The moustache-wearers raising the ‘bar for Movember
Pat Long, November 7 2011
At first sight there’s nothing particularly remarkable about the Windsor Castle pub in Marylebone, Central London. But as the office workers finish their Friday-night drinks and head off to catch trains home, a group of impressively turned-out men begins to replace them. Each sports a matching burgundy tie inlaid with a small white insignia and, perhaps more noticeably, a generously proportioned moustache. Some are bushy and untamed, some finish in points the shape of knitting needles, but all of them look as though they’d require the wearer to sleep standing up to maintain their shape. These are the gentlemen of the Handlebar Club, who have been convening here at the Windsor Castle on the first Friday of every month since the 1970s. At the bar debate rages as to whether a drooping Fu Manchu-style ’tache strictly qualifies as a handlebar, while the various merits of different brands of moustache wax are considered: English Leather or Lucky Tiger? The nutty aroma of Brother’s Love or Bounder Extra Firm wax, with its distinctive smell of Jamaican rum?
We’re here to celebrate Movember, the annual charity event which encourages normally clean-shaven men to grow moustaches in order to raise awareness about prostate and testicular cancer. “Our members don’t generally shave off for Movember,” says Handlebar Club President Rod Littlewood, “although we do act as ‘Mo-Mentors’ and generally do our bit to raise awareness of this excellent cause.”
The club, which currently boasts 100 members worldwide, was founded on April Fool’s Day 1947 by the comedian Jimmy Edwards and ten other moustachioed gentlemen backstage at Soho’s Windmill Theatre. Club secretary Steve Parsons, who favours the use of hair straighteners and his own special secret mix of waxes, explains the criteria for admission to the club: “We admit members who possess a hirsute appendage of the upper lip, but to qualify as a handlebar their moustache must have graspable extremities.”
Although membership dwindled in the last quarter of the 20th century, it is now attracting younger moustache-wearers, boasting several in their twenties and early thirties attracted by the handlebar’s slightly caddish and old-fashioned appeal. “My girlfriend wouldn’t let me be seen without it,” says Phillip Smith, 33, a graphic designer from Southend. His companion Luke Walker, 30, is despondent: although he sports a handsome moustache, it sits atop a full beard rather in the manner of the King Edward VII, thus contravening the Club’s golden rule: strictly no admission will be extended to men with beards.
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