Before I begin this review, allow me to present my credentials: I have wielded a handlebar mustache since December 2012, which is not especially long by geological standards, but long enough to allow me to accumulate some valuable insight on the topic of mustache grooming and maintenance.
It is in the spirit of giving knowledge that I present to you, fellow handlebar mustache growers and aspiring growers alike, this comparison review of three mustache fixatives: Clubman Moustache Wax, Firehouse Moustache Wax, and an underdog contender that is sure to surprise and delight.
So sit back, gentlemen, pour the libation of your choice, perhaps light up that fine cigar, and enjoy the review.
When searching for mustache wax, the first product that comes to mind (and Google) is Clubman, and for good reason; Pinaud, the company which produces Clubman, has been around since 1810 and has become synonymous with mustache grooming in much the same way that Xerox is synonymous with copy machines, and as such deserves to be first on the list.
Let’s talk about the benefits:
First, it’s a very affordable product, usually running at around $3-4 per tube, and though the tube is small, a little of the product goes a long way.
Incidentally, the tube is quite convenient to carry around in the pocket. Its small size guarantees it will be unobtrusive and unlikely to be mistaken for your other manly appendage.
The product itself comes in two colors; neutral and black. While I found the black to be tricky to evenly apply and therefore too much effort merely to look villainous, the neutral went on evenly and dried clear. The wax has very little odor when active, and no odor at all when dried, and being water-soluble, you should have no trouble at all removing it at the end of the day.
Unfortunately, despite its honorary place at the top of this list, I cannot give it my blessing as a favorite.
Upon removing the cap on my first tube, I was astonished to find that the cap itself literally crumbled in my fingers. I cannot explain this, despite my Samson-like strength, and it may have simply been a fluke. I was exceedingly gentle with the cap on my second tube so as not to break it.
Though the product goes on evenly, it can be fairly messy as it is a much more viscous state than I would have expected, having the approximate consistency of hand lotion. My first application was rather messy, and it took a try or two before I got the knack.
After applying, I found that it did not have as strong a hold as I would have imagined. Then again, every man’s facial hair is different, and mine seems to be particularly stubborn. I’ve seen video reviews of this product in which the mustache looked quite secure after application. I had to use the blow dry method to force my mustache into a rough curl before applying. As a rule, I do this anyway as part of my morning routine, but I prefer my wax be strong enough to be applied at short notice without prep if needed.
On that note, if you live in a particularly rainy or humid area, Clubman will be a frustrating product. The Gulf Coast is a ridiculously humid area throughout the year and I found that I needed to reapply the product several times daily, which of course meant that it was not as cost-effective as I would have liked. The tube still lasted a couple of weeks, but I expected it to last much longer.
Ultimately, I gave up on Clubman after using the tube of neutral color, and I am saving the black for an appropriate costume party. Your mileage may vary, and if you have a thinner mustache that’s easier to corral, Clubman may be a viable option for you.
If your mustache is as tameless as mine, you will require something a little stronger, such as the next product on the list.
The Modern Marvel
This product is manufactured by a veteran mustache-grower and real life fireman in Mississippi, and this one actually comes with some built-in good Karma: part of the profits go to charity. You can see how much has been donated for the year on a counter at the Firehouse’s website.
I want to go ahead and dispense with the formalities: if you absolutely must have a wax based product, I recommend this one. There are quite a few similar waxes that I have not tried, so this is by no means an opinion based on exhaustive research, but as I’m still on my original tin and have retired the product for the summer, I haven’t needed to buy a tin of anything else.
Now, the review:
This wax comes in three varieties: Dark, Light, and Wacky Tacky. Wacky Tacky is advertised as its darkest color and strongest hold, with Light being the weakest and consequentially the easiest to apply. I used Wacky Tacky, as my mustache is dark brown and I did not find the product affected the color at all. If you have especially light hair, I suspect you may notice a bit of darkening with this variety.
It is almost entirely made of beeswax, and therefore dries to an admirable stiffness once set. The product comes in a simple tin with an appealing classical look in both the form and label, and is small enough to fit in the pocket with no interference.
Once applied, in reasonable temperatures this product lasts all day. Though I carried the product with me, I never once have had to reapply it, though I suspect I would have had I continued using it into the notoriously unreasonable southeast Texas summer. Though the wax is a bit difficult to melt initially (more on that in a moment), carrying it in the pocket allows the body heat to keep it pliable should you need to reapply during the day.
If, like me, you live in a humid or rainy area, you’ll find the natural water-resistant properties of this beeswax-based product to be a godsend. The Great Deluge would be powerless to unglue this stuff once it’s set. I’ve gone swimming, showered, went out on the town on a sultry spring evening, returned home and after a final shower found the mustache still with its dukes proudly raised.
And here we must discuss a few relatively inconvenient but unavoidable aspects of this otherwise wonderful product, which are mostly consequences of its benefits.
Removal can be an absolute pain if you don’t know the trick. You can remove it with soap and water, but you’d better budget for time because it will take quite awhile. This does not bother many longtime mustache growers; some apply it and leave it in all week until they need to apply more. Personally, I cannot do it. So if you’re like me and must take a clean mustache to bed, keep some sort of vegetable oil on hand (I mixed a custom blend of sweet almond oil, jojoba oil and lime or orange essential oil), apply liberally for a minute or so, and then rinse with soap and water. The oil does a fantastic job of breaking up the wax, and acts as a nice conditioner as well as leaving behind a pleasing aroma.
Speaking of budgeting time, you may as well account for application time. As I mentioned before, this product is almost entirely beeswax. At room temperature in the tin, it is an almost completely solid chunk and impossible to apply. The instructions recommend rolling it between the fingers to warm it for application, but I found that to be inefficient, time-consuming, and a bit messy. However, if you have a hair dryer on hand, a blast of about half a minute effectively melts the wax for application. Be sure and act quickly though, as it does not take long to set, and you may end up giving yourself a blast with the dryer to re-melt the product in situ.
On the subject of heat, the main reason I stopped using this product for the time being is our lovely Gulf Coast summer, which is typically in the upper 90s, reaching well into the triple digits. These kinds of temperatures tend to soften the wax and make it necessary to reapply, although sometimes you can get away with a quick twirl while it’s soft as you walk into a cooler area.
Another aspect of this product that may bother some is the smell. Containing no added fragrances, this product smells of its main ingredient, beeswax. If you don’t like the smell of beeswax, you may not like this product. I myself quite like the smell of beeswax, so this was not an issue for me.
Finally, the price may be a bit discouraging for some folks. Running as high as $20 per tin, this appears to be a large chunk of change for a small chunk of product, but do not let that discourage you. A little of this goes a long way. I used my one tin almost daily from January until April, and used less than a quarter of the total product. Compared to Clubman, this product is far and away more cost-effective.
Though I’m currently not using the product due to the heat, it is my preferred fair weather product. I consider myself a bit of a traditionalist, and I rather enjoy taking my time in the morning. It can be a wonderfully meditative ritual, and I look forward to seeing the back of this ungodly summer so that I may style my ‘stache properly.
“But Rev. Handsome Jack, if you don’t like Clubman and it’s too hot to use Firehouse, what do you use?”
I’m glad you asked, lad! Though the final product in this review lacks, shall we say zazz, and is admittedly unconventional, in many ways it is the ultimate in mustache styling technology, excelling in the areas of cost, convenience, and availability:
Yes, you read that correctly.
The glue stick is a product that I have grudgingly come to regard as the most logical choice in mustache grooming. Though I will always be a wax fan, I must concede this is mostly due to nostalgia.
Glue sticks are available at any store that sells office supplies, and we’ve all used them at some point. Largely, brand is irrelevant; glue is generally glue. All the sticks I’ve used have been acid free (such as the Elmer’s pictures above), making this product safe for use in hair.
The twist-up style tube is as convenient as one could ask for making application almost too easy, with virtually no mess; of all the products, it goes on the smoothest and dries fast but not too fast.
Though this product is water-soluble, once dry it is strong enough to resist humidity for extended periods of time, and even a quick light rain won’t noticeably damage the hold. This means you may spend a bit more time at the end of the day washing it out, but it will come out with soap and water with no difficulty, and certainly with more ease than any wax based product.
I should also mention it’s bloody cheap, usually coming in packs of four, six or more and averaging in the $3-6 range depending on number of sticks and the brand.
Each stick lasts an impressively long time as well (I can’t say for sure, as I usually lose them around the one or two month mark, or they are swiped for their intended purpose, after only having used about half an inch of the tube), making it the most frugal product in this review.
The only real disadvantage to this product that comes to mind is its tendency to dry out if you forget to replace the cap after using it. I’ve found they sometimes rehydrate if the cap is put back on within half a day or so, but even if it’s a goner, they’re cheap enough that this shouldn’t be an issue.
WARNING: There may also be a safety issue with this one, so I would like to attach this caution: Gentlemen, this product dries to the point of mustache weaponization.
If you have been taken by a lucky lady (and if you haven’t, you need not wait long), have a care whilst in the throes of passion, or you may put out an eye. Also, it goes without saying that mustache rides are right out of the question until this product is removed. Fellas, you have been warned.
In short, Clubman may work for those in dry areas with thin mustaches but can be a nuisance to those of us with willful lip demons.
Firehouse is an extremely well made product tailor-made for the traditionalist, able to tame the most stubborn of mustaches, but can be less effective in the heat and the smell may be an issue for some.
The glue stick is a cheap, convenient, and long-lasting product suitable for beginners and veterans alike, with nary an ill thing to be said about it other than its lack of gentlemanly elegance.
Objectively, I must give the glue stick the Livin’ Legend Stamp of Approval, despite the fact that subjectively, Firehouse wins the day.
I am as much Kirk as I am Spock, and as such I cannot choose one product and stick with it. I hope I’ve done an adequate job of laying out the pros and cons of all these products so that you may make your own choice.
Of course, I open the floor to discussion, so if you have any input or a favorite product, do mention it in the comment section.
Thank you for your time, gentlemen, and may your mustaches be forever even and sharply trimmed.
In order to cover the costs of running this blog, I utilize Amazon’s affiliate program (see the footer of this page for the legalese version), which means every purchase referred through the product links in this review earns a small commission.
Therefore it is my promise to you, dear reader, that I never review a product I haven’t tried and I never recommend a product I don’t like, as you can see in this very review.