Centuries-old sport of curling isn’t as easy as it looks
  • Antique fluting or pleating irons
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    Auction Finds

    Curling irons for a man’s moustache

    I went straight to the curling irons as soon as I saw them on the auction table, surrounded by trays and trays of items that looked like someone had emptied out an antiques store.

    In fact, they had. All of the items were from former dealers, who after decades of hauling them to shows had either passed on or aged like their antiques. Today, the remains of their antiquing years were laid out for us auction-goers to haggle over. Most of the items still had the dealers’ original price tags. The auction house staff had clipped off some of the prices, though – they were ridiculously high, one of the assistants said.

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    An up-close view of the moustache curlers sold at auction.

    Some of the tags also contained neatly handwritten descriptions, which were so necessary to help me identify what the heck some of these items were. That was not a problem with the curling irons. Those I was familiar with – at least that’s what I thought until I read several of the tags:

    “Dwarf” gentleman’s moustache curler

    “Count” Pat Feb, 26 1884 Gentlemans moustache curler also used for doll and child’s hair

    Curling iron used by suspending over the flame of an oil lamp (great for traveling)

    Underneath the curlers was an article wrapped in plastic titled “Curling Irons for Men, Too.”

    They resembled the curling irons I recalled my beautician aunt using when I was a child, but moustache curlers were new for me. So I decided to bid on them. I wasn’t sure what I’d do with them but I wanted them for their novelty.

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    A full tray of moustache curlers. The folding ones were for traveling.

    I was curious about how they were used. Did they make the little curls at both ends of a handlebar moustache? I always thought that was done with some type of oil or cream.

    Certain Victorian men of the 1800s (and the early 1900s) used wax to groom their handlebar moustaches, which like moustaches in general were very fashionable. Hardware was invented and products were created to keep them as coiffed as the hair on the men’s heads.

    Metal and wood moustache curlers were among the inventions to create the handlebar curls. They worked the same way as a curling iron for women’s hair: Heat it, test it on paper to make sure it wasn’t too hot (if the paper turned yellow, it was too hot) and curl carefully. Here’s an illustration of how it should be done (scroll down).

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    A drawing accompanying a patent for a moustache curler in 1894.

    A 1909 book “A Dictionary of Men’s Wear” didn’t seem to particularly like the devices. Look up the words “moustache curler” and you’re directed to “curling iron” and this definition: “a machine that had better be left altogether to women, who have hair to burn.”

    Other inventions included the moustache cup with a lip to keep the moustache out of your coffee and a small opening to let the liquid through. A moustache snood, a fabric covering placed over the moustache to hold its shape while you snoozed at night. A moustache spoon that worked the same way as the cup (especially helpful with soup).

    At the auction, I wasn’t the only one who wanted those curling irons. Auction-goer Paula, a dealer and a regular like me, wanted them, too, and we went tit-or-tat until I soon gave up. Speaking to her later, she told me that she found them interesting – just as I did – although she wasn’t sure if anyone else would like them enough to buy them from her.

    That may not be a problem. Most of the ones I found on the web were sold.

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    A tag on this moustache curler dates it to 1884.

     

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    1 Comment

    1. That is fascinating, I had no idea (there) was a thing!!

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