Movember may just look like a word we check forgot to spellcheck, but it’s actually a rapidly expanding organization that raises awareness and funds for prostate cancer by, literally, as its tagline states, “Changing the Face of Men’s Health” … one luscious ’stache at a time.
Starting freshly shaven on November 1st, men challenge themselves to grow and maintain a mustache throughout the month, becoming a walking billboard to advocate awareness about the most common type of cancer for men.
“It’s a lot like doing a run or a walk for charity … except we grow mustaches,” said Movember founder Adam Garone, who, with some friends and family in his native Australia in 2003, decided to see who could grow the best mo’ (Australian slang for mustache) after discussing bad ’70s and ’80s fashion over some beers. Garone was amazed by the controversy created around their facial hair and thought they could grow them for a purpose—to fight the cancer that one in six men will be diagnosed with.
“This isn’t only an old-man disease,” said Tony Antonelli, crowned Boston’s Man of Movember 2009. Antonelli wanted to educate others about the cancer after he was diagnosed with it in 2006 at 45 years old, and underwent a radical prostatectomy. “I thought this was a great way to get the word out there and have people be aware of what’s going on without being too intrusive on people’s lives.”
Although Movember officially launched in 2004 with 450 guys participating, the program didn’t land stateside until 2007. In the US, the total earnings are split behind two charities: The Prostate Cancer Foundation and LIVESTRONG, The Lance Armstrong Foundation, to aid research and support services. With $42 million raised last year, Movember has donated over $100,000, with plans to have this year be the highest amount yet. “Not bad for a couple of mustaches,” said participant Graham Nelson, who got involved three years ago after losing some friends and family members to the disease.
To celebrate the final product, a gala is held at the end of the month, where men (and women) dress in mustached-themed costumes. Garone’s favorites from galas past are a mustache fairy who handed out fake moustaches, and an ’80s pilot and airline stewardess. Antonelli and his Boston-based team transformed themselves into pro-wrestlers. Awards are given out according to crowd votes. Nelson is proud of his “peach fuzz” facial hair, which has earned him “Worst Moustache Award” three years in a row.
When it comes to wives and girlfriends, however, “They either love it or hate it,” said Garone. He has even received a letter from a wedding association in Australia telling him that during November, Australia’s springtime and prime wedding month, there had been an increase in the number of grooms and groomsmen showing up with mustaches.
Even though the month of November is underway, it isn’t too late to start growing your mo’ — you can display your mustache progress pictures, or make a donation online.
“The mustache has been the ribbon of men’s health,” said Nelson. And even though Movember has already spread to 10 countries, participants still hope to eventually achieve world mustache domination.
[Movember 2010 Gala. Thu 12.2.10. Ned Devine's, One Faneuil Hall, Boston. 617.248.8800. 8pm/21+/$10. us.movember.com]