How to get a grip on that handlebar mustache

(Wes Bausmith / LAT)
Times Staff Writer

Although growing a beard requires nothing beyond a Zen-like letting go of the daily shaving ritual, cultivating a proper handlebar requires a level of patience and skill worthy of a bonsai gardener. Here are a few pointers:

1. Put down the scissors and step away from the mirror. A proper handlebar requires upper lip hair that’s long enough to properly “train,” and any amount of pruning in the early stages is counterproductive. Expect this period to last six, itchy, socially uncomfortable weeks.

2. Pick up a tube of Pinaud Clubman mustache wax. Gary Hagen, 54, the Gilroy, Calif., man who sports the 2003 world champion handlebar mustache, recommends Clubman for its wide availability, several color tints and because each package contains a small mustache comb.

3. By frequent application of comb and wax along with dexterous fingers, coax the lip hair to grow out from beneath the nose, to the left and the right, creating a “part” of sorts. Begin judicious trimming.

4. When the hair has grown sufficiently out and off the face, the styling opportunities expand. Hagen employs a range of household items. “I use a Paper Mate pen to coil my mustache into tight little doughnuts before bed,” he said. “And I use small hobby screwdrivers to shape the curls as well as caps from personal-size toothpaste tubes.”

5. Get ready for the reaction. Doug Shaffer, a Los Angeles freelance writer and the only person I personally know with the fortitude to craft a working handlebar, cautions that “people will judge.”

“You will be ‘The ‘Stache’ for as long as you have it,” he says, “so be prepared.”