How to Trim and Shape a Mustache
Learn how to properly trim and shape a mustache to keep it looking groomed and stylish. Find out, too, how to get the perfect chevron, horseshoe, or waxed handlebar.
As a former hairdresser who always enjoyed a sizable male clientele, I've handled more mustaches than I could possibly count. One thing I discovered is that most guys can wear a full beard, goatee, or balbo, but it's the stand-alone mustache that separates the men from the boys. To pull it off, it takes a certain inbred maturity and confidence.
But, regardless of your qualities, a mustache can still make or break you. It's a question of finding a style and shape you feel comfortable with and keeping it properly trimmed and well-groomed.
How to Trim a Mustache
What You Need
- Mustache, hairdressing, or straight nail scissors
- Hair or beard clippers (optional)
- A fine toothed comb (preferably a mustache comb)
- An extra hand mirror
- Good lighting
Trimming With Scissors and Clippers
Use scissors to reduce length, and clippers to tidy and reduce bulk.
- Comb your mustache downwardly.
- Using the lip as a guideline, trim the lower contour with scissors. If you wet your mustache, remember that it will appear shorter after it's dried.
- Run the clippers over your mustache downwardly. Use a longer size guard if you only want to clip hairs that don't lie flat, and a shorter one to thin and reduce bulk. Until you've gained more experience, it's best to start with a longer guard to prevent cutting off too much hair.
- Comb again and trim away any hairs that stick out at the sides with scissors.
Trimming Without Clippers
If you don't have clippers, you can tidy and reduce bulk with a comb and scissors, as hairdressers and barbers do. The comb basically serves as a guard, but getting the mustache symmetrical is more difficult than with clippers, especially if you want to thin out more radically.
- Run the comb lightly over one half of the mustache at such an angle that hairs that don't lie flat poke through its teeth (see photo above).
- Snip away offending hairs, working from the center.
- Do the same on the other half of the mustache.
- Comb and trim away any hairs that stick out at the sides.
After you've finished, use an extra hand mirror to view the profile, checking that all hairs lie flat.
Hold the comb upside down and push it under the mustache. Pull it slightly away from you until only the hair length you want to trim pokes through the teeth.
Trimming the Philtrum
Cut a nick into the center of the mustache at the bow of the lip. This suggests the philtrum (the groove that runs between the nose and mouth), which is considered one of the most attractive features of the human face. You may have noticed that James Franco shaves his philtrum completely when wearing a mustache.
How Often Should You Trim a Mustache?
Trim your mustache about once a week. If you dye it to cover grays or even out color, do this before you trim. The color will then seem less saturated and more natural.
The three most popular mustache styles today are as follows:
- the chevron
- the horseshoe
- the handlebar
Which you choose depends mostly on your personality. The handlebar is certainly for the more extroverted, the horseshoe suits the free-spirited, and the chevron is for the man who feels very at ease with his masculinity.
The model featured above is sporting a chevron, but its most famous wearers are probably Taylor Rice, Tom Selleck, and Burt Reynolds (below).
Shaping Your Mustache to a Chevron
Keep the ends more or less level with the corners of your mouth, and trim along the lip line or just below it. You can allow it to get bushy, but make sure it's always tidy.
If your face is very thin, it's recommended to shave the ends so that the mustache is no wider than the mouth. You may need to do this, too, if you're in military service. Trimming above the lip line is often another stipulation.
If you grow out a chevron until it covers the top lip or even the whole mouth, it becomes what is known as a "walrus". This looks super manly, but eating and drinking can become awkward.
The horseshoe is named not only after its shape (an upside down horseshoe), but those who traditionally favor it, too: truckers and bikers.
The horseshoe, trucker, or biker mustache is basically a chevron with ends that extend to the chin, which are called "pipes."
Shaping Your Mustache to a Horseshoe
The easiest way to create the horseshoe is by first growing a goatee. When length and thickness are substantial, simply shave off the chin, leaving the "pipes" intact.
Men with long faces should avoid this style.
The Waxed Handlebar
The handlebar is so called because it resembles the handlebars of a bicycle. It can make you seem slightly eccentric, as it does the British humorist Michael Attree, or extremely attractive, as it does the models Greg T. Brown, Nathan McCallum, and François Verkerk.
Shaping Your Mustache to a Handlebar
Some men part their mustache at the philtrum and brush it towards each end where they curl it up, either with or without wax. The trouble is, this tends to look scruffy.
For a groomed appearance, trim the main body as you would a chevron so that it can be combed downwardly, but let the ends grow. After a couple of weeks, you should be able to start curling with wax.
Which Mustache Wax?
Choice of mustache wax depends on the type of curl you want. For a natural-looking curl, use a soft-setting product, like Taylor's of Old Bond Street. For a more defined curl, go for something that sets stiffly and holds firmly, like Brother's Love Bavarian Moustache Styling Pomade—this one is available in clear and hazelnut. Most men find that a stiff-setting wax works better during the early stages of growth.
If the main body is unruly, "train" it and keep it under control with a soft-setting wax.
How to Apply Mustache Wax
Your mustache should be completely dry before applying wax.
- Rub a tiny portion of wax between thumb and index finger.
- Spread the wax through the length of one end only, then shape to an upturned curl. Work quickly if using a stiff-setting product to prevent it balling up.
- Do the same on the other end.
- Inspect for perfect symmetry and tweak if necessary.
If applying wax to the main body, use a mustache brush or a soft toothbrush, working from the philtrum outwardly.
A Poll for Mustachioed Readers
Which mustache style do you wear?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2015 Jayne Lancer