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What Is a Mustache?

Marjorie McAtee
Marjorie McAtee

A mustache is a facial hairstyle in which hair is allowed to grow only on the upper lip, but not on the chin or cheeks, as in a beard. There are many types of mustaches, known by names such as the handlebar, the toothbrush, and the pencil. Some mustaches are bushy and confined to an area no larger than the upper lip, while other mustaches may extend down the sides of the mouth to the jawline. Many mustache wearers straighten or curl the long hairs, so that they extend from the sides of the face. Mustaches have experienced varying levels of popularity throughout history, and some claim that the wearing of this type of facial hair is, or has been, a socio-political statement.

Men are believed to have worn mustaches for aesthetic reasons for thousands of years. Some mustaches, such as Adolph Hitler's toothbrush mustache, have become iconic of the historical figure who favored that style. Other examples of iconic mustache styles include the Pancho Villa, named for the historical figure Pancho Villa who favored a bushy, dropping mustache.

Adolph Hitler wore a toothbrush mustache.
Adolph Hitler wore a toothbrush mustache.

Mustaches are often shaped by shaving, especially small styles like the pencil and the toothbrush. Many mustaches are allowed to grow quite long, and wearers may use mustache wax or other styling aids to sculpt the long hairs in curlicues, points, or wholly creative shapes. There seems to be no limit to the shape a mustache can take.

Some claim that, in many Western cultures, those who wear mustaches must battle social stigma, and may be viewed as less well mannered or less intelligent than their peers. While mustaches were a popular facial hair style in earlier historical times, they are probably much less common in most cultures today. They do, however, enjoy popularity as the center of charity fundraising events, in which men wear mustaches for a period of time while collecting donations.

The World Beard and Mustache Championships offer prizes in 18 categories of facial hairstyles.
The World Beard and Mustache Championships offer prizes in 18 categories of facial hairstyles.

For those who prefer more creatively styled mustaches, the World Beard and Mustache Championships, held in different global locations every two years, recognize men of all nations with exceptional facial hair. The championship offers prizes in 18 categories of facial hairstyles. Categories include natural, imperial, freestyle and Dali.

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Discussion Comments


The Dali mustache that Salvador Dali is famous for is actually a very old style of Hungarian mustache. Hungarian men have worn it for many decades. It's an interesting style. It adds a lot of character to a face. I do prefer the fuller/thicker versions though. The ones that are made to look very thin at the ends with wax do not look as nice.


It's interesting how mustache isn't really preferred anymore in Western cultures, or that men with mustaches may be stereotyped. In some other cultures, it is actually desirable for men to have thick mustaches. It's not only seen stylish but also as a symbol of manhood and position.

So it seems that the kind of opinions we have formed about the mustache is purely cultural. I think that we need to get past our biases and everyone should do whatever they want. For most people who are employed, all that's important is that one looks clean and presentable. And there are many mustache styles that look very neat and nice in my opinion. One just has to find the right style for the facial structure and shape.


I can't really say that I'm fond of men with mustaches. I don't think it suits most men. The only exception is when the mustache is light and connected to a light beard. I think that looks nice. It's a natural, rustic kind of look and makes men more attractive. It does require upkeep though because it has to be trimmed regularly. I don't like it when men allow facial hair to grow too long. It's not attractive, it just looks messy and wild.


I know a guy who enters a mustache competition every year and usually wins. He has an extravagant handlebar mustache that he keeps under control with a special wax. He told me that mustache contests usually include a number of different mustache styles, so he doesn't have to grow a very thick or long mustache in order to win his category. He mostly wins because he can create a perfect curl and make it look natural.


I started growing a mustache when I was a teenager, but it never really filled in very well. At that time, just about every guy I knew wanted to have a full, thick mustache like actor Tom Selleck did. Anything less than that was a waste of time. Some of us managed to get a thin mustache that looked like a caterpillar on our upper lip.

I decided to let my facial hair grow out so I'd have a full beard and mustache. The problem was, I didn't really know how to trim a mustache and beard, so it looked worse than being clean-shaven. By the time I reached my 20s, the mustache and goatee was the popular look, and I did manage to pull that look off until it also went out of style.

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    • Adolph Hitler wore a toothbrush mustache.
      By: Recuerdos de Pandora
      Adolph Hitler wore a toothbrush mustache.
    • The World Beard and Mustache Championships offer prizes in 18 categories of facial hairstyles.
      The World Beard and Mustache Championships offer prizes in 18 categories of facial hairstyles.
    • Muschches include facial hair on the upper lip, but nowhere else.
      By: Igor Mojzes
      Muschches include facial hair on the upper lip, but nowhere else.