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Here’s the thing about mustaches. Whether you’ve sported them in the past or not, you’ve definitely thought about them. Would one look good on you? How long would it take to grow one out? What products would you use for daily grooming and maintenance? How would you know which style would look best? So many questions to consider, right?
To that end, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide packed with practical, easy-to-follow tips, recommendations, and hacks by four of the grooming industry’s top experts to help you grow and maintain the best mustache ever.
First things first: why are mustaches having such a big moment? After all, it didn’t seem that long ago when mustaches were reserved for hipsters and other card-carrying members of the too-cool-for-school set.
Eric Bandholz, founder of Beardbrand (a purveyor of all-natural facial hair grooming products), believes the popularity of beards paved the way for mustaches. “I’ve seen a general evolution of men’s facial hair style over the years,” he explains. “It started with the big, natural beards in early 2012, then shifted towards a groomed big beard. The next step was a shorter, groomed beard. Now, all kinds of guys are trying the mustache.”
Another thing to consider? How today’s men are more comfortable than ever expressing themselves sartorially, whether it be with clothing, accessories, or, you guessed it, mustaches. Rayon Mclean, barber and founder of the newly-launched head-to-toe grooming line SteelMclean, believes “a mustache lets a main showcase his individual style, express his creativity, and reveal desired aspects of his personality. A well-worn mustache can add considerable value to a man’s personal flair and charm, which in turn can make him more confident and attractive to his chosen partner.”
But is it creepy or cool? Regardless of the fact that mustaches don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, a lot of us still don’t view them in the most positive light. (You can thank dudes like Hulk Hogan for that.) Barber Leah Shields of Blind Barber in Los Angeles jokes, “I think mustaches will always have a little bit of a pervy persona, even if they are making a comeback.” But she’s quick to add, “You have to choose a mustache that reflects your own personal style, as well as your face shape. Then, rock it. Sure, Hulk's 'stache isn't an ideal for everyone, but it's his and he wears it well.”
Kirk Riley, a co-founder of Otis & Finn, the buzzy duo of Long Island City-based barbershops, agrees. “We are noticing now that if you have the personality and confidence to rock it, you can certainly achieve a look and shape that actually complements your face — and won’t make you look like a perv.”
While not looking creepy or pervy is fine, you of course want to look, above all else, handsome and approachable. And that’s when rocking a mustache can actually help you play up what you love (and downplay what you don’t). Mclean says, “A great mustache can be used tactically to highlight an amazing facial feature or to minimize a facial feature that one may find to be less attractive. For example: certain mustache types can make a man look older or more mature, while other styles can help someone look more casual and laid back.”
How To Deal With Growing Pains
Not unlike the growing pains of your youth, growing a mustache comes with its own unique set of discomfort and annoyances. “Oh man, the mustache is a brutally tricky thing to grow,” says Bandholz. “As with trying anything new, you’ll have an awkward phase.”
That being said, there’s a couple things you can do. For starters, you can simply grin and bear it. Politely explain the final goal to those who question what’s happening to your face, as there’s no avoiding the inelegant grow out.
Or, per Bandholz’s recommendation: “Grow a full beard out with the mustache, then trim away the beard when your mustache is ready.” Not only will this help visually balance out your face, it’ll give you a good opportunity to get to know your hair type, growth patterns, and what styles potentially could work for you in the long run. “Depending on how thick your mustache grows, you may want to stick to one style over the other,” explains Bandholz.
Still unsure of what style to try out? Then try out the cop mustache (also frequently referred to as the paintbrush or Tom Sellek). It’s “common and easy to grow,” says Bandholz, “and is a low-maintenance style that only take about two weeks to one month to grow.” Maintenance for this look is straightforward, too: “Trim the ends at the edge of your lips, and don’t let the hair grow over your mouth.”
In the end, Bandholz believes it’s all about “really embracing what you naturally have.” Depending on your hair growth or pattern, you’ll find that certain styles will be more flattering than others. But here’s one rule of thumb by Bandholz: “Generally, the thinner the ‘stache, the shorter you’ll want it. Otherwise, it can look wispy.”
Tools Of Operation
Once you’ve achieved the style you want, proper grooming and maintenance is key. Let any mustache go too long without upkeep and you’ll end up looking sloppy, unkempt, and downright creepy. Here, Shields runs down the best products and tools to keep on hand, to keep your mustache always looking nothing short of handsome.
