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What Is a Mustache Cup?

A mustache cup is a unique piece of Victorian-era tableware, ingeniously designed with a built-in guard to protect a gentleman's mustache from tea stains and droplets. It's a charming relic of a time when facial hair was a symbol of status and style. Ever wondered how etiquette and fashion can shape our everyday objects? Join us as we uncover more.
B. Turner
B. Turner

A mustache cup is a beverage container designed to protect the mustache as the user drinks. These cups contain a small ledge, or guard, that runs along the perimeter of the cup along one edge. When the user brings the mustache cup to his mouth, his mustache rests on the ledge, rather than in the liquid. A small opening in this ledge allows liquid to pass from the cup into the mouth. The mustache cup may be most familiar to modern readers from its appearance in the story of Ulysses, where character Leopold Bloom drinks from one of these cups.

Men with mustaches are subject to several problems when drinking from a standard cup. The facial hair can become stained or wet after coming into content with coffee or tea. In Victorian times, hot beverages also melted the styling cream or wax that men used to groom their mustaches.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

During the early 19th century, Englishman Harvey Adams invented the first mustache cup, which was designed to allow men to drink more conveniently and with less mess. Due to the popularity of the mustache during this period, sales of the the mustache cup quickly grew. By the early 20th century, the use of these cups fell out of fashion along with the mustache.

During their heyday, mustache cups served as a status symbol of sorts among the wealthy. Female family members frequently gave these cups as a gift to fathers, husbands, and other males. They were typically monogrammed, or engraved with a family crest. Basic mustache cup models were made from ceramic, while finer units came in silver and even gold. Many included a matching saucer, similar to those used with tea cups.

Today, antique buyers may collect mustache cups, especially the more ornate or rare models. A mustache cup made from silver, or one that is very ornate can be sold at quite a high price, depending on condition. During the Victorian era, most of these cups were made to suit right-handed users, making the left-handed models exceptionally rare today.

The mustache cup is often confused with the shaving cup, which peaked in popularity around the same time period. While the mustache cup had its characteristic shelf, the shaving cup may or may not be equipped with a shelf. Shaving cups with a shelf may feature a series of drain holes, but they do not have the opening traditionally found on a mustache cup.

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Discussion Comments


@ElbowTickle - You can try to make him a custom one. Making cups is probably one of the easiest forms of sculpting there is. You could take a class on it for cheap.

If you aren't the artsy type, you could probably find someone who would make you a customized one. I know a lot of artistic people who make cups and mugs for loved ones. My son made me a cup with Santa Clause on it for last Christmas – if he can do it, you can too.

As Almita wrote, the silver ones are a little better than the others. They have less flashy designs since it was harder to mold. You can probably find a more "manly" design in the silver mustache mugs.


@ElbowTickle -- I know that there are some "modern" mustache cups on Etsy, but they are all handmade and a lot of them are just plain tacky. Good luck finding a comic book themed one -- I've been looking.

There are some beautiful silver mustache cups for sale online, but only if you want to pay a fortune. I've seen mustache cups in thrift stores before too -- so check there.

Unfortunately, mustache cups are from the time when fanciful designs with flowers were on everything. It's very unlikely you'll find one that doesn't have flowers.


I don't understand why these aren't around anymore. Mustache cups made sense, then their wife doesn't have to lean in to tell them that they have something in their mustache.

I thought that it would funny to buy one of these for my dad, but the only ones I can find are old one mustache cups for sale on ebay. I had hoped to get one with a "Marvel" theme or something – but all of the ones for sale are classical themes like peaches and flower prints.

Does anyone know if there are modern mustache mugs out there? Maybe something a little less up tight?

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