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What Is a Pencil Mustache?

Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson

A pencil mustache is a thin mustache that is particularly close to the upper lip. There is usually a relatively large, shaven space between the top of the pencil mustache and the nose. Actors Vincent Price and John Waters are two celebrities who sport pencil mustaches. The pencil mustache can also be referred to as the “mouthbrow,” a play on the term “eyebrow.” Pencil mustaches are relatively uncommon, as compared with full mustaches that cover the entire space between the upper lip and nose.

Mustaches are a growth of hair between the top lip and the nose, which is usually fashioned in a horizontal strip arching over the lip. For a person to have a mustache, the hair above his lip should be the only facial hair he is sporting. When combined with cheek or chin hair, mustache hair forms part of the overall beard. Mustaches have been popular in certain areas of the world at various times. For example, the British army made mustaches compulsory for all soldiers until 1916.

Pencil mustaches are thin and close to the upper lip.
Pencil mustaches are thin and close to the upper lip.

There are many different styles of mustache, and they feature varying lengths of hair and can be found in various areas above the lip. A particularly recognizable mustache is the toothbrush mustache sported by actor Charlie Chaplin, and later, Adolf Hitler. This mustache only occupies the space under the nose, and the thick narrow strip resembles the bristles on a toothbrush. Other mustache types include the Fu Manchu, which features long, downward pointing tips.

A pencil mustache is a thin mustache that is shaped to hug the upper lip. Generally, pencil mustaches have to be well-groomed, and they are rarely allowed to grow long. The key aspect of the pencil mustache is the space between the top of the mustache and the nose. This area would ordinarily grow more mustache hair, so it must be kept shaved in order to preserve the style of the pencil mustache.

Although pencil mustaches are often thinner than pencils, the name is taken from the fact that they are long, thin and straight. The other term, mouthbrow, plays on the similarity between the pencil mustache’s appearance over the mouth and the eyebrow’s appearance over the eye. Pencil mustaches often curve slightly with the edges of the lips as a result of the positioning of hair growth on a man’s face.

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Discussion Comments


@ddljohn-- Yes, it does require daily maintenance. It also requires a steady hand because it's easy to shave the whole thing off by accident. I almost did that a few times. An old fashioned razor is actually easier to use for a pencil mustache. Regular razors don't get close enough and it's difficult to approximate the space. If you're interested in this type of mustache, definitely ask your barber's or stylist's help the first time.


George Clooney has a pencil mustache in his film "Oh Brother Where Art Thou." I saw the film recently and found his mustache very amusing. It is a pencil mustache, narrow and neat like a line. But it has a part in the center where the mustache goes up toward the nose. I guess normally in a pencil mustache, that part would be trimmed too. But I found this style very nice and I think it suited him a lot in the film.

It's kind of unfortunate that the pencil mustache has fallen out of favor. We only really get to see it in period films. But when done right, it does suit some men a lot. I'd like to see the pencil mustache return as a trend.


I've never grown a pencil mustache but I suspect that this type of mustache requires more grooming than a natural mustache. It must be difficult to shave the top part of the lip just the right amount. And some maintenance must be required almost daily, right?

Does anyone here have a pencil mustache? How's the maintenance for you? Does it take a lot of your time?

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    • Pencil mustaches are thin and close to the upper lip.
      By: Igor Mojzes
      Pencil mustaches are thin and close to the upper lip.