Wild Willie’s Stache Wax
If you’re the kind of guy who wants to style your mustache in different shapes, Shields recommends using a wax like this one, which is all-natural and made with only seven ingredients.
$11.18 at Amazon.com
Peak Products Facial Hair Scissors
To prevent things from getting unruly, make sure to trim your mustache every few days around the lip. Besides looking clean, there’s another perk, as Shields notes: “It’s better for eating and kissing.”
$23.72 at Amazon.com
Blind Barber Watermint Gin Shave Cream
While scissors can take care of length, keep the edges of your mustache neat and tidy with a straight razor and quality shave cream, like Blind Barber’s. Their formula is super-hydrating, slightly astringent (to tighten skin and pores), and ensures a super razor glide so your skin will be smooth and nick-free.
$22.00 at Amazon.com
Blind Barber Lemongrass Tea Shampoo and Conditioner
Because cleanliness is next to godliness, Shields recommends “always washing and conditioning all facial hair, just like to the hair on your head.” This duo cleanses (without drying sulfates) and hydrates (without weighing hair down), while imparting a crisp, refreshing scent.
Shampoo, $17.50 at Amazon.com
Conditioner, $17.99 at Amazon.com
Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil by Sky Organics
There’s no shortage of facial hair moisturizers, conditioners, and softeners on the market, but Shields swears by simple coconut oil. It’s affordable, all-natural, and can be used on the rest of your body, too.
$10.40 at Amazon.com
Andis T-Outliner Trimmer
“This product will be a big help,” says Shields, because it reaches typically hard-to-reach areas like the hair under your nose and above your lip. It’ll come in especially handy when you’re short on time, and need to get the job done fast.
$50.49 at Amazon.com
What If You’re Naturally Thin?
Some of you guys are blessed with naturally thick, full hair on your heads, while others of you, well, aren’t. The same rules of mother nature apply to the hair on your face, too.
“Your genetic makeup will determine the degree to which you can grow a mustache or beard and the frequency with which you will need to trim it, explains Mclean. “The texture of your facial hair, both in terms of thickness, length and texture (fine, coarse, curly, etc.) will also play a role in determining the type of mustache you can successfully wear.” That being said, talking to your barber can help you determine what style will not only complement your facial features and structure, but your hair type and growth as well.
Age can also play a role in how your facial hair is growing.“Many men may not be able to grow full facial hair (mustache and beard) until they are at least 21 years old,” says Mclean. “But typically, by the time that a man reaches the age of 25, he will have a very strong sense of where and how frequent his facial hair will grow.”
While, unfortunately, many of you will experience issues with thinning and hair loss with age, the good news is that you’ll probably still able to grow a mustache (or beard, if you wish) with a little more ease.
Though there’s plenty of stylish options for those of you with naturally thinner hair, if you’re completely set on rocking a fuller ‘stache, Mclean says, “There are also surgical alternatives — men can undergo a procedure in which hair is transplanted above the lip, thereby providing the desired fullness.”
As you know, there are tons of mustache styles to choose from, but there are three that seem to resonate with most of you guys: the paintbrush (also called the Tom Sellek), the Clark Gable, and the handlebar.
— The Clark Gable —
A Clark Gable — it’s a thin, closely-clipped mustache that frames the upper lip — requires a bit of maintenance, along with a healthy dose of confidence. While this look is achievable by most guys, it’s not the easiest to pull off. Riley says, “This super-crisp mustache needs to be matched by a crisp personality. This look can easily turn pervy, if it’s not worn by the right guy.” The key to making a Clark Gable work is keeping the rest of the face super-clean and fuzz-free, and precisely razoring above and below the mustache to keep the edges crisp. There is zero room for sloppiness with this style.
— The Handlebar —
On the other hand, a handlebar — a fairly bushy mustache that’s long enough that the ends curl upward — is the trickiest style to achieve. “It takes daily maintenance and training, and keeping it healthy from day one is essential,” says Riley about this bold look. But why? Well, once its starts growing out, the key to making a handlebar work is “training the hair with a quality wax — to help grow it in the direction you want.” (Now you understand why men with handlebars always seem to be fiddling with their facial hair.) In the end, it just takes a lot of experimenting to get the right look and hold for your hair type.
— The Paintbrush —
And last but not least, the paintbrush. Made famous by Tom Sellek, this style — it’s a thick mustache covering the width of the mouth, and typically worn short — is “very masculine,” says Riley. But the downside is that not everyone is blessed with the ability to grow a mustache so full and thick. “But if the mustache gods bless you with it, it can be a fun look.”