No month is friendlier to facial follicles than "Movember." The worldwide mustache-athon, which challenges men to grow lip foliage while raising money to fight prostate and testicular cancer, gets more popular every year. This celebration of all things hirsute and healthy began at a bar in Melbourne, Australia, in 2003. Travis Garone and Luke Slattery were conversing about different styles of mustaches (known as "mos" down under) and decided they'd challenge 30 of their friends to insulate their faces while raising funds for medical research. That challenge has since been taken on by men all over the world.
As of 2012, the Movember Foundation had raised approximately $21 million from about 209,000 guys who asked their friends to sponsor an attempt to create sub-nasal art. The revenue has gone to places like the American Cancer Society and the Prostate Cancer Foundation, sending a message of hope to many.
But the medium is also the message, so Movember mustaches must be more than participation prizes. Mo growers should strive to create a sustainable and individual look. Because growing a mustache is a tricky business full of bizarre in-between phases, peculiar shapes, unusual products, and strange tools, we enlisted Thorin Decatur, the lifelong owner of a mustache, a former U.S. Marine, and the founder of the Decatur & Sons Barber Shop in New York City, to help sort things out.
The first manner of business, according to Decatur, is "picking a style that is physically possible." The barber recommends being honest about where you fall in the mustache hierarchy. Take Tom Selleck's mustache. It is particularly thick, full, straight, and long. "Guys with thinner or curlier lip hair just can't grow one like that," Decatur explains. Growers have to choose from a menu of options actually available to them.
The next step is to figure out what fits the shape of your face. "It's simple," says Decatur. "Small faces go with smaller and thinner mustaches; big faces go with bigger and fuller mustaches." Vice versa will make big heads look enormous and small heads look downright pointy. If you're in the middle, it's about feeling things out. "It's not a science," he says.
From there, consider your personal style. The wilder the hair style, the less crazy you should go with the mustache. "It's too much," says Decatur. "And you want to keep it manicured, but not so much that you have unnaturally straight lines on your face. Then it starts to look a little bit like your mom cut your hair."
You'll also need some tools. A trimmer (Thorin uses the Andis T-Outliner for shaping and any one of these is a great bet for length), a mustache comb (cheap is okay, it's just for the month), and wax (Decatur suggests Mr. Natty's Moustache Twizzle Wax) are all musts if you're really going to go for it. But above all, the most important tool in the kit will be a sense of humor.
Especially when you learn this: Though just 30 days hath Movember, Decatur says "a mustache takes a good three to four months to truly develop." The hair on your face grows three times as fast as the hair on your head, but it grows differently and mustaches take a bit of time to fill in. Decatur cautions against getting your hopes up about mastering some of the more complicated styles before the month is up, which is fine, because in addition to a few outlandish looks, we've got some styles that won't lock you down for the long haul.
Here are what we consider the five best mustache styles. They're listed from the easiest to the most difficult to pull off.
Guys with long faces might want to steer clear of the Horseshoe since having long tails extending below the lips can exacerbate facial length. Short, wide faces on the other hand will benefit from the gesture. It's also a good choice for bald guys since it adds some texture to the head; the Horseshoe will be forever associated with guys like Hulk Hogan and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers – and that leather-obsessed biker guy from Village People.
"You're going to grow a beard and then extract this shape from that," Decatur advises. Once you've got a full face of hair, it's a matter of knowing where to shape. Shave off the beard and the area beneath your lower lip, leaving a trail from the sides of your mustache down to your neck.
Next, shave the line of the mustache just at the jawline for a true horseshoe or a half horseshoe, like the one Paul Rudd rocks in 'Anchorman.' ("It just shouldn't bleed onto your neck," says Decatur.) Then comes the tricky part of shaping the width of the 'stache. Your lip brow will have its own natural shape, which will probably look the least fussy, but a good rule of thumb is about 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch across. Any more or less will border on the extreme. If you do need to trim the width of the sides, do so about two times a week.
How burly you want to go is up to you. The Hulk obviously has a bush going on, but others keeps it tight. We'd suggest a firm middle ground.
Credit: Illustration by Arryan Decatur