You look around and wonder if the world seems a little more bearded lately. Does that guy actually think that thing looks good? How does he eat with that bush on his face? No, it’s not your imagination. A quick glance at the calendar will show that it is Movember, the month formerly known as November, now also called Novembeard, or No Shave November. Yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, where razors rust and the hair they once pruned grows long, coarse, and wiry. How exactly did this ridiculous annual ritual begin, and why do so many take part in it?
Unbeknownst to many, the event began in 1999 as a way to spread awareness of men’s health issues, especially prostate cancer. A group of young men conceived the idea in a pub in Adelaide, the Australian capital. Their idea was to grow moustaches for charity for the month of November and so “Movember” was born, which is a portmanteau of the words “mo” (Australian slang for moustache) and “November.”
The official Movember rules are actually fairly strict. Participants, called “mo bros,” must begin the month completely clean-shaven, and may only grow moustaches. Women are technically allowed to participate but only by helping to spread awareness, organize events, and collect money.
If you haven’t been following the rules, don’t worry: No Shave November is a related event that promotes the same causes, but broadens the field and is a little more relaxed. The only two rules are “No shaving in November” and “NO shaving in November.” Beards and sideburns are allowed, as well as the ladies. That’s right girls: Feel free to let your legs, pits, and anywhere else more closely resemble Chewbacca.
“The biggest risk to boys’ and men’s health is our social sense of masculinity,” said Jason Allen, who is chair of gender, women, and sexuality studies, and is a professor in the school of nursing at UW. He went on to describe how, culturally, men are expected to be independent and solve their own problems. This can lead them to make poor choices including reckless sexual behavior and choosing to not visit a doctor for health concerns.
No Shave November and related events attempt to counter those cultural expectations. There is certain brilliance to using facial hair as a means of spreading awareness of men’s health issues. Because only men can grow it, facial hair is a near-universal sign of masculinity. By associating that masculine symbol with men’s health, the cultural pressure is reversed, as if to say, “Being a man is properly maintaining your health.”
Though both events originated as charitable causes, many, even those who participate, are unaware of this objective. Why do these people participate in this event? “Shaving isn’t really a fun thing for most people” Allen said, postulating that a large part of it is the excuse to change things up. “It becomes socially approved and an ‘in’ thing to do,” he added.
UW freshman Cooper Mellema, with the help of his RA, organized a floor competition for the residents of Lander floor 8. “It’s just a fun thing to do — or to not do,” he said. No Shave November gives guys an opportunity to be competitive by doing even less than they normally would. The Lander competition has several categories: Sasquatch (best beard), Best Neard (best neck beard), Nasty Stache (ugliest facial hair), and for the ladies, Leg Warmers (most leg hair), and Au Naturelle (most armpit hair). Around 10 guys on the floor are taking part. “I know at least one girl is doing it, but I think she’s only doing leg hair,” said Mellema.
In some cases, people think of No Shave November as a safe time to experiment with their facial hair without fear seeming like they are unkempt. “I wanted to see if I could grow a moustache” said UW junior Conor Roberts, sporting a respectable set of whiskers.
UW Junior Adrienne Barber, who is currently dating Roberts, was initially dubious about Robert’s participation in the event.
“I generally like guys clean shaven,” she said. “At first, I was really not happy about it. I was trying to convince him not to do it.”
But Barber admitted that after several days of growth, she had come to like the effect the hair had on his appearance.
“Sometimes people surprise you,” she said. “Sometimes guys can look good with facial hair, so there’s potential there.”
“I definitely look older and more mature,” Roberts said, although he conceded that he had no plans to change the way he keeps his scruff in the future. “It’s really annoying to touch. I am going completely clean shaven again December 1st.”
Roberts says when he is done he wants to give himself a few ridiculous shaves before removing it all. “I am going to give myself that Civil War shave where the mutton chops go into the moustache, but there isn’t really any beard.”
No Shave November is a great event for both those who wish to have a little fun with their facial hair, and those who are passionate about men’s health. Part of what makes the event enjoyable is the fact that people can know who participates just by looking. The nature of the event lends itself to pleasant surprises, and it only gets better as the month goes on and the hair grows out.
The charitable aspect of it desperately needs to be publicized. Many people participate just for fun, and finding out that it is also for a good cause would be a pleasant surprise for them. That said, the event has come a long way since 1999, and will most likely continue to grow on us all.