How to Trim and Shape a Mustache
How to properly trim and shape your 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.
What You Need to Trim a Mustache
- 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
How to Trim a Mustache
Using Scissors and Clippers
Use scissors to reduce length, and clippers to tidy and reduce bulk.
- Comb your mustache.
- Using your lip as a guideline, trim the lower mustache contour with scissors. You can wet your mustache to do this, but remember, 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 your mustache. Until you've gained more experience, it's best to start with a longer guard to prevent cutting off too much hair.
- Comb your mustache again, and trim away any hairs that stick out at the sides with scissors.
Trimming Without Clippers
If you haven't got clippers, you can thin and tidy your mustache 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.
Tidying Your Mustache
- Run the comb lightly over one half of your mustache. Hairs that don't lie flat will poke through its teeth.
- Snip away the offending hairs, working from the center to the sides.
- Do the same on the other half of your mustache.
- Comb your mustache, and trim away any hairs that stick out at the sides.
After you've finished, use an extra hand mirror to view the profile of your mustache and check that all hairs lie flat.
Thinning Your Mustache
Hold the comb upside down and push it under your mustache. Pull it slightly away from you until only the hair length you want to trim pokes through the teeth.
Cut a nick into the center of your 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 Your 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 the chevron, the horseshoe and the handlebar. Which you choose depends mostly on your personality.
The handlebar is certainly for the more extrovert, the horseshoe suits the free-spirited, and the chevron is for the man who feels very at ease with his masculinity.
The Chevron Mustache
The model featured above is sporting a chevron, but its most famous wearers are probably Taylor Rice, Tom Selleck and Burt Reynolds (right).
Shaping Your Mustache to a Chevron
Keep the corners of your mustache 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 corners so that your mustache is no wider than your mouth. You might need to do this, too, if you're in the forces. 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' mustache. This looks super manly, but eating and drinking can become awkward.
The Horseshoe Mustache
The horseshoe mustache is so called because it resembles an upside down horseshoe. It's also named after those who traditionally favor it: truckers and bikers.
The horseshoe, trucker or biker mustache is basically a chevron with extended corners, which are called 'pipes'.
Shaping Your Mustache to a Horseshow
The easiest way to get the horseshoe shape is by first growing a goatee. When length and thickness are substantial, simply shave off the chin, leaving the 'pipes' intact.
Avoid this style if you've got a longish face.
The Waxed Handlebar Mustache
The handlebar mustache 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 (below); or make you look 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 of your mustache as you would a chevron so that you can comb it downwardly, but let the ends grow. After a couple of weeks, you should be able to start curling with wax.
Which Mustache Wax?
Which mustache wax you use 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 brown. Most men find that a stiff-setting wax works better during the early stages of growth.
If the main body of your mustache is unruly, use a soft-setting wax to 'train' it and keep it under control.
How to Apply Mustache Wax
Your mustache should be completely dry before applying wax.
- Rub a tiny portion of wax between your thumb and index finger.
- Spread the wax through the length of one mustache end only, then shape to an upturned curl. Work quickly if using a stiff-setting product to prevent it balling up.
- Do the same again on the other mustache end.
- Inspect your mustache for perfect symmetry and tweak if necessary.
If applying wax to the main body of your mustache, use a mustache brush or a soft toothbrush, working from the philtrum outwardly.
A Poll for Mustachioed Readers
Which mustache style do you wear?
Title image and images 3, 4, and 5 by kind permission of Nick Stevis, who is both photographer and model [all cropped; tonal distribution, brightness and contrast altered; text added to title image]
Second image: Jayne Lancer
Sixth image: By Alan Light [CC BY 2.0] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons [tonal distribution altered]
Seventh image: Mustache.Crow.BashIII.WDC.24may97 by Elvert Barnes found on flickr.com (CC BY 2.0) [cropped, tonal distribution altered]
Eighth image: Originally uploaded to Wikipedia by Green Fairy at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons [tonal distribution altered]
© 2015 Jayne Lancer