Columns, Opinion

EGAN: Happy Movember

When I was in high school, I hated January — or as the boys called it, “Manuary.” This was a month characterized by a pact that boys signed, in blood (ew), wherein all hygienic upkeep was banned. No shaving, no changing of socks or underwear, no use of shampoo or soap and teeth brushing was something that could only happen once a day.

This was a school-wide phenomenon and led to divisions in classrooms — the girls on one side grimacing, boys on the other reveling in their “man musk.” While not everyone is familiar with the boarding school lore that is “Manuary,” most college students are aware of No Shave November or more formally “Movember.”

While a good portion of college guys are participating in Movember, it seems few are aware of its origins.

Movember was birthed in an Australian bar. In 2003 Adam Garone and his brother were having a few beers and discussing ‘70s fashion — how everything seems to make a comeback. By the end of the night they had challenged themselves to bring back the mustache.

In Australia, “mo” is slang for mustache, so they renamed the month of November “Movember” and created a few rules. The month must be started clean-shaven, rock a mustache —not a beard or goatee but a mustache, for the 30 days of November. At the end of the month they agreed to come together and have a mustache-themed party with a prize for the best and the worst mustaches.

Thirty guys started on to pioneer what would later be a global mustache movement, but the going was rough. Growing a mustache in 2003 (before the ironic hipster mustache movement) garnered a lot of controversy. Garone’s boss wouldn’t let him meet with clients, his girlfriend hated it and parents would shuffle their kids away from him.

Yet, when the guys met at the end of the month to celebrate their journey, they still came to the conclusion that this should be an annual event. The problem then became how to legitimize it.

Inspired by the women around them and their efforts for breast cancer, the guys turned to men’s health. They discovered prostate cancer to be the male equivalent to breast cancer in terms of the number of men that die from it and are diagnosed with it. Yet, there was nothing for this cause. Garone created the tag line, “Changing the face of men’s health,” and began a cause to link the growing of a mustache with prostate cancer awareness. He began by calling the CEO of the Australian Prostate Cancer Foundation and asking that they meet for coffee. He explained his vision to get men all across Australia to grow mustaches, raising awareness for the cause and funds for the organization. He explained that he needed a partnership to legitimately do that.

He was turned down. Undiscouraged, Garone recruited 450 guys to grow mustaches in 2004. Together they raised $54,000, which they donated in its entirety to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, representing the single largest donation ever received.

By 2006 the campaign reached a pivotal point. It had become so large and consumed so much of the founder’s time that they either needed to close it down or figure out a way to fund it.

Figuring out a way to fund a fundraising organization build off growing mustaches proved challenging. Not many people were interested in investing, but eventually Foster’s Brewing gave the organization its first ever sponsorship.

They took some of the money raised in Australia in order to bring the campaign to Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. By 2010 “Movember” became a global movement, with 450,000 “Mo Bros,” spread across the word and $77 million raised collectively. All this through the clever use of mustaches.

“Movember,” funds prostate cancer foundations in 13 countries. They literally fund hundreds, if not thousands, of institutions and researchers around the world.

The Mo Bros took their cause farther, looking into the research efforts of the foundations they sponsored. When they looked at these institutions they found a lack of collaboration within the institutions, nationally and globally. This issue is not unique to prostate cancer. This is cancer research the world over. So the Mo Bros decided they needed to redefine the way these institutions operated.

They took 10 percent of the funds raised in each country and place it in a global fund to be managed by some of the best prostate cancer researchers in the world. Every year the institutions come together and identify their number one priority and work from there. You can thank the Mo Bros for the wide spread use of prostate cancer screens now implemented in clinics across America.

From a female perspective, mustaches alone are kind of gross, especially the half-grown kind. But midway through Movember, it’s a necessary evil, and it’ll fill out soon. Think of what an awesome cause has become your excuse to indulge in what seems to be a gender-wide fascination with mustaches.


Arielle Egan is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences and a Fall 2012 columnist for The Daily Free Press. She can be reached at [email protected].

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