Beyond the Ordinary: Exploring the Rich History of the Handlebar Mustache

  • Time to read: 11 min.
Affiliate Disclaimer

As an affiliate, we earn from qualifying purchases. We get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

Ever noticed the curling, twirling handlebar mustache? This isn’t just your run-of-the-mill facial hair. It’s a proclamation of individuality, a dash of daring, and an element of style. More than a mere grooming choice, the handlebar mustache is an expression of one’s uniqueness and bold personality.

But have you ever wondered where it came from, or why it’s so popular? That’s exactly what we’re going to delve into. We’re setting off on a fascinating journey through history to trace the evolution of the handlebar mustache. From its prominence in the Old West to its revival in today’s modern culture, we’re going to explore how this distinctive mustache became a symbol of style and character.

Get ready to delve into the captivating narrative of the handlebar stache, learning about the influencers who’ve sported this style and how it has left its mark on different eras. Join us as we step into the intriguing world of styling this mustache, and explore its interesting story. Buckle up, because it’s time to twirl into the unique history of this remarkable facial hair style.

The Beginning of the Handlebar Mustache

The story of the handlebar moustache takes us back to a time when a person’s facial hair meant more than just style – it was a symbol of their position and power in society.

We can trace the first appearances of this style all the way back to the Iron Age. The Celts, who were known for taking great care of their appearance, are often depicted in ancient art with thick mustaches curled at the tips of the ends, just like the handlebar mustaches we see today.

The handlebar mustache really took off in the middle of the 19th century, during the Victorian era. This was a time when people were expected to behave a certain way and follow specific rules. But the handlebar mustache stood out, a sign of rebellion against these rules.

In particular, the handlebar moustache became very popular in Europe, especially in Britain and Germany. It was seen as a symbol of being mature, wise, and respectable. The bigger and more noticeable the mustache, the more impressive the man who wore it. This trend in Europe caught on in America, and soon, the handlebar mustache was making a name for itself in the Wild West.

So, while the handlebar moustache has roots that go back thousands of years, its popularity really started in the Victorian era. This was a time when things were changing, and the handlebar mustache became a symbol of that change. It was a mix of old-fashioned charm and a new spirit of rebellion, showing the world that it was possible to follow some rules while breaking others.

Handlebar Mustache in the Wild West

After crossing the Atlantic, the handlebar moustache found a new home in the American Wild West. This was a time of exploration, innovation, and character building. The individuals of the Wild West were often seen as rugged, independent, and unafraid – much like the handlebar mustache itself.

The pioneers and cowboys who wore these mustaches weren’t just trying to follow a trend. To them, their mustaches were a statement. It was a declaration of resilience, boldness, and audacity. The handlebar mustache fit perfectly with the image of the frontier man, brave and fearless, navigating the untamed landscapes of the West.

In the dusty saloons and on sun-scorched plains, the handlebar mustache became a staple. It was sported by everyone from lawmen to outlaws, symbolizing a sort of ‘wild freedom’ that the West was known for. And though it may have originated in the genteel society of Victorian Europe, the handlebar mustache quickly adapted to the grit and gruff of the American West.

It was during this time that the handlebar mustache began to take on its own cultural significance. The same style that had once been associated with maturity and wisdom in Europe was now tied to the adventurous spirit and raw individuality of the American West. This broadened the handlebar mustache’s appeal, further cementing its place in global fashion trends.

Thus, the handlebar mustache became more than a facial fashion statement. It was an integral part of the Wild West narrative, capturing the essence of an era that still holds our fascination today. It remains a lasting symbol of that undaunted spirit, a nod to those who dared to forge their own path.

Famous Figures of the Wild West with Handlebar Mustaches

The untamed and gritty landscapes of the Wild West serve as the backdrop for some of the most iconic handlebar mustaches in history. This distinct style, capturing the essence of the era’s rugged individuality and bold spirit, graced the faces of several notable figures.

