mustache, there will not be any celebrities who you will be constantly compared to.
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Or you could go with the pencil-thin mustache, which are pretty much synonymous with both Little Richard and John Waters. The choice is yours.