As we look back on October and the buzz of Halloween, bonfire night, and one of the most controversial presidential elections in recent history which have left us in a near-frenzied state of excitement – another event that keeps us ticking until the Christmas markets open is, of course, Movember.
The idea for Movember had its foundations laid in a bar in Melbourne, Australia in 2003. Two friends, Travis Garone and Luke Slattery, dismayed at the near-complete loss of the moustache to current bearding trends, decided to get an event going. They managed to get 30 ‘Mo Bros’ on board for the challenge to grow a moustache in the month of November.
However, the power of the fuzz didn’t stop there: inspired by the conversational dynamite that the event triggered, the group decided to make something worthwhile of it in 2004, and lo and behold the Movember Foundation was born. In the 13 years since it started, there have been 5,232,625 Mo Bros and Mo Sistas, £443 million raised since 2003 and 1,200 men’s health projects funded – a great victory for men’s health awareness.
So as men ditch the razor in favour of the clippers, a question comes to mind: is it really true that prior to the 21st century nobody had ever put two and two together and realised the possibilities of a pun as opportunistic as ‘Movember’?
Well, as it turns out, there is a prequel to the Movember saga dating back more than a hundred years – and it has everything to do with what we’re all talking about right now: the presidential election. In the late 19th century, in anticipation of their first ever opportunity to vote, the so-called ‘twenty-onesters’ would grow out their facial foliage to prove that they had reached manhood, and to boast of their right to vote.
At the time, travelling to polling stations often took so long that it was treated as quite the holiday, during which these young men would go all-out to celebrate their coming of age and the privileges that came with it – growing out the most fantastical facial hair they could. Dressed in their best, they would often take this as their first opportunity to go out and get drunk.
However, Jon Grinspan argues in his book The Virgin Vote: How Young Americans Made Democracy Social, Politics Personal, and Voting Popular in the Nineteenth Century that there was a seedier macho culture hiding behind all this camaraderie. He explains how it served as a reminder that “this is a world where not everyone gets to vote”; that by growing out a moustache, the men were “saying to his sister or mother or African Americans, ‘I’m a citizen you’re not’ — separating people who were considered full citizens and people denied that right.”
Of course it is true that whenever it gets a few weeks in, there can be some friendly rivalry between Mo Bros as they strive for the most impressive moustache – but thankfully nothing on this scale, and this can of course be forgiven when it is all in the name of such an important cause. Even the law is getting involved, as Manhattan Beach Police take to wearing moustaches on their badges and moustache pins in support of the cause – never was ‘The Fuzz’ a more appropriate analogy.
Truly, the international unity that Movember can create is monumental – but there’s still ample chance for those who, for whatever reason, cannot grow a Mo. ‘The Move challenge’ offers everyone the opportunity to get involved, to get active for the cause in whatever way appeals best to them.
However, now that there is such an abundance of Mo maintenance advice out there (fashionbeans.com offering a particularly handy guide), that there’s really no excuse for those who can to not start growing out some epic whiskers in the name of charity – because, ultimately, when else will you get the chance to see how you could have looked if you’d joined a Harley biker gang?
Image Credit: Lucie Marie