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How to Trim and Shape a Mustache

A beauty consultant and former hairdresser by profession, Jayne has been helping men and women improve their appearance for over 20 years.

Trimming and Shaping 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've 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 innate maturity—which has nothing to do with age—and confidence.

But even if you have what it takes, 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.

Use clippers to tidy and reduce bulk.

Use clippers to tidy and reduce bulk.

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 seamless carbon or hand-sawn 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.

  1. Comb your mustache downwardly.
  2. Using the lip as a guide, trim the lower contour with scissors. If you wet your mustache, remember that it will appear shorter after it's dried.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.


  1. 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).
  2. Snip away offending hairs, working from the center.
  3. Do the same on the other half of the mustache.
  4. 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.

The philtrum is considered one of the most attractive features of the human face.

The philtrum is considered one of the most attractive features of the human face.

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 to Shape and Style a Mustache

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 extroverted, the horseshoe suits the free-spirited, and the chevron is for the man who feels very at ease with his masculinity.

One of the most famous wearers of the chevron is the late Burt Reynolds.

One of the most famous wearers of the chevron is the late Burt Reynolds.

The Chevron

The main model featured above is sporting a chevron, but its most famous wearers are probably Taylor Rice, Tom Selleck, and the late Burt Reynolds (above).

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" (see top photo). This looks super manly, but eating and drinking can become awkward.

The Horseshoe

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 referred to as "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.

A waxed handlebar mustache after two weeks of allowing the ends to grow out.

A waxed handlebar mustache after two weeks of allowing the ends to grow out.

The Waxed Handlebar

The handlebar is so called because it resembles the handlebars of a bicycle. It can make its wearer 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 it is then curled 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 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, keep it under control with a soft-setting wax and "train" it by daily brushing with a natural bristle brush—either boar or sisal.

By the way: looking around the many online beard and mustache boards during my research, I discovered that many men apply PVC- and solvent-free glues, like Pritt Stick, in place of wax. This is said to be fairly stiff-setting, long-lasting and easily washed out with water. It could be worth trying before investing in wax.

How to Apply Mustache Wax

Your mustache should be completely dry before applying wax.

  1. Rub a tiny portion of wax between the thumb and index finger.
  2. 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 from balling up.
  3. Do the same on the other end.
  4. 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.

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


Jayne Lancer (author) from West London, UK on August 30, 2016:

Thank you, Fish.

It sounds like a sort of Mexican mustache.

fish on August 02, 2016:

i have a chevron/horseshore with extended side going down to my bottom lip. My mustache is like the horseshore butt shorter sides. mustaches rule thank . fish

Jayne Lancer (author) from West London, UK on April 14, 2015:

Thank you, Mary615! I can imagine you never need to visit the hairdresser, unless your daughters live far away. At least they could take it in turns - I'm the only one in my family, so I end up having to do practically everybody's hair. :)

I'm quite the opposite of you where facial hair is concerned. I'd never let my husband get away with shaving completely!

Jayne Lancer (author) from West London, UK on April 14, 2015:

Thank you, Susan! It's actually much easier than it may seem. The only difficult part is getting it absolutely symmetrical.

Jayne Lancer (author) from West London, UK on April 14, 2015:

Oh yes, Kirsten. I'd love to see a few more of them about. :)

Mary Hyatt from Florida on April 13, 2015:

I have three daughters who are barbers! I enjoyed reading this, but I have to tell you I prefer a clean shaven man.

Great HOTD. Voted Up, etc.

Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on April 13, 2015:

Great instructions! Seems like a lot of work, but if a guy likes wearing a mustache he certainly should keep it neatly trimmed, whichever style he prefers. Congratulations on your Hub of the Day!

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on April 13, 2015:

You've very wlecome Jayne. I hope you're right. It could be attractive on some men who man-scaped their facial hair.

Jayne Lancer (author) from West London, UK on April 13, 2015:

Thank you, Kristen! I've noticed an increase in wearers over here, which was my inspiration. Let's hope it continues. :)

Jayne Lancer (author) from West London, UK on April 13, 2015:

Thank you, Agvulpes! I love the way Emiliano Zapata looked with his mustache, at least in the photos I've seen. But the chevron is tidier and less conspicuous.

Jayne Lancer (author) from West London, UK on April 13, 2015:

Thank you, MySuccess8! As far as the photos are concerned, it was a choice of Tom Selleck or Burt Reynolds. I decided on Burt. :)

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on April 13, 2015:

Congrats on HOTD, Jayne. This was an interesting hub on how to trim and shape a mustache. Very useful for men! Voted up!

Peter from Australia on April 13, 2015:

I have had my 'mo' for about 50 years in one form or another, sometimes coupled to a beard!

Nowadays it is mainly a chevron and modified to a Zapata at times, when I get lazy! Then back to the chevron lol

mySuccess8 on April 13, 2015:

Growing and maintaining a well-groomed mustache can enhance the attractiveness of men. As a former hairdresser, you have shared some interesting tips on its proper care for the different styles and shapes. I love your example of Burt Reynolds', one of my favorites. Congrats on Hub of the Day!

Jayne Lancer (author) from West London, UK on March 26, 2015:

Thank you, pstraubie48! Your grandson sounds like a very smart young man.

Jayne Lancer (author) from West London, UK on March 26, 2015:

Thank you for the kind words, Venkatachari M! Most men I know who have had to shave it off end up missing it very much.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on March 26, 2015:

This made me smile as it reminded me of watching my Daddy trim his when I was a wee bit of a girl

Now my eldest grandson has a mustache and a goatee...and he takes great pains to keep them looking just so!!!

No doubt this hub will be of benefit to those in need of such instruction.

Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on March 25, 2015:

Very interesting and beautiful article. You have explained everything so clearly with good supporting images. I used to keep the chevron moustache till I reached 45. After that I removed it due to maintenance reasons and other reasons and keep clean face now since then.

Thanks for giving guidance to those who need it. Voted up.