  • Wyatt Earp: Perhaps one of the most famous lawmen of the Wild West, Wyatt Earp is known for his role in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Earp’s steadfast resolve and courage were mirrored in his characteristic handlebar mustache, which added to his imposing persona and has been depicted in numerous films and TV shows about the era.
  • “Wild Bill” Hickok: James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok, renowned as a frontiersman, scout, and lawman, was another well-known wearer of the handlebar mustache. His bold and adventurous spirit seemed to be captured in the thick twists of his mustache, a symbol of his fearlessness and determination.
  • “Buffalo Bill” Cody: A legendary figure of the Wild West, William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody was a bison hunter, scout, and showman. He often sported a voluminous handlebar mustache, which became an integral part of his public image, particularly during his famous traveling show, “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West.”
  • Doc Holliday: John Henry “Doc” Holliday, a gambler and gunfighter, was known for his friendship with Wyatt Earp and his involvement in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. His distinct handlebar mustache became part of his iconic look and reflected his reputation as a fearsome yet sophisticated figure of the West.

These individuals, each significant in their own right, helped to shape the narrative of the Wild West. Their iconic handlebar mustaches, steeped in symbolism, are reflective of the era’s spirit of untamed freedom and audacity. Their historical influence, coupled with their distinctive grooming style, ensures their images are indelibly imprinted in our collective memory of the Wild West.

Decline and Resurgence

With the dawn of the 20th century came significant changes in fashion, culture, and societal norms, which also had a considerable impact on the popularity of the handlebar moustache. The onset of World War I saw the handlebar mustache decline in popularity as close-shaven faces became not just a fashion trend but a necessity for soldiers to ensure a proper fit for their gas masks.

For a while, it seemed as though the grandeur of the handlebar moustache would become a distant memory, reserved only for historical depictions of a bygone era. Yet, much like its wearers in the Wild West, the handlebar mustache proved it was not one to be tamed by changing trends.

In the vibrant and countercultural whirlwind of the 1960s and 1970s, the handlebar moustache made a striking comeback. It resurfaced not just as a symbol of style, but as a sign of rebellion against established norms. Rock stars, movie actors, and artists began sporting this vintage style, ushering in a ‘retro’ trend that took the world by storm.

Fast forward to the 21st century, the age of social media, viral trends, and cultural mashups, the handlebar mustache once again emerged as a marker of individuality and a nod to vintage aesthetic in the “hipster” culture. This movement, characterized by a love for quirky, old-fashioned styles and a DIY attitude, embraced the handlebar mustache as an iconic fashion statement.

So, while the handlebar moustache has seen periods of both decline and resurgence throughout history, it has proved to be resilient, always finding its way back into the popular trends of the day. It’s a testament to its timeless appeal and its ability to adapt and signify different things in different eras. Through each resurgence, the classic handlebar mustache reaffirms its spot in the fashion hall of fame, continually reminding us of its rich history and enduring charm.

The Handlebar Mustache as a Cultural Icon

As the handlebar mustache journeyed through different eras and crossed various cultural borders, it has adorned the faces of many renowned individuals, cementing its status as a cultural icon.

In the Victorian era, German Emperor Wilhelm II sported his handlebar mustache with a distinctive upward twist, epitomizing the era’s sophisticated style. In the Wild West, the legendary Wyatt Earp, known for his bravery and tenacity, was rarely seen without his signature mustache, adding to his imposing persona.

The trend continued in the 20th century with figures like Salvador Dali, the surrealist painter, who took the handlebar mustache to new artistic heights, twisting it into a bizarre and unforgettable accessory that was almost as famous as his artworks.

In the world of entertainment, figures like Rollie Fingers, a legendary baseball player, kept the trend alive. Known for his distinctive handlebar mustache as much as for his athletic prowess, Fingers became a symbol of the quirky and rebellious spirit of the 1970s.

In recent years, handlebar mustaches have graced the faces of countless celebrities, from actors like Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp to musicians like Frank Turner. These contemporary icons have brought the handlebar mustache back into the limelight, reinforcing its status as a symbol of individuality, nonconformity, and timeless style.

It is this wide array of famous wearers, each lending their own unique twist to the style, that has helped the handlebar mustache maintain its iconic status. It transcends time and trends, reminding us of its resilience and versatility. The handlebar mustache is not just a grooming choice, it’s a cultural phenomenon, a timeless symbol that continues to leave its indelible mark on history.

