Every November, beards grow longer as the days grow shorter. No Shave November is a show of support and a way to raise awareness about men’s health issues.
Though an annual phenomenon, No Shave November can still be considered a trend. Some people partake in the seasonal activity while others do not. In high school, I just assumed No Shave November was an alliterative gimmick invented by lazy older guys whose facial hair actually grew in full patterns rather than patches.
This year was the first November that I learned of Movember’s true purpose. In an effort to raise awareness about prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health, men all around the world grow out their mustaches and facial hair. The connection to cancer awareness is that patients often lose hair during cancer treatment and by embracing facial hair, participants in the monthlong movement are displaying an outward show of support.
Recently, various online organizations have popped up to take advantage of the social media front as a means of gaining awareness for No Shave November’s causes. The aptly called No-ShaveNovember.com, one such web-based organization that facilitates donations to the American Cancer Society, eloquently summarizes the concept behind the monthlong movement: “The goal of No-Shave November is to grow awareness by embracing our hair, which many cancer patients lose, and letting it grow wild and free. Donate the money you usually spend on shaving and grooming for a month to educate about cancer prevention, save lives, and aid those fighting the battle.”
Movember.com is another organization that employs social media to promote men’s health awareness during November. Men, as Mo Bros, and women, as Mo Sistas, are equally encouraged by Movember.com to participate by registering, submitting photos and donating.
Each website encourages its registrants to spread the word about Movember and form teams to inspire others to donate to the cause as well. Bar graphs found on Movember.com show that there is a steady upward trend of participants registering and letting their hair grow wild and wooly over long periods of time.
Girls are certainly not excluded from participating in the mustache merriment. For the die-hards out there, leg shaving can be taken off the morning agenda and waxing appointments can be skipped.An extra tuft of armpit hair is also an option to show your facial-hair spirit. More realistically, Mo Sistas can participate by adding mustaches to their profile photo in solidarity with their Mo Bros.
Regardless of the ability to grow facial hair, everyone can donate. No Shave November is a 30-day period dedicated to sparking conversations and inspiring others to give back to worthy causes that do not always receive attention. According to Movember.com, more than 3 million participants have raised $446 million for the cause. Last year, 209,000 men and women in the United States participated in Movember to raise more than $21 million.
The history behind No Shave November is legendary. Not necessarily in the epic sense of the word, but in the way that the movement’s history is shrouded in mystery and hearsay. One Internet source claimed that Movember originated among the followers of Plato, the classical Athenian philosopher who supposedly encouraged his students to imitate their elders by growing beards. A quick perusal of Plato’s Republic proved this to be false. Yet, in retrospect, I should have realized this claim was untrue since ancient Greece idealized the smooth, chiseled physiques of young men. Nobody’s perfect — or historically literate.
This brings up a present-day expectation that deserves questioning. Philanthropic reasons aside, why are men only encouraged to grow out their facial hair during a single, measly month of the year? Instead, male underwear models are waxed as if they were trying out for the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated. Probably this is just so their washboards abs are more easily admired. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about that.
Admittedly, we no longer live in the free love era of the ’60s and ’70s, a simpler time when body hair was hailed as a masculine ideal. Once the ’80s rolled around and metrosexuality gained speed among the mainstream population, manscaping attracted more followers and brought back the classical practice of men holding onto their youthful appearance for as long as possible. That Adonis image, in which a man’s cheekbones and chest are laid bare to the elements, definitely persists today.
On the other hand, attractive men with facial hair do exist, despite the representations that abound in popular culture and mass media. Take Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of comic book antihero Wolverine in the X-Men series of films. That feral fighter would be nowhere without his grizzly jaw and abundant chest hair. For the retro lovers out there, Tom Selleck is a great example of the sexy ’stache. His mustache is an icon arguably even more so than the man himself. And who could forget President Lincoln? There’s a reason he’s known as Abe the Babe.
There are also certain benefits to letting your facial hair grow out that sometimes go unappreciated outside of November. Not setting aside time to shave in the morning means more time for sleeping in or actually having a chance to eat breakfast before work or class. Taking a break from shaving is also helpful for improving skin health, especially for those with sensitive skin. I would know, since sometimes after a morning shave it looks as if I’ve escaped a nasty West Side Story knife fight.
Whether you prefer to be clean-shaven or mustachioed, or even if you prefer your partner to be smooth or hairy, No Shave November is inspired by a great cause. Participate however you can, even if it means drawing a Sharpie mustache on your finger for an entire month.
Nick Cimarusti is a senior majoring in English and Spanish. His column “#trending” runs Wednesdays.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickCimarusti