Moustaches are funny little things: living atop a man’s upper lip with pride and adored by, amongst other diverse groups, teenage and tween-age girls: but utterly unwelcome if spotted sneaking onto the female topmost lip! For much of the 20th century moustaches were a sign of the ‘bad guy’, especially in movies and television shows, a useful way to tell right from wrong (and perhaps a very easy way to show repentance, simply remove facial hair and voila: good guy!). However, this easy categorisation (moustache = bad) did not survive into the twenty-first century, helped by a group of seven young Australian men who, in 1999, decided to not shave and instead grew out their whiskers for the entire month of November. They did this in order to raise funds for an animal welfare organisation deeming it to be ‘growing whiskers for whiskers’. This first incarnation of Movember attracted participation from around 80 men living in and around Adelaide.
The moustache - a worldwide phenomenon
In 2004 Movember resurfaced again, this time as an encouragement to men to be aware of prostate cancer (and depression), to check themselves regularly and to go and see a doctor in the event that any untoward should be happening in that area. This group aimed to have a modest 30 men growing their moustaches for the thirty days of the month, and it was based in Melbourne. This group grew into the world-wide phenomenon known as the Movember Foundation, which is now a registered charity with a primary focus on men’s health.
Wear it with pride
No-one can say for sure why Movember has taken off so hugely, but it must surely be, at least partly, because the ability to grow a thick moustache is seen as being a very manly trait! While there are many who proudly wear pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness, there has long been a tendency for men to downplay their health, often ignoring issues and symptoms until they simply cannot be ignored any more: which is often a recipe for disaster with diseases like cancer which must be picked up promptly and appropriately treated in order to prevent them from spreading or becoming inoperable. No matter why it has become popular, the fact remains that it is very popular indeed, with sportsmen, including entire rugby teams, television presenters, Formula 1 drivers and, in fact, men from all walks of life who enthusiastically abandon their razors for the month of November. Perhaps, just the idea of not shaving or of seeing friends and colleagues sprouting sturdy facial adornment, will be enough to encourage someone, undecided about seeking help, to make that doctor’s appointment and seek peace of mind…
Long live the moustache
Since those early days, a mere decade ago – that’s just ten months’ worth of ‘stache-growing! – Movember and moustaches in general have captured the public’s imagination. Moustache growing contests, formerly the province of slightly weird old chaps, are attracting ever younger and better-looking contestants: moustaches can be found on everything from wrapping paper, to stationery, to t-shirts and even the winner of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest, Conchita Wurst, was rocking a rather fine growth of facial hair along with ‘her’ sparkly dress and immaculately applied eye-liner!