You call it November. They call it Movember.
The mustache-growing event started in 2003 when a few men way down under in Australia decided to bring crumb catchers back in style (Mo is Aussie slang for mustache). Fast forward and the mustache movement has gone global, tying itself to raising awareness of men’s health issues such as prostate and testicular cancer.
Women have splashy marketing campaigns like the pink ribbons of October’s breast cancer campaigns. Dudes did without. That is, until the Mo Bros.
“It sounds a little cliché,” admits Fort Lauderdale’s Ross Petras, who is in his fourth year participating. “You grow a mustache and it sounds silly. But the money is real and the research is real.”
The idea behind Movember is that men become a walking billboard for 30 days – and raise $126.3 million world-wide last year – for men’s health. The Mo Bros register with Movember.com and get family, friends and colleagues to donate to their mo-grow, with proceeds benefiting the National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and the Live Strong Foundation.
“It’s goofy and goes well with my personality,” says Plantation’s Brian Lenihan. “For me it’s immediate, like people coming up and saying, ‘what are you doing?’ But that’s because I do a trucker’s mustache that grows all the way down to my jawline. Like me and my friends go out for beer at a sports bar and girls come up and ask, ‘why do you all have mustaches? Are you all cops?’ You have to be comfortable answering questions. Like I said, it goes with my personality. And my family has ridiculous issues with cancer so it’s close to the heart for me.”
Not all encounters are so friendly and positive.
“We kind of do a Movember party and make it a costume party,” explains Petras, a executive recruiter at Priority Sales who lost his father at age 59 to prostate cancer in 2010. “This one year I went as Hulk Hogan. I had a yellow shirt, a long blond wig, we put powder on my handlebar mustache to make it whiter. I had a feather boa and these tight white Spandex shorts. The party was at Hard Rock that year. We were in the casino and everyone was laughing at us. I’m playing blackjack and just being silly. I get this tap on my shoulder. It’s the pit boss. He says, ‘I’m going to have to ask you to cash out your chips. We have a pants policy. No underwear exposed.’ The booted me out of the casino because they thought I was in my underwear.”
Petras went on to say that for his team the Hollywood firefighters have “come out in tremendous form. It was a firefighter friend of mine, Phil Edelman, who kicked me in the butt and said, ‘We’ve got to make this thing big.”
Other Movember teams also draw upon bastions of maledom.
“I worked with the Florida Panthers for five years,” says Lenihan, who is now interactive marketing director for VR Business Brokers, Mergers & Acquisitions. “The hockey community, for whatever reason, has been a big supporter from the beginning. Some of the NHL guys are some of the biggest benefactors and they attract tons of money because they put it on their social media. So I got exposed to it working with the NHL office. I guess I never really knew back then that it was a formal organization. I just thought it was something the guys did. I had no idea it was so well organized.”
Lee Garipoli, owner of ManKind Grooming & Services barbershops in Fort Lauderdale, says one of the reasons that he got involved was because his grandfather had prostate cancer. But now his entire crew is on board.
“The male staff grows mustaches and the women pencil in mustaches. It’s a great segue when we have customers in the chair, to talk about the charity and talk about cancer. We want them to all go to the website and raise a lot of awareness. It’s grown substantially. In the U.S. in general and in South Florida, where it’s a kind of new charity, [it has] really started to grow and gain some traction.”
But he’s quick to add that at the end of the month, it’s a race with the razor: “The last night of Movember we have a big party and we award the best mustache and things like that and then we have a shave off. It being the last day of the month you can imagine they are eager to shave that off.”
According to Movember.com:
This is the sixth year for the Movember campaign in the United States.
One in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Each Movember mustache created 2,413 conversations about men’s health issues.
Last year there were an estimated 1.9 billion conversation in November about either the Movember campaign or men’s health.
Female participants are called Mo Sistas
In 2011 Movember raised $126.3 million world-wide
In the U.S. in 2011, more than 145,000 men grew mustaches and raised over $15 million.
In addition to the Prostate Cancer Foundation and Live Strong, the charity donates to the University of Michigan, MIT, Harvard Medical School, The Dana Farber Cancer Center and Weill Cornell Medical School
According to the website Movember.com there are specific grooming guidelines -
1. There is to be no joining of the Mo to side burns – That’s a beard.
2. There is to be no joining of the handlebars – That’s a goatee.
3. A small complimentary growth under the bottom lip is allowed (aka a tickler).