Sunday, March 13, 2022

Train Your Mustache in the Way it Should Go

by Kimberly Grist

After the failure of many revolutions in Europe in the 1840s, facial hair lost its association with radicalism and by the late 1850s, became a symbol of masculinity, dignity, and power.

Photo colorization by Sanna Dullaway for TIME; Original image: Alexander Gardner—Library of Congress

Several influential leaders with beards, from left to right, Allan Pinkerton (1819–1884), the head of the Union Intelligence Services, President Abraham Lincoln, and Major General John A. McClernand (1812–1900).

During the Victorian age, a mustache was an essential accessory. Perhaps influenced by the tradition from Europe where manservants were required to be clean-shaven, ornate beards and mustaches were worn by officers of the day.

More elaborate styles complemented rank and age. Lesser ranks wore much simpler shapes.

General Ambrose Burnside, Civil War veteran, and Rhode Island senator, is remembered for his facial hair to this day. The original 'sideburns' were called burnsides.

Despite their differences, as tensions in the 1860s reached a boiling point, men shared in a flair for hair.
To me, there's no better example of stylish hair than General George Custer. Could it be one of the reasons he was the most photographed General during the Civil War? Pictured on the left with his men during the war in 1862.

And alongside a Confederate prisoner Lieutenant James B. Washingon, who was one of his classmates at U.S. Military Academy, West Point prior to the Civil War.

The Handlebar Mustache

During the 1880s, a more clean-shaven look came into fashion. The handlebar mustache took the name from handlebars of bicycles and required much effort to keep trim and was the style into shape.

While the full beard lost popularity, mustaches became widely adopted by civilian men in the 1880s and 90s. Young men took to wearing the style to look older, fashionable, and inspire confidence, and to add a "dashing" air.

Wild West icons pictured above sporting the handlebar mustache are the ever-stylish Bat Masterson, and Doc Holliday, Sheriff Wyatt Earp, and his brothers pictured below:

Growing and maintaining a handlebar mustache requires patience and no trimming.

One needs as much hair as possible to groom and shape towards the goal of an outward tilt. Necessary tools include wax and a dedicated comb that was and is still used to sweep hair to the right or left.

The mustache had its attraction for the ladies. They were pampered, brushed combed, and trained to curl up at the ends.

What we might call styling products included gobs of wax melted and applied to the mustache to keep the curls in place to mustache curlers and modified mugs.

Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book, Kim and "The Man Who Would Be King" wrote of a woman who complained of being kissed by a man who did not wax his mustache.

Now I mustache ask you a question?
What do you think makes a dapper gentleman? Love 'em or hate 'em, they were considered fashionable in the late 19th century. In my upcoming release, my heroine is in for a bit of a surprise and it involves more than facial hair. Poor Faith is in for the ride of her life. 

Upcoming Release:

Audie's Audacious Bride - Can this mismatched couple blaze a trail to form a partnership of the romantic kind?

Fans of historical romance set in the late 19th -century will enjoy stories combining, History, Humor, and Romance, emphasizing Faith, Friends, and Good Clean Fun.


  1. Thanks for posting! I personally can't imagine kissing a man who has waxed his facial hair. I certainly don't get a vision of softness when I imagine it. I do think the combs are a good idea, even now!

    1. And they say woman are vain! But then again I used a lot of hairspray back in the day. LOL

  2. I bought my grandson a mustache/beard grooming kit. It has a comb perfect for a mustache. His day, my son has a goatee. My oldest son has a mustache and beard and my youngest as well. None use wax, although something similar for grooming it is available. Kissing a man with facial hair is not as nice as a clean-shaved face. Hubby had a beard and mustache for a decade. I was so pleased when he finally shaved. Facial hair comes in all shapes and lengths in modern times. If you look through old photos and compare them to pics during Covid you will see a fascinating resemblance to the past. Thanks for sharing.

    1. So glad you enjoyed the post. I enjoy studying history and always find it fun to see the "old" being made "new" again. Although some things in my past I hope never return (Like my eighties hairstyles)