I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a longtime fascination with beards and moustaches. I collected baseball cards a bit as a kid, and among my favorites was one of Detroit Tigers catcher Lance Parrish from the 1987 Topps series. I wasn’t a big Tigers fan or anything, I just thought he looked cool as shit in his catcher’s gear, rocking a sweet ’stache. Which, let’s be honest, was pretty standard for baseball players in the ’80s.
Years later, Movember made its way to our shores, and some friends and I happily participated several times. A couple buddies and I actually appeared in the New York Post when we won the very first NYC “best team mo” award with ’86 Mets-themed getups. Two years later a photographer friend hired me to attend the World Beard & Moustache Championships in Anchorage, Alaska and interview a bunch of the guys she was shooting. It was eye opening to say the least—my first real exposure to what you might call next-level facial hair.
But until last summer, I had never really rocked a moustache in earnest. At that time I had a pretty healthy beard and, off a tip I picked up from a moustachioed dude in a Colorado bar, had learned to groom the part under my nose into a pretty serviceable twirly handlebar, which I would bust out from time to time for special occasions. I found myself doing that more and more often, and then one hot July day, I just shaved the beard but left the moustache behind. So as another Movember comes to a close, what follows are some of the things I’ve learned since…
Every morning I blow dry and trim my upper lip, apply my go-to wax and sculpt a nice, smooth semi-circle on each side. And then because I’m freaking neurotic, I spend a couple minutes making it as symmetrical as it can possibly be. Then I put on a shirt and fuck up the symmetry and do that all over again.
1. It charms people.
First off, there’s no question that having a handlebar changes the way total strangers act around you. In New York a lot of people barely notice it, but still not a day goes by when at least one person doesn’t comment on it, usually with a smile. A child once asked me if I were a magician. A badass Jersey mountain bike chick asked me out on the trail. I befriended some cool Aussies at a soccer match in London. And at a Cardinals game, Ozzie Smith himself told me I reminded him of Rollie Fingers, which pretty much justified everything I’ve done in my life to that point.
2. It’s fucking high maintenance.
As much joy as the moustache brings, it’s also a real pain in the… face. It’s almost impossible for me to leave the house without grooming it, because the ungroomed version is just… not good. It sort of resembles Hulk Hogan’s horseshoe, except the vertical parts aren’t attached to anything; it’s more of a long-haul trucker vibe. So every night I thoroughly shampoo the wax outta my ’stache. And every morning I get up at least 10 minutes early to blow dry and trim my upper lip area, apply my go-to wax (Firehouse Wacky Tacky) and sculpt a nice, smooth semi-circle on each side. And then because I’m freaking neurotic, I spend a couple minutes making sure it is as symmetrical as it can possibly be. Then I put on a shirt and fuck up the symmetry and do that all over again.
3. It changes your style.
One thing I quickly discovered is that once you have a handlebar moustache, certain elements of your wardrobe just don’t quite fit in anymore. Like, it’s this very old-school gentleman look, so for me at least, it feels very weird to pair with just a T-shirt. It’s like the moustache is whispering style commands to me in my sleep, and I wake up much more interested in chukka boots and peacoats and tuxedos and top hats and shawl collar sweaters. Which for the most part has been a really good thing. But on a really hot summer day, people must think I’m nuts for insisting on wearing a button-down. For the record, I do roll the sleeves up, OK?
4. It starts conversations with women…
One Captain Morgan-looking guy I met at the World Beard & Moustache Championships told me he didn’t need pickup lines anymore—the moustache did all the talking for him. And to a certain extent that is true. Especially outside of New York (where dandy facial hair is a little more common), my moustache has been known to get quite a reaction—and it has definitely started a few conversations all by itself.
5. …but doesn’t exactly finish them.
That being said, I wouldn’t say my game has skyrocketed since growing a moustache. Study after study has shown that most women prefer guys with clean-shaven or five o’clock shadowy faces, so you’re not exactly appealing to the masses by growing a mo. They might enjoy chatting with you, but you run the risk of coming off like a bit of a dancing bear that they won’t take seriously. True, the ladies who like moustaches really like moustaches, but there’s no guarantee you will like those women. In reality, a moustache will have a much bigger effect on your standing with, well, other guys. In my experience, a good 90 percent of the comments, high-fives and “duuude, sweet ’stache ” remarks I have gotten have come from them. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
6. It occasionally provokes violent reactions.
I’ve had periods where I’ve worn weird clothes or sported silly haircuts, but nothing has riled people up quite how the moustache sometimes does. Twice, to be exact. Once at a bar in Lake Arrowhead, a woman got super upset about it, saying it was disgusting and questioning why someone would ever grow something like that. And then maybe a year later, pretty much the same thing happened in New York. My response both times was something to the effect of: “I grew it as a defense mechanism, to screen out bitchy women.” In their defense, both of these ladies were pretty drunk. In my defense, so was I.
7. It’s great for costumes.
Put it this way: Dressing up as the Monopoly Man is a lot more fun when your moustache is 100 percent genuine. Even if the color isn’t.
8. It can make you totally OCD.
You know how there are good hair days and bad hair days? Well, the same goes for moustaches. I’ve improved a lot, but there are still times when the strands just don’t cooperate, and I spend the entire day fussing with them. Pre-moustache, I wouldn’t have dreamed of adding anything like a mirror app to my phone. Now I’m like a teenage girl, using this app and Apple’s “Photo Booth” feature way more than anyone ever should, obsessed not with how I look, but how the moustache looks. It’s madness, really. Pure madness.
9. It creates logistical issues.
As you might guess, any “active” situation can cause some headaches. For instance, when I got into motorcycling over the summer, I opted for a three-quarter helmet to let the moustache breathe, then realized that for serious highway riding, it was just silly to groom it at all. Of course when it’s ungroomed, it’s also difficult to eat, say, a deli sandwich on the road—the hair keeps going in your mouth, which sucks—so there’s your tradeoff. I’m not really a pool or beachgoer, but having the moustache has made me even less interested in those sorts of things. That said, I have managed to play soccer, cycle and even, yes, snowboard whilst fully moustachioed. It’s quite fun to be weaving through steep and deep trees and still feel like a proper gentleman.
10. It’s memorable.
You’ve probably realized by now that having a high-maintenance ’stache is almost equal parts pro and con. But one thing about it that kinda stands out over a lot of other things is that it’s hard to forget. Almost anyone you meet will instantly ID you as “that guy with the moustache” and the next time around, they’ll easily pick you out of a crowd. And while that’s by no means the only reason to groom out a big mo, it’s a pretty cool feature. As I wrap up this writeup, I’m not entirely sure how long I’m going to keep mine. But one thing’s for sure: This moustache and the experiences I’ve had will stick with me as long as I walk this earth—no matter what’s going on with my upper lip.