How To Grow and Style The Toothbrush Mustache

The toothbrush mustache was one of the most popular mustache styles at the beginning of the 20th century.

It was definitively made famous by its regular appearance in early motion pictures, while becoming infamous as an icon of the Nazi party’s tyranny over Europe.

While a simple design, the toothbrush mustache’s stark appearance is markedly linked to influential people.

Prior to World War II, the toothbrush mustache was a symbol of the both the birth of popular motions pictures and the comedic antics of Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp and Oliver Hardy of Laurel and Hardy.

This style of mustache became the formulaic prop piece for simpletons, tramps, and hobos that eventually would inspire the likes of Emmett Kelly to develop the hobo clown.

History of the Toothbrush Mustache

The toothbrush mustache became popular in the United States and Western Europe in the late 19th century.

A departure from the longer, more flamboyant mustaches sported by European royalty and American businessmen, the toothbrush was characteristic of a low maintenance, lower class individual.

This style was typically worn by factory workers and, at first, became associated with the industrial revolution.

At the turn of the century, the mustache grew in popularity in Germany.

In fact, it was German racecar driver Han Koeppen who first popularized the toothbrush mustache in Germany by wearing it during the 1908 New York to Paris Race.

According to an article in the New York Times, the style was “characteristic of his class” the mustache grew to become the common German man’s alternative to the demanding imperial style worn by German Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Hitler Mustache

By the time Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany toothbrush mustache had already been popularized many times over by the likes of Charlie Chaplin and even Walt Disney.

However, to the style’s demise, the toothbrush is most notably associated with Hitler and, more significantly, with his tyranny over Europe and ultimately the mass extermination of Jews in Europe.

Originally, Hitler was partial to the ‘kaiserbart’ or imperial mustache and earlier photos of him show this particular style.

However, when the war started and fear grew of possible chemical attacks, Hitler trimmed the mustache down to a toothbrush, because it would allow him to wear a gas mask without compromising the seal.

Since World War II, the toothbrush has struggled to rebound and is harshly stigmatized even today.

In early 2010, former basketball player Michael Jordan wore a toothbrush mustache while appearing in a Hanes commercial.

He received scathing criticism from the media and other celebrities, including fellow NBA star Charles Barkley who called the decision “stupid.”

Charlie Chaplin

While history has inextricably linked the toothbrush mustache to Hitler, it was Charlie Chaplin’s character the ‘Tramp’ which made it famous. Chaplin adopted the style sometime in the 1910’s.

Charlie Chaplin and his toothbrush mustache

According to an interview with Chaplin, the mustache was chosen because of its comical look and because it was small enough that it did not hide Chaplin’s facial expressions.

Through Chaplin, the toothbrush would be adopted by other comedians of the silent film era.

Other Notable People with Toothbrush Mustaches

Oliver Hardy: As the toothbrush mustache became increasingly part of the tramp persona, it was soon found on comedians like Oliver Hardy of the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy.

In contrast to Chaplin, Hardy wore a toothbrush because of its perceived tragic qualities. With this being more in line with a typical tramp, Hardy exploited the toothbrush style to compliment his character’s often comedic woes.

Charles de Gaulle: Another World War II figure to sport the toothbrush, de Gaulle quickly abandoned the style in order to distinguish himself from both Hitler and the French puppet regime loyal to the Nazi party known as Vichy France.

Georgy Zhukov: Considered one of the greatest World War II heroes of the Soviet Union, Zhukov wore the mustache during time of the Russian Revolution as a commander.

Like de Gaulle, Zhukov got rid of the toothbrush mustache after Hitler made it unfashionable.

What is a Toothbrush Mustache?

The toothbrush mustache is a shorter style mustache which does not cover the entire upper lip like most other styles.

The mustache is centered on the philtrum and is usually three to five centimeters wide from the top and bottom of the philtrum.

The exact width varies from person to person and is usually determined by the width of the individual’s nostrils and is shaved vertically, not tapered.

How to Achieve a Toothbrush Mustache?

Both achieving and maintaining a toothbrush mustache is quite simple. The trick is getting the mustache to grow thick enough and cover enough of the upper lip.

Because the toothbrush mustache is much smaller than other style of mustaches, it is important to achieve a thicker look in order for the mustache to stand out.

The best way to determine the width is cutting it to the width of your nostrils, shaving down vertically on both sides.

Maintaining a Toothbrush Mustache

While the shape and size of the toothbrush may seem simple, maintenance of the mustache is no different from other styles.

A traditional toothbrush mustache has precise edges and must be frequently sustained to achieve the style’s precise look.

Trimming the Mustache: Regularly trimming the toothbrush mustache is a must for its look. Trimming keeps the edges from fraying out and prevents the hair from growing too long and curling over the lip.

While you can have variations on the style, a true toothbrush is well trimmed. Scissors should be used for precision, as one would not only trim a mustache with traditional razors or trimmers.

Mustache Wax: Along with trimming, mustache wax is important in keeping the hairs straight and vertical.

The toothbrush mustache should not have as much volume as a regular mustache and wax can help the hairs lay flat rather than curling in toward the upper lip.

Since the style is a small amount of hair, use a comb when applying mustache wax to the toothbrush.

Washing and Conditioning: A mustache or beard shampoo should be used when washing this style. Regular scalp shampoo is not designed for the coarser hair found on the face and will likely cause the hair to have more volume – making it difficult to achieve the style. Regular shampoo will also dry out facial skin near the mustache.

A beard oil should be applied after washing in order to soften the hair and moisturize the skin. Only small amounts of oils are needed and can be applied with a comb or fingers.