The Handlebar ( moustache ) Club
From "Tit Bits"
May 8, 1954

Cutting from Tit Bits

(Sorry about the poor quality of parts of the picture)

The caption to the picture at the top left is:-
CHAMPION: John Roy (16 inch moustache) wins kiss
from Barbara Kelly.

Middle left:-
SEX APPEAL?  Terry Thomas

Bottom left:-
TITLE CONTEST at the Handlebar Club.  Winner here is George Hoffman of St. Albans.

Top right:-
To whom do these growths belong?  answers at foot of page.  (but we only have the last two, who are Sam Costa and David Niven)

Middle right:-
FOUNDER MEMBER Jimmy Edwards is handicapped: he has had to clip the ends for films.   Note the moustache club tie.

Centre bottom:-
PATHETIC like Charlie Chaplin's in his early days.  BRISTLY like the irascible Gilbert Harding.

And the main text reads:-
MOUSTACHES are growing where they never grew before. Hair on the upper lip is high fashion. Nervous beginners threw away their last doubts that night when millions of viewers saw Barbara Kelly emerge smiling and unscathed after kissing Britain’s Prime Handlebar.
     John Roy, Glasgow artist, won both the kiss and the 1953 championship of the famous Handlebar Club (complete with silver cup presented by moustached founder member Raymond Glendenning) with a wing-span of sixteen and a half inches.
     Only twice has a more magnificent moustache than John Roy’s been found. In 1952 he was defeated by a young Londoner, Ted Hooker, who only started to grow his four years before and won on curl rather than on measurements.

Fierce Competition

Inches alone do not decide such an award. Points are given for texture, shape (particularly in the handlebar tradition) and colour.
     This year competition promises to be fierce. Well in the running is "Professor" Jimmy Edwards, a founder member who has never yet won the annual trophy. He has had to clip the ends and grow sideboards for a film, but pruning seems to have improved the handlebars and they are now in tip-top condition.
     There were also a number of "new boys" training their whiskers in secret for the supreme test this year — and no doubt dreaming of a TV appearance with a lovely blond to follow.
     There are known to be some 200 handlebars in the country, and the club, founded in 1947 with just 10 members, now counts them in all parts of Britain, Korea, India, Australia, Malaya, Holland and France.
     Membership costs 1 a year for those living within thirty miles of Piccadilly Circus, 10s. for country or overseas members, and entitles you to wear the club tie, with its silver handlebar moustaches emblazoned on a maroon ground. Minimum requirement is a "hirsute appendage on the upper lip graspable at the extremities" — which would include the decorative moustache of surrealist Salvador Dali, with its waxed, upwards thrusting points, worn on occasions with a flower behind the ear.


Beards are taboo among the handlebars. That is why ex-Forces (with the Army outnumbering the R.A.F.) include only one from the Navy. He had a beard, but "lopped the bottom half off" to join. Loss of handlebars brings membership to a precipitate end. The secretary explained: "We lost a member only a few weeks back — someone saw him wandering — naked — in clubland." His girl friend had persuaded him to shave off the distinctive feature. The world is full of Delilahs, but they don’t all hate moustaches.
     Women may get mad at Gilbert Harding, but they love him just the same, even though he’s irascible, a confirmed bachelor and has a bristly blond "hirsute adornment on the upper lip" that doesn’t even match his dark hair. Anyhow Patricia Medina kissed him with alacrity when they appeared together on TV.   Harding’s moustache is part of his personality; it bristles with indignation in tune with his mood.

     The two best-looking men in the Government, Anthony Eden and Earl Alexander, both have moustaches. The Eden moustache, greying and neatly shaped, is almost as much a trademark as his hat; the Defence Minister’s moustache is small, of military style but most becoming.
     And what about Terry Thomas, who only accentuates that familiar gap in his front teeth with a moustache and certainly has more that his share of sex appeal?
     Sam Costa boasts a really magnificent growth of facial hair. And everyone at the B.B.C. is grateful to comedy script-writer Frank Muir for the fine bushy effort which makes it easier to distinguish him from his partner Denis Norden.
     Some of the great romantics, past and present, have used the moustache to suggest a hint of villainy, a touch of the devil-may-care. John Gilbert, Ramon Novarro, Antonio Moreno and many of their contemporaries all wore small dark moustaches.     Can you imagine a clean-shaven Ronald Colman?   Errol Flynn would not look such a debonair rascal nor would Clark Gable hold his top box office place if they plied a razor indiscriminately. For moustaches have a most interesting habit of revealing personality.
     The fine, well-trimmed line immediately suggests the highly civilized, the serious thinker who puts on a facade of humour. Douglas Fairbanks Junior and David Niven are typical examples — their moustaches belong with immaculate evening clothes.
     Now look at what grows on the upper lip of Dr. Albert Schweitzer, eighty-year-old philosopher, theologian, musician, writer and surgeon, who spends his life running a native hospital in Africa and won the Nobel Peace Prize last year. His is a big, bushy, expansive moustache somewhat suggestive of the patriarchs of old, as unrestricted and generous as himself.
     You might imagine that even an ex-king would spend quite a bit of time on his "tash", but Farouk’s untidy growth is sparse and shapeless. Now look at Mr. Attlee and Clifton Webb — a politician and a Hollywood actor, each with strong views of his own — and you will see how precise, how meticulously groomed to the last whisker, in fact how exactly like their owners, their moustaches are.

Roots in the Past

There’s nothing like a good strong growth of hair on the upper lip to suggest powerful manliness. Ernest Hemingway has that kind of moustache.
     A moustache can be repulsive like Hitler’s miniature toothbrush; pathetic like the early Charlie Chaplin one; uproariously funny, like James Whitmore’s in "Kiss me, Kate"; or positively magnetic, like — well William Powell’s or Jimmy Edwards’s.
     The fashion has roots in the far past. Caesar reported that the ancient Britons "left their hair long only on the upper lip". At the time of the Battle of Waterloo it would have been thought "unseemly swagger" for a civilian to grow a moustache, then the exclusive prerogative of young cavalry officers — and in 1907 there was a strike of Paris waiters against a rule prohibiting them from growing hair on their top lips.
                          ALISON BARNES