‘Tache talking

Sported by the likes of Salvador Dali, Hercule Poirot and Dick Dastardly, the handlebar moustache is synonymous with both eccentric humour and rakish charm.

By Adam Zacharias

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Published: Sun 23 Aug 2009, 8:12 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 11:11 PM

City Times meets Rod Littlewood, president of the UK Handlebar Moustache Club

WHILE THE MOUSTACHE remains a popular facial decoration in India, in the UK its popularity has waned somewhat in recent years.

However, one group of mustachioed men meet every month in a London pub to celebrate their ongoing admiration for one particular type of ‘tache – the handlebar.

To qualify as a member of the Handlebar Moustache Club, one must possess “a hirsute appendage of the upper lip, with graspable extremities”. Beardies need not apply.

The club was founded in 1947 in the dressing room of comedian Jimmy Edwards and is still going strong today – with three other branches in the English Midlands, Sweden and Norway.

Members have traditionally involved themselves in charity work, and they often travel overseas to attend moustache-related events – such as this year’s Beard and Moustache World Championships in Alaska.

City Times chatted with club president Rod Littlewood, hoping to untangle the knots of mystery behind the handlebar moustache.

How long have you been president of the Handlebar Moustache Club?

Just over a year, I was made president last April. I’ve been a member for something like 15 years. We’ve got about 130-odd people at the moment in the society.

What initially prompted you to grow a handlebar moustache?

Years ago, when I was a pharmaceuticals salesman, I grew it for the memorability factor so people would recognise my face. That’s the main reason why I do it. It was particularly important in those days, more so than now.

Have you ever been tempted to shave it off?

Nope, never. Not even for charity. But I am fairly involved with ‘Movember’ (a charity event which takes place every November, in which men grow ‘amateur’ moustaches for good causes) and I do different things to help promote it. This year I’m planning on having my head shaved but leaving a moustache on the back. We’re going to try to get it done on live on television, but who knows?

What’s it like living with a handlebar moustache on a day-to-day basis? Are there any unforeseen complications?

No, not really. I’m sure some of the world champions, who’ve got absolutely wayward moustaches, take a bit of time to get them sorted before they go to work in the morning. But mine doesn’t, I only need a bit of wax and I’m off and away.

I was reading about the moustache cup on your website. Do you or anyone else in the society use one?

I’ve got lots of them and I actually use them a lot when I’m drinking tea or coffee at home. It’s got a little lip across the top, like a baby’s drinking beaker, so that when you put your top lip into the cup your moustache stays dry.

And what are snoods?

Have you ever seen Poirot on television, when he goes to bed at night and puts that little hammock-y thing on his moustache? It’s like a little hairnet that goes over the moustache, it stretches across the face and hooks over the ears. I don’t know of anyone who wears one now – I think I’ve got one somewhere but I just bought it for a bit of a giggle.

You mentioned that some people grow excessively huge handlebar moustaches. Are there any mega-taches in your society?

We tend to be a little more relaxed about our moustaches, so we don’t have to spend too long looking after them. But the biggest one ever was 3.9 metres from tip to tip. My own moustache measured about 48 inches from tip to tip at one point, but I couldn’t be bothered in the end. I’ve got better things to do with my life!

Is there a competitive element between members?

No no no! We go to competitions – I just got back from Alaska because we went to the World Beard and Moustache Championships in Anchorage – and we laugh at the others who are all competitive and want to win. The reason I went because it was in Alaska, and we went whale watching and everything else. It’s a good excuse to go to these different places.

So did anyone from the society enter the world championships?

Yeah our guys quite often enter, they just don’t compete if you see what I mean. They’re not worried about placing.

Are there different sub-categories in which you can enter?

Oh yeah – with moustaches you have the Dali which is straight up, the English which is straight out, the Hungarian which is a bit like Wyatt Earp, the natural where you don’t use any wax, imperial where it sweeps up and round a bit and freestyle, where anything goes. I’m imperial normally, but in competition I go into natural because it’s the first one up so I’m on and off the stage and out socialising!

What’s the female reaction usually like to a handlebar moustache?

As with all women, they either like or hate facial hair. Usually when we’re together they think it’s a hoot. As for my girlfriend, she’s never known me without it so she must like it!

What can you tell us about the history of the handlebar moustache?

Iraqi men have them as a sign of manliness, and until about 40 years ago the Hungarian military had to have them, it was compulsory. It’s supposed to be a sign of virility and everything else.

What’s it like being a member of the Handlebar Moustache Club?

It’s just fun, it’s like any social club where a gang of guys and their girlfriends and wives get together and have a few drinks. We just talk and have a laugh – we don’t talk about moustaches all the time! The nearest we get to that is who’s going to the next event overseas and when. The next one we’re probably going to is in Sweden because it’s our Swedish friends’ 25th anniversary. We’re going to help them celebrate – it would be churlish not to!

Visit www.handlebarclub.co.uk to learn more about the club and its activities.


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