Taming the wild mustache
Chad Nelson and Brian Lee
The best example of gold-rush entrepreneurial spirit in Sacramento this week is right under your nose—if you happen to have a mustache. It’s the Cowboy Comb, a mustache-grooming device invented by Chad Nelson and Brian Lee. The pocket-sized, mustache-shaped comb comes in basic black plastic or, for high rollers, a $100 gold-plated version. And Lee and Nelson have launched a campaign on Kickstarter to raise $4,000 to manufacture their creation. SN&R talked facial-hair business with the duo at Bulls Bar & Restaurant, where they arrived in full cowboy gear. Lee, a hairstylist at Midtown’s Lush Salon & Spa, and Nelson, a former Marine turned student, both sport generous handlebar mustaches, of course.
What are your Cowboy Comb business titles?
Chad Nelson: I’m the Butcher. It’s from Gangs of New York. Daniel Day-Lewis is one of my favorite actors, and he has the most glorious handlebar mustache in that movie. He’s the man in that movie, and I want to be the man.
Brian Lee: I’m the Mustache Mogul. I take all of our loose ideas that come up over Budweisers and whiskey and form them into a business plan.
When did you grow your first mustache?
Lee: This is my first mustache. I’ve had it about four months now. I grew it as a joke because we were going to Vegas to hang with our buddies. It was more of a Fu Manchu, asshole mustache. It started out as a twinkle on my upper lip and it became this gem. And it’s not slowing. … I had to train it. Being a hairstylist, I know that short hair pushes long hair, so I’ve been trimming it. It’s kind of like a bonsai.
Nelson: I had a goatee throughout high school. Then in 2005, when I was in sniper school, our team leader made it a game to see who could grow the nastiest mustache. I’m really hairy, and I can grow ’em like nothing. I was clean-cut the whole time I was in the Marine Corps, except for this one moment. I looked like the Pringles guy. I think I met one girl during that time that I maybe kissed, once, on Halloween. The rest of the time it was like anti-girl, right on my face: No girls allowed.
How do ladies respond?
Nelson: It depends. When I had that muskrat just sitting on my lip, no girls looked at me. I had to throw pretty smooth talk past that thing. But this kind of ’stache? Yeah. Eccentric moustaches just draw people in.
Lee: People aren’t scared to ask you about it. It’s an icebreaker for bums, too. “Wow, that’s a great mustache! You got any change?”
How is the Cowboy Comb revolutionizing grooming?
Lee: It’s ridiculous for a guy to have a round brush or a giant comb. The Cowboy Comb looks cool. People always ask, “How do you take care of that thing?” And then we whip out these gold combs that fit in our pockets. Girls can use it, too. It’s perfect for bangs, and it’s small.
Nelson: It’s really accessible. It fits right into that little lighter pocket in your jeans. That’s where I keep mine, and I’ve never lost it.
Lee: My dad always had the comb hanging out of his back pocket, and The Fonz used to rock it, too. This is just a cooler play on that.
Nelson: It’s like having a cellphone belt/wallet holster. You need a phone, but you don’t want to put it on that holster. No one deserves that look. I don’t want to carry a regular comb. Being as eccentric as I am, I want anything I’m carrying to be a conversation starter.
Is the Cowboy Comb powerful enough to handle a Selleck ’stache?
Nelson: I want to challenge Brian Wilson’s beard to a comb-off, to prove the Cowboy Comb is equal to the wildest beard out there. Cowboy Comb vs. Fear the Beard.
Do people with skinny, John Waters-style mustaches need Cowboy Combs?
Lee: Those guys, if that’s all they can do, that’s all they can do. It’s whatever you’re into. But those guys would probably rather bust out a Cowboy Comb than their girlfriend’s My Little Pony brush.
Are there foods to avoid?
Lee: Ribs might be a little dicey. I started trimming the underside, because I’m a big burrito fan, and burritos were just ruining my whole situation. Now that I’ve fixed it, it’s all go.
Nelson: Be ready to share anything you drink with your ’stache. It’s thirsty too, and it will take a drink of anything you do.
Any grooming tips?
Lee: We are developing our own mustache wax. It’s not easy, but I think we might be pretty close. We don’t want anything that smells like nag champa or patchouli. It’s got to really hit hard.
Mustaches are associated with cops, porn stars and cartoon villains. Can the Cowboy Comb improve its reputation?
Lee: Single-handedly we’re not going to be able to change the face of America, but we just want to give it some pride. Make mustaches respectable again.