At the end of the 19th century, the Toothbrush mustache became popular in the United States before becoming fashionable in Europe, particularly Germany.
Easily one of the most famous mustache styles at the turn of the century, the toothbrush mustache was seen on the then black and white cinema screens, sported by comedians Charlie Chaplin and Oliver Hardy Laurel and Hardy fame.
It was only at the start of World War II that the mustache became associated with a darker connotation and found itself as the styling of choice of Nazi Germany’s infamous leader.
This iconic facial hair styling is one that is still noted today; even though it is rarely worn, the look is instantly recognizable.
What is the Toothbrush Mustache?
The Toothbrush mustache or Toothbrush mustache, as the English spell it in the United Kingdom, takes on a shape similar to that of the bristles of a toothbrush were you to prop it under your nose hence its name.
The mustache is thick and full like that of the Handlebar mustache, but that is where the similarities end.
The Toothbrush style is placed centrally on the Philtrim (the groove that runs from your nose to your upper lip) and spreads outwards from there by only an inch or so.
This narrow mustache does not extend the entire length of the lip but instead only covers a small vertical patch under the nostrils.
The History of the Toothbrush Mustache
In a departure from the longer stylings of the handlebar mustache favored by European nobility and wealthy American men, the Toothbrush mustache came into the spotlight at the turn of the 19th century in America and then Western Europe.
This style of mustache was characterized by a narrow strip of hair on the top lip and became synonymous with the tramp, men of lower echelons, and the working class.
It was only after World War I that the mustache style took off in Europe, particularly Germany.
Hans Koeppen, the famed German race car driver, sported the look when he took part in the New York to Paris race in 1908. An article in the New York Times described the look as a “characteristic of his class,” and the mustache’s popularity skyrocketed, overtaking the then-popular Imperial mustache favored by German Kaiser Wilhelm II.
German men could be seen sporting the look throughout the country, and one individual, in particular, Adolf Hitler, took the look to a new level of recognition.
Hitler’s mustache started as a rendition of the then famed Imperial mustache, known in Germany as the Kaiserbart. However, when the war began, the threat of gas and chemical attacks increased. So Hitler trimmed his mustache to a Toothbrush style to enable him to wear a gas mask comfortably if it became necessary – a move suggested to him by Alexander Moritz Frey, a soldier who served Hitler during the war.
The oppressive force that was Hitler tarnished the mustache that originated as part of the iconic look of Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin, unphased, wore the look in his film “The Great Dictator,” where he played two characters that parodied Hitler himself.
While few men have been so bold as to attempt to pull off the look in modern times, a few have given it a try.
Writer George Orwell, known for his prose packed full of social criticism and opposition to totalitarianism, wore a Toothbrush mustache for a period.
The long-time president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, sported the look for most of his adult life. Yet his oppressive rule of the Zimbabwean people made the style almost fitting.
The likes of basketball player Michael Jordan garnered negative publicity and clap-back after wearing a toothbrush mustache in a Hanes commercial in 2010. The public was outraged and said that the look was too reminiscent of Hitler’s mustache, making it a distasteful choice in facial hair.
We think it may be safe to say that the Toothbrush mustache, now dubbed the “Hitler Mustache,” is one for history and not a look that will be comfortably replicated today.
How Do You Grow a Toothbrush Mustache?
Say you were brave enough to grow and publicly wear a Toothbrush mustache, or you wanted to attempt one for a fancy-dress party, you may need a few tips on how to create the perfect stache.
We have put together a few steps for you to follow to grow the perfect Toothbrush mustache:
Step One: Let it Grow!
You want your mustache to grow full and thick. Because the Toothbrush mustache is so narrow, it needs fullness and depth to balance it out.
You will want to grow out your mustache for at least three weeks before attempting to trim it into shape.
Step Two: Trim and Style
Once your mustache is nice and thick, it is time to trim it into shape.
The best way to decide the width of your Toothbrush mustache is to cut it on the same line as the outer edge of each of your nostrils. Then, shave down vertically on either side to achieve the look.
Once you have defined the shape, you can shave away the rest of the hair until all you’re left with is your toothbrush-style patch of hair on your lip.
The best tool to use to cut your Toothbrush mustache is the detail trimmer. You can find a good selection of top-quality trimmers on Amazon if you don’t already have one.
A fun tip is to grow a goatee with it to balance it out and soften the look to make it a little less offensive.
How to Maintain Your Toothbrush Mustache
So, now that you have grown and are wearing your Toothbrush mustache, it will need a little maintenance. Maintaining this mustache style is a little more complex than it is to grow it.
