From No Shave November to Movember

by Jeff Preis

If you’ve walked into an Urban Outfitters in the last several months, or any trendy store for that matter, you might have noticed the renewal of the mustache. The once nerd-identifying upper lip accessory is back and better than ever. The mustache, other than serving as a pin-pointer for the fashionable, has a dual, unparalleled side: health and cancer awareness for men. 

The revitalization of the ’stache can be traced back to a group of 30 men in Melbourne, Australia in 2003. The mustache was something that society — and fashion — was out of touch with. They thought that growing a mustache nowadays would be cause for a conversation. Friends, family, colleagues wondering “why is he growing that?” That was the very thought process behind the reinvention of the ’stache. And these whiskers would eventually pave the way for men’s health initiatives and help find a cure for prostate cancer and other male-specific cancers. 

These dapper 30 deemed the month of November, “Movember.” This term, which has now taken the globe by storm, is the official month of the mustache, or simply the “mo” (Australian slang term for a mustache). In its ninth year (2011), there were 21 countries participating, over 850,000 Mo Bros and Mo Sistas, and over $120 million were raised in 2011 alone. 

The idea behind the mustache essentially works the same way as the pink ribbon for breast cancer, or dimes for polio. Every man, or Mo Bro, must start with a clean-shaven face on the first day of November. According to the Movember rules and regulations, it must remain a mustache for the entirety of the month. This means no beards, no goatees, no chops. And lastly, each Mo Bro must conduct himself like a true gentleman. And what’s a Mo Bro without his female companion? Mo Sistas are the supporters and counterparts that help Mo Bros raise money for their team…no facial hair required.

Possibly one of the most ingenious grassroots campaigns, the ’stache acts as a walking, talking billboard for the Movember campaign. It becomes especially buzz-worthy when big names like Justin Bieber, Joe Jonas and Brody Jenner sign decide to toss their razors for the cause (apparently the ability to grow facial hair is not a stipulation).

Through these strides and initiatives, Movember has created a global action plan (or GAP) that allocates a portion of its funds to over 100 researchers throughout the world that collaborate on prostate cancer research. Through their initiatives, 25 different strains of prostate cancer have been identified. Researchers have been able to map out the genetic sequence of the disease — all of which has occurred in less than a decade. 

No doubt, the power of the mustache has grown — as made apparent by the numerous hipster-centric coffee cups, pillowcases and even clothing donning the personable curly-q — and as a result, men’s health has become more of an essential issue than ever before — it allows people to speak freely about health, and haircuts for that matter. In fact, it has sparked an estimated 1.9 billion conversations on the topic … and counting.