| || |
November 16, 2010 - Scott Muska
***Note: Due to some technical difficulties, I was unable to post this blog with hyperlinks in the text. So the links are on the right side of the page. Anything I have a link to, I've written in CAPS (except LIVESTRONG; I guess Lance Armstrong just really likes capital letters, because that's how the foundation presents it). Sorry about that.
Fashionably speaking, there is nothing manlier than a mustache. Not even a thick flannel shirt. So it's strangely fitting that a month-long stint of upper lip hair growth has become the worldwide symbol for the fight against prostate cancer, a disease that statistics say will afflict one in six American men during their lifetime.
November has now been dubbed "Movember," and the idea is for men to begin clean-shaven on the first of the month, and then spend the rest of the month grooming their face to look as much like THE SWEDISH CHEF (sans eyebrows) as possible. The idea was forged in 2003 by a few friends in Melbourne, Australia (where the slang term for a mustache is a "mo"), who wanted to bring the mustache back as a little bit of a joke that could help a good cause. It has since gone viral, and now there is an actual Movember Foundation where men can register to grow mustaches and seek donations for the fight against prostate cancer. Last year, $42 million was raised worldwide, all because 255,755 dudes grew 'staches, and more than one million people donated. The funds go to the Prostate Cancer Foundation and LIVESTRONG, the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
It's comparable to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, but instead of pledging to run or walk, all men have to do is embrace a 30-day-long period of pure, masculine hair growth.
"It's kind of, I think, in the same spirit as the pink ribbons they use as the face of the women's breast cancer fundraiser," Penn State Altoona computer science professor Richard Singer said. He's serving as a Mo Bro -- the term the foundation uses for its participants who rock a crumb catcher to raise awareness and funds -- for the second year in a row. He decided to do it in 2009 when he found out his nephew had begun participating with the foundation. Singer had what he said was a close call with prostate cancer a number of years ago, and said he wanted to get involved.
"I've had mustaches for most of my adult life, until about seven or eight years ago when my neighbor's daughter challenged me to shave it off," Singer said. "It's fun to grow one again, and I've been surprised by the response."
It's unclear precisely when, but at some point mustaches fell out of vogue as far as young men are concerned. For men 40 and over, they're still commonplace. These days, though, if you're any younger and have one two things happen: nobody takes you seriously, and everybody seems to notice. It makes people wonder whether the guy is trying to pull off some kind of joke, or if he is simply fashionably clueless.
Because of this, they're more likely to ask what the motivation for the new statement is, according to Penn State Student and mustache advocate Evan Shaffer.
"When do you ever see someone who looks like TOM SELLECK and take them seriously?" he said. He added that he hasn't embraced Movember completely, but thinks it's a fantastic idea. He plans on abandoning his usual goatee for a 'stache to finish the month strong, he said.
If Movember had started in the 1970's, nobody would have really noticed if a young person had a mustache. Now, when somebody approaches you and asks you what the deal with the 'stache is, you can enlighten them on the importance of prostate cancer awareness.
"My students are used to seeing me clean-shaven, so a lot of them ask about it and if they do I tell them the story," Singer said. He sees kids around with mustaches, and acknowledges that the mustache growing game has changed a little bit since he was their age.
"It used to be you'd get mustache wax and trim it and everything, but now you see all different kinds, like fu-manchus," he said. The more ridiculous it looks, the better, according to Tony Timbers, an instructor at the US Naval Academy who had been wondering why so many of his students were growing facial hair.
"I look so terrible with a mustache that it's painful to look at," he said. "That's the best part of it, though, especially if it's for a good cause." You can make a donation to the Movember Foundation in Singer's name or simply in general at the foundations' WEBSITE.