The complexity arises because this mustache uses straight lines and sharp angles to achieve its look. Therefore, this mustache must be trimmed and maintained frequently to ensure that these lines and angles are sleek and precise.
Tools You’ll Need to Maintain Your Toothbrush Mustache
The list of grooming tools and products you’ll need to maintain this mustache is relatively extensive. Let’s take a look at what you will need:
A beard trimmer will help you achieve the shape and style of the mustache, it doesn’t offer a clean shave like a razor, but it will do the trick if you don’t have a razor available.
This is the best tool to achieve the sleek and sharp look you’re after. It will help you define the shape of the mustache perfectly.
Mustache wax will help you keep your upper lip hair looking sharp. The wax will also keep the hairs in place and help define the lines further.
A beard comb will help comb the mustache into place to leave it looking sleek and prevent any tangling or curling of the hairs at the ends. The comb will also help remove any of the wax at the end of the day.
It is essential to wash your mustache at least every second day with special beard shampoo. Doing this will help remove any wax and dry skin that may be caught in your mustache, and it will improve the growth cycle of the hair.
Keeping your mustache moisturized will leave it looking lustrous and healthy. It will also prevent the skin underneath from drying out and becoming flakey. It also prevents the skin from overproducing a natural oil called sebum. An overproduction of sebum often results in breakouts and irritation.
Types of Toothbrush Mustache
One would think that of all the mustache styles out there, this simplistic one would have little to no variations. And, you’d be wrong.
The Toothbrush mustache has at least ten different variations. Let’s take a look:
The Classic Toothbrush Mustache
This look is characterized by the straight up and down rectangular cut.
The facial hair rarely sits wider than the nostrils and fills the entire width of the upper lip between the nose and top lip. The rest of the facial hair is shaved clean to emphasize the sleek, sharp shape of the mustache.
The Pyramid version of the Toothbrush mustache offers a slightly softer take on the very angular classic look.
The mustache is trimmed to have lines that angle out from the nostrils to the lips, creating a sort of flat-topped pyramid. The angle of the lines is very subtle, making the base of the stache only a quarter-inch wider on each side at the top of the lip.
The Thin Look
This is the style of Toothbrush mustache former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe is best known for.
The look sees a sliver of mustache that only covers the philtrum (the groove that runs from the base of your nose to your top lip). The style is somewhat unique and rather odd t look at but, if you grow sparse facial hair, it may be a look you can pull off with ease.
The Gate Look
By growing and cutting yourself a classic Toothbrush mustache, you are on your way to creating a Gate Look Toothbrush mustache. The only step you have left is to apply a little wax and brush the mustache sideways, dividing it at the center brush, one half to the left and the other to the right.
You will be left with a rather unique if not odd result.
The Messy Look
This is the version of the stache the rebellious will love.
Offering a look that contradicts the Classic Toothbrush mustache, this look is completed with very little grooming. Apply a little wax, muss it up a little, and you’re good to go.
The trimming and grooming of the mustache are not as precise or as frequent as for the traditional version.
Pair your slightly unkempt Toothbrush mustache with long hair for a softer, more funky take on the somewhat offensive style.
This version sees the edge of the mustache that sits on the top lip, with a more scraggly finish instead of a razor-sharp line. By letting the mustache grow and only trimming it every so often, you can pull off the look with ease.
This is much the same as the classic Toothbrush mustache, and rightfully so.
Based on the original toothbrush mustache first worn by Chaplin, this variation offers a slightly more comical look. It is a little wider than that favored by Hitler and adds a sense of witty style to the wearer’s appearance.
The Longer Look
This version sees a Toothbrush mustache that doesn’t end at the nostrils but instead continues past them for a further half-inch.
By adding length to the look, you give yourself the quintessential Toothbrush look with a less aggressive look and feel. Here you would keep the rectangular shape but just extend it a little at the ends.
The Buzz Cut
If you were to shape your stubble into the Toothbrush mustache, the Buzz Cut look would be the result. It sees short two to three days’ growth trimmed and shaped into your classic Toothbrush mustache, with all other facial hair shaven clean off.
In this version of the Toothbrush mustache, the stache is trimmed such that it does not extend the whole way across the upper lip vertically. While horizontally, it still sits between the two nostrils, vertically, it starts midway between the base of the nose and the top lip, leaving you with a thin rectangular sliver.
This version is the 90-degree cousin of the Thin Look style.
The Toothbrush Mustache is globally recognized. If you’re on Wikipedia searching for Afghanistan and you choose to search for mustache styles while you’re there, this is one style that will pop up first.
Iconic or infamous, this mustache is simple to grow but a little more challenging to groom, depending on the variation you choose. While not a style we advise you to wear if you are brave enough to go for it, be prepared to catch some slack.