Hot lips

For these Sacramento folks, it’s all about the style of the ‘stache

Sean Raiger: The Yosemite Sam

Sean Raiger: The Yosemite Sam

Photo by William Leung

Northern California Beard and Mustache Competition; Saturday, March 31; 5 p.m.; $20 competitor fee; $10 admission fee. PowerHouse Pub, 614 Sutter Street in Folsom; (916)355-8586.
For more information on Sacramento area mustaches and beards, visit
Northern California Beard and Mustache Competition; Saturday, March 31; 5 p.m.; $20 competitor fee; $10 admission fee. PowerHouse Pub, 614 Sutter Street in Folsom; (916) 355-8586.
For more information on Sacramento-area mustaches and beards, visit

For these Sacramento men and women, it’s all about the style of the ’stache.

Whether they’re appearing on TV shows such as Portlandia where hipsters grow 1890s-styled mustaches to rack up scene points, seemingly growing into place overnight on the trendy barista at your local cafe or simply residing, as usual, above your grandpa’s upper lip, it’s hard to deny that there’s been a boom in the popularity of mustaches—across the country and in Sacramento.

They come in endless shapes and sizes: Whether styled as an imperial horseshoe reminiscent of a Civil War general or a friendly handlebar courtesy of an old-timey barber, every ’stache is worn as homage to individuality. While some crochet lip sweaters for facial hair enthusiasts around town, others find hirsute company in groups such as the Moustache and Beard Social Club, which hosts the Northern California Beard and Mustache Competition this weekend at the PowerHouse Pub in Folsom. All proceeds benefit Ride to Walk, a nonprofit organization helping children with neurological disabilities through therapeutic horseback-riding lessons.

Handling each follicle like Miyagi handles bonsai trees, the following five men—and one crafty young woman—have fine-tuned techniques for the perfectly groomed mustache and its accessories.

Jennifer Keck’Stache Style: the Strong Man

Occupation: waitress

A fascination with facial hair shouldn’t be stunted just because you’re not actually capable of growing a mustache. Just ask Jennifer Keck, who stitches her love of lip sweaters with her crafty side by crocheting mustaches and beards for $6 to $10, depending upon the style. Keck’s hand-crafted pieces have earned her the nickname “Jenn Viking” among customers who order her wares (email her at for ordering details).

“I try to incorporate as many different types of natural yarns. I use a lot of browns, a lot of blacks,” Keck says.

“I’ve done almost every single style I can possibly think of—the Fu Manchu, the Western, the soul patch, the Charlie Chaplin [and] the Viking where the little braids hang off.”

Keck’s first memory of appreciating facial hair is rooted in the familiar scruff of her father’s burly beard when she was child—and recognizing it as more than just growth on one’s face.

“Maybe it’s one of those comforting things. I wear glasses, and so having glasses is almost having face flair,” she says.

“Maybe for a man to have facial hair—and the fact that he keeps it trimmed and does stuff with it—it’s almost like he has his own little flair.”

Jennifer Keck: The Strong Man

Photo by William Leung

Sean Raiger

’Stache Style: Horseshoe-Fu Manchu/the Yosemite SamOccupation: Subcontractor

Sean Raiger has been perfecting his styling techniques for more than four years now, and says his secret is a pomade that keeps his lengthy ’stache flowing down the sides of his face better than any wax he’s tried.

And, Raiger adds, he’s no stranger to a blow dryer when shaping his whiskers. As such, his bold, black ’stache might be a bit intimidating to some but, Raiger says it’s a distinguishing mark that he plans to keep for a lifetime.

“I have to go to customer’s houses [for work]. It’s pretty wild,” he says, explaining that, sometimes, his customers seem surprised when they first see his facial accessory.

“Usually, it’s the old ladies that get scared, but I’m always so nice and friendly. I look them in the eye and I just smile and talk to them, and they love me,” Raiger says.

“I couldn’t deal with … cutting it off,” he adds. “I would feel naked or like I failed myself.”

Anthony Giannotti: Old Western Handlebar

Photo by William Leung

Anthony Giannotti’Stache Style: Old Western handlebar

Occupation: owner and Barber of Anthony’s Barbershop

An old-timey profession deserves an homage to a classic styled mustache such as the handlebar. Likewise for Anthony Giannotti, owner of Anthony’s Barbershop in Midtown, a well-groomed ’stache is timeless—even if he thinks the current popularity of facial hair is just a passing hipster fad.

Either way, Giannotti admits he loves the attention his own whiskers earn.

“It’s funny, [the attention] is why I did [this style],” Giannotti says. “I’m a 20-something-year-old dude with this ridiculous mustache.”

Still, it’s not like this haute hirsute is out of place in Giannotti’s life.

“For me or old-timey bartenders, we have a reason to [wear these mustaches],” he says. “Barbering is an old profession. It’s being resurrected right now, but it was gone for a long time, and I feel that mustaches are kind of the same thing.”

Brandon Morgan’Stache Style: Imperial horseshoe Occupation: Vice president of the Mustache and Beard Social Club

With a plot of facial hair as brute and unforgiving as a Civil War general, Brandon Morgan fancies his mustache as something akin to American Chopper’s Paul Teutul Sr.—but with a personal twist.

“Every kind of facial hair is like an expression of your own individuality,” he says.

“A mustache is very American, and it takes a big, proud American man to wear a mustache. If you look at the history throughout America, almost all the men in power or just your everyday Joe had a mustache; especially during the gold-rush era, Civil War era,” he says. “With facial hair, you don’t just grow it because you want to look cool. You grow it because you are cool.”

John Downs: The 1980s French Aviator

Photo by William Leung

John Downs

’Stache Style: the 1980s French aviator

Occupation: Technical director for the Sacramento French Film Festival

Mustache enthusiasts usually boast unique grooming secrets and opinions on which wax works best, but John Downs will forgo store-bought facial products and created his own from natural ingredients.

“I started making my own wax out of beeswax, coconut oil [and] gum of Arabic. The coconut oil cuts the wax. The gum of Arabic makes it tacky,” he says. “I also put in eucalyptus oil, which makes a nice smell.”

The process is easy, he adds.

“I just pour all the ingredients in a tin and melt it in water on the stove. In the winter, you put more oil, less wax because it’s cold out, and if it’s too tacky, it just pulls hair when you try and use it. So, in the winter less wax in the mix, in the summer, more wax in the mix.”

When Downs first grew his ’stache, his wife wanted it gone, but now, he says she never wants him to shave.

“My wife wanted me to keep my mustache,” he says. “She says, ‘A kiss without a mustache, is like a meal without salt.’”

Ryan Anthony Scalise’Stache Style: HandlebarOccupation: President of the Mustache and Beard Social Club

Tending to his mustache like some men would to a classic car, Ryan Anthony Scalise admits the showmanship of a well-primped handlebar is all in the details from waxing and shaping, to snipping away those straggly imperfections.

“I do believe the whole hipster attraction to [mustaches] can make the lip sweater be looked [at] as a novelty, but the true men will continue to grow and show,” he says.

And for those who have trouble coaxing out a style?

“Just say be patient [and] take care of your body, because your hair is an extension of what you put into it,” he says. “Experiment with what you can grow. By trying one style, you may realize on the journey that another [style] has presented itself to your face.”