Strolling through the Bunker—the converted warehouse that serves as San Luis Obispo's preeminent artists' workspace—you pass a jeweler, a fashion designer, a comic book artist, and a cabinetmaker before ending up in a small, wood-paneled corner. There, beneath a taxidermied buck's head, sits the desk where Pete Ljepava, best-known as Mustache Pete, crafts his artisanal brand of mustache and beard wax.
"I've been doing this for seven years, and I've had a mustache for about eight," says Ljepava. "I've used every product under the sun, and one day I was just like, 'Why am I combining these things to make something I like? Why don't I just make my own recipe?'"
While he initially created his wax strictly to suit his own needs, his friends began asking how they could get their hands on some for themselves. "I made it for myself and kind of fell into this whole thing," Ljepava says, recalling how he quickly found himself in the small-batch mustache wax business. "Even though it was to meet my own needs, it was something that other people found they needed, too—and that's why people keep coming back."
Ljepava's brand, Mustache Pete's, offers a number of different products, each designed to meet a different grooming need—from the citrus-scented Speakeasy, meant for smaller mustaches, all the way up to the stronger Grandad's Blend, infused with pipe tobacco and a shot of bourbon. "Basically, what makes the difference is: what scented oil you put in it, how much beeswax you put in it, and how much of the other oils—coconut oil, grapeseed oil, etc.—you put into it," he says.
Ljepava aims to keep Mustache Pete's as artisanal, local, and homegrown a product as possible, even going so far as to filter the beeswax himself right there at his desk. He cites his Russian ancestors' facial hair as his biggest inspiration—in particular, one gem of a family photo shows his great-grandfather and his six brothers, all sporting formidable mustaches and beards. "When I say it's a family tradition," Ljepava says, pausing a moment to smile at the thought, "it's a family tradition."
Since summer can be a tricky time for keeping your facial hair in order, we asked Mustache Pete to share a few tips on how to keep your mustache and beard looking sharp on these hot summer days.
How to Apply Your Wax
"To work those bits of excess wax in, pinch and roll using one hand—or even two—to help melt the wax and distribute it evenly. Keep slowly smoothing it out by working the wax down to the end like you're squeezing the last bit of toothpaste from the bottom of the tube. This maneuver will ensure you're not tearing hairs out, and not leaving any wax behind."
To Trim or Not to Trim
"When your 'stache gets to be about three months in the making, the middle part starts to curl over your lip and become irritating and annoying. The advice I strongly recommend to anyone willing to listen is: Don't trim it! Once it's long enough to push to the sides, you can keep it out of the way with wax. Trimming it in the middle just makes you look like you are wearing a toothbrush with horns."
How to Avoid Beer Beard
"When you order a pint at your local watering hole, you may get most of it in your mustache, so use a straw in your beer to avoid sharing with your facial hair. And hey, who's going to give you shit for having such manly facial hair that you even need a straw? It's the most manly-unmanly thing you can do that no one can give you shit for!"
How to Groom in a Pinch
"What do you do when you're out and about, your mustache needs a touch-up, and you don't have any wax on you? I've tried a lot of things out of panic—no, I've never used earwax—and honey is actually one of the best and most easily accessible holds I've found. Duck into a nearby coffee shop and grab a honey packet. A small dab of honey can hold everything back in place until you get back to your tin at home."
The Best Time to Brush
"Here's a tip from my badass of a brother on grooming your beard: Brush your beard right out of the shower after dusting off the water! It'll make for fewer curls, and actually stay the way you style it. Not too shabby."
For everything you'll need to maintain perfect facial hair, see mustachepete.bigcartel.com.