Gary's Page

First an item from the Mercury News - Posted on Wed, Dec. 03, 2003.

A spiffy upper lip
By Pat Lopes Harris
Mercury News

mercury photoGary Hagen likes his mustache long. Real long. Ten inches from tip to tip and full enough to hold Christmas ornaments. Yes, Christmas ornaments. Two tiny balls -- one red, one green -- from each end.
In the world of competitive facial hair, Hagen's do is not so unusual, by his own admission.
"I'm too ordinary looking,'' Hagen said.
Perhaps he's being too modest. Hagen, who lives in Gilroy and works as a cashier at the Morgan Hill Safeway, is the handlebar mustache world champion, a title he picked up at the 2003 World Beard and Moustache Championships, held in November in Carson City, Nev.
This was the sixth time the event has been held since it was founded in 1990. It was the first time it took place in the United States and the first time Hagen, 50, entered.
"It was interesting to be around a culture of males that do things with their hair like you do,'' he said.
About 120 entrants from nine countries competed in 17 categories. Judges -- including Nevada's Supreme Court chief justice, two Olympic skiers and Miss Nevada -- gave awards to the top three contestants in each category, plus three overall prizes, which means nearly half of the men who entered went home with at least one trophy.
Not that winning was easy. Check out the competition for yourself at
Most of this year's competitors, including about 85 men who flew in from Germany, belong to hair and mustache clubs they join for camaraderie and to pick up know-how.
Hagen learned most of what he knows by trial and error. He taught himself to use a curling iron -- he once singed his mustache's tips -- and to mix his own mustache wax on his stove top using orthodontic wax, among other things.
Bad hair days? Hagen has bad mustache days when he just can't ``get symmetry.''
"Nothing is more frustrating or rewarding,'' he said.
Friends help. A Sikh shopper talks hair care products with him, and a co-worker gave him the ornaments after stripping her miniature Christmas tree.
Organizers are trying to broaden the event's appeal to Americans. Hagen even invited Rollie Fingers, the ex-A's relief pitcher known for his handlebar mustache during the 1970s, to the championships. He didn't make it.
Maybe next time. Plans for the 2005 championships are under way in Berlin.

And from the Gilroy Dispatch - Tuesday, December 09, 2003

More than a moustache
By Dave Steffenson-- Assistant Editor

dispatch photosGILROY - Gilroy: garlic capital of the world, hometown of 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia and, now, home to the world’s greatest handlebar moustache?
Gilroy resident Gary Hagen carefully waxed and curled his whiskers all the way to the coveted title at the World Beard and Moustache Championships in November, despite never before being in a competition.
“I saw it on the handlebar Web site,” said Hagen, who has been growing the curly moustache that measures 10 inches from tip to tip since the early 1990s and is a member of several moustache clubs. “It was close by - first time in America - so I figured, ‘why not?’ ”
While Hagen takes his moustache seriously - he has a wide array of costumes dating back to the late 19th century at the height of the look’s popularity - he said he never thought growing the moustache would end up with him winning a worldwide competition.
“I started this nine years ago. When I was a teen-ager, I thought it’d be cool to grow an old-fashioned handlebar moustache,” the 50-year-old said.
The San Jose native, who moved to Gilroy three years ago, grew a moustache while attending community college in the Bay Area, and it’s been growing ever since.
“I had one when I was at DeAnza (College), but it wasn’t very good,” he admitted.
But the purchase of a 1914 Model T in 1990 was the inspiration that led Hagen, an antique car enthusiast, to focus his efforts on the old-style look.
“After I got the Model T, I wanted my moustache to match my car,” said Hagen, a member of the Santa Clara Valley Horseless Carriage Club and the Santa Clara Model T Ford Club.
“The term comes from the shape,” Hagen said. “It’s the same as the handlebar of an old-fashioned bicycle.”
The most notable figure in recent history to sport a handlebar moustache was Hall of Fame Oakland A’s baseball pitcher Rollie Fingers, who originally grew the moustache for a promised $300 bonus.
While Hagen said he can slap his look together in a few minutes when he goes to work as a checker at the Safeway in Morgan Hill, growing the handlebar moustache was - and still is - a challenge.
“It was so itchy, I couldn’t stand it,” Hagen remembered. “Then, when it got real big, the soft waxes wouldn’t hold it up.”
Hagen constantly is on the lookout for a better wax to hold up his moustache - not too soft but not so hard that can break off the hair. Currently, Hagen mixes his own special concoction - a blend of Sandahl’s and Clubman’s soft moustache waxes mixed with dental and orthodontic waxes.
“I melt them on the stove top,” he said. “I taught myself how to do that. I think I’m the only one who does it this way.”
At one point, Hagen bought more than $300 worth of Sandahl’s moustache wax and kept it in his freezer to make sure it wouldn’t go bad.
Hagen said that even after applying the wax, getting the moustache to look right takes effort.
“Typically when I go to work, I spend less than five minutes on it. Sometimes it looks good and sometimes it doesn’t,” he said. “One side’s a good-looking curve, the other’s a good-looking curve, but they’re not the same curve. Some days it’s easy, some days you can work on it all day and not get it right.”
Hagen usually toys with the curls throughout the day, and his job at the check-out counter makes it very tempting.
“I can look in the mirror of the scanner to check out the moustache,” he said. “I have people catch me looking at it, and they say, ‘Quit looking at it. It looks great.’ ”
For the competition or before special events, however, Hagen can spend as long as a half-hour working on the moustache to get perfect symmetry. The routine starts with tweezing hairs on the top of the moustache and trimming the bottom before melting the waxes together on the stove. It takes more time, he said, because people often judge the mustache on length rather than curl so he must get the moustache to hold its form.
At the international competition, which took place in Carson City, Nev., last month, there were 123 competitors - most of whom came from Germany for various facial hair competitions. It was the sixth year for the competition, which began in 1990 and now takes place every two years. Before this year, only one American had ever won in any category.
“Germans are the dominant group,” Hagen said.
There are at least eight moustache clubs in Germany, with others in Switzerland, Sweden, China, Norway and the United States, some of them with stringent standards for the style of beard in order to enter. Men sporting different facial hair join the clubs for camaraderie and to find new ways to achieve and better their looks.
Seven judges oversee the competition, which is divided into three main categories - moustaches, beards and partial beards - and 17 subcategories. Hagen was one of four men vying for the handlebar moustache title. However, among the other competitions, there were many extravagant beards, including one man who had to sit alone at breakfast in a booth the day of the competition because his beard stuck out several feet from the sides of his face.
“Compared to these guys, I’m pretty conservative,” Hagen said.
While the moustache, along with his new, heavy cast-iron championship trophy, certainly are a conversation piece, Hagen claims that reaction to it is 99.9 percent positive, and he has no plans on shaving it anytime soon.
“If you’re bored with one curl, you can do a different one,” he said. “Plus, you get addicted to all the compliments.”
For more information and photos from the World Beard and Moustache competition, visit