Growing and Styling a Handlebar Mustache

Growing a handlebar mustache may seem like a daunting task, especially if you’re new to facial hair grooming. However, with patience, care, and the right steps, you can cultivate your very own iconic mustache. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate this facial hair growth journey.

  • Let It Grow: The first step is to allow your mustache to grow without trimming for about six weeks. This timeframe allows for sufficient length to create the iconic curved ends of a handlebar mustache.
  • Train Your Mustache: While growing out your mustache, start training the hair to grow out towards the sides of your face. You can do this by regularly combing your mustache from the middle outwards, guiding the hair to grow in the direction you want.
  • Invest in Mustache Wax: Mustache wax is a crucial tool in achieving the handlebar mustache look. Once your mustache has achieved sufficient length, apply a small amount of wax between your fingers and work it into your mustache, again directing the hair outward from the middle. Use more wax at the ends to curl them upward, creating the iconic handlebar curve.
  • Keep It Neat: While the main body of your mustache is growing, it’s important to keep the rest of your facial hair well-groomed. Regularly trim the hair around your mouth to ensure that your handlebar mustache is the star of the show.
  • Patience Is Key: Growing a handlebar mustache requires patience. It might take a few months before your mustache fully develops into the desired shape. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t look perfect right away – with time and proper care, you’ll achieve the distinctive handlebar style.
  • Maintenance: Once you’ve achieved your handlebar mustache, regular maintenance is crucial. This includes daily combing, application of mustache wax, and occasional trimming to keep the shape neat and consistent.

Remember, like any style, the handlebar mustache should be a reflection of your personality and individuality. There’s no one “right” way to have a handlebar mustache. Some may prefer a subtler, smaller curl, while others might opt for a large and dramatic twist. Embrace the process and make it your own!


As we’ve journeyed through the centuries, tracing the rise, fall, and resurgence of the handlebar mustache, it becomes clear that this distinctive style is much more than a simple grooming choice. It has been a symbol of rebellion, a sign of maturity, an emblem of wild freedom, and a mark of artistic expression.

From the early days of the Celts to the Victorian elite, from the rugged pioneers of the Wild West to the vibrant counterculture of the 20th century, the handlebar mustache has remained an enduring presence. Whether in times of change or continuity, it has consistently found its place, boldly etching its curve on the face of history.

Today, the handlebar mustache continues to be a style choice that carries a sense of nostalgia and individuality. It is a timeless accessory, a conversation starter, a testament to its wearer’s audacity, and a nod to a rich historical heritage.

Our exploration of the handlebar mustache’s history paints a picture of a style that is deeply ingrained in our culture. Its adaptability, resilience, and inherent charm have ensured that it continues to capture our imaginations and adorn our faces.

So, whether you sport a handlebar mustache, admire them on others, or are just fascinated by their storied past, it’s clear that they are more than a passing trend. The handlebar mustache is an icon of style and individuality, a distinctive display of personal expression, and a celebration of a rich and diverse history. Here’s to the handlebar mustache – an age-old style statement that’s not going out of fashion anytime soon.

FAQ – History of the Handlebar Mustache

How do you make facial hair grow into a handlebar mustache?

Growing a handlebar mustache requires patience and care. Start with handlebar ends by letting the length of your mustache grow without trimming for about six weeks, or until the hair starts to hang over the lip. Regularly comb your mustache, train the hair to grow to the sides, and apply a quality mustache wax to hold the shape. The style requires regular upkeep, so get into a daily grooming routine!

How long does it take to grow a handlebar mustache?

The time it takes to grow a handlebar mustache can vary depending on individual genetics, but on average, it can take around three to six months. Patience is key! Remember, a fuller mustache will provide a better shape for a handlebar mustache stand up style.

Why is it called a “handlebar” mustache?

The term “handlebar” comes from the style’s resemblance to the handles of a bicycle. The ends of hairs on the mustache are twisted and styled to point outward, parallel to the face, creating an upswept look much like the handlebars of a bicycle.

Who are some famous people who sported a handlebar mustache?

Many famous individuals throughout history have sported handlebar mustaches. Some notable examples include the German Emperor Wilhelm II, legendary Wild West lawman Wyatt Earp, and the surrealist artist Salvador Dali. More recent figures include baseball player Rollie Fingers and actors like Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp.