Hair. When it comes to cancer, most people think of losing it. Since 2003, the non-profit Movember Foundation has subverted this negative association by encouraging men to grow out their moustaches in November to “change the face of men’s health.” An acknowledged half-joke, Movember (a portmanteau of “moustache” and “November”) has had a serious impact: In 2009 alone, it raised $42 million for the Prostate Cancer Foundation, LIVESTRONG, and other organizations fighting the good fight against cancer around the world.
To learn more about how something as questionably debonair as a moustache can help cure cancer, I talked to Brian Williams, head of Movember’s Miami chapter.
Why the moustache?
BRIAN WILLIAMS: The idea is that the moustache will become to prostate and testicular cancers what the pink ribbon is to breast cancer. The whole idea of “changing the face of men’s health” — you’re doing that by growing the moustache. Prostate cancer affects one in three men in the United States, and testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer for men 15 to 35, I believe. So it’s something that I think has been overlooked, and what better way to draw attention to men’s health than by sporting sweet moustaches?
The moustache, and facial hair in general, is something of a hipster fetish. Are you trying to draw their support?
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Yes, it has been an emblem of the hipster movement, but when you get people who have been clean-shaven their entire lives to grow a moustache, it gives it a little more effect. And that’s the whole point — raising awareness and donations. The statistics are shocking. And people are shocked when they see the stash on people who’ve never had it, and I think they are able to spread the message more effectively.
How do you turn growing a moustache into raising money to fight cancer?
BRIAN WILLIAMS: There’s a number of different ways to get involved. What I do is put a team together. I get guys who are going to grow out their moustache, and then each of them has the responsibility to learn the stats, spread the word, and basically hit up friends and family for donations. You’re not sponsoring someone to run a marathon or do a triathlon. You’re sponsoring someone to grow out their moustache and in the process legitimizing the moustache by also raising awareness.
Say you’re female, or prepubescent, or me, and you can’t grow a moustache to speak of. How can these poor people take part in Movember?
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Well, first of all, when you see a moustachioed man, tell him that he looks pretty dignified and awesome. But we are working on ways to get more groups involved. One way is we are having girls register with the team as a sign of support. Many girls have fathers who have been impacted by this disease. And girls come up with creative ways to get involved. Some girls have drawn little moustaches on their fingers and when they go out, they’ll put the fake moustache up to their lips and take pictures. Moral support goes a long way, especially when you have girlfriend or a wife. When you come home moustachioed — you’re only going to do that if it’s looked upon favorably by your significant other.
Movember started on Nov. 1 and lasts the whole month. Is it too late to get involved?
BRIAN WILLIAMS: No, we’re still signing people up. The rules are that you start clean-shaven Nov. 1, but the point is you’re going for the effect. People are going to recognize the moustache. They’re going to come up and question you about why you’re doing that. So if you had full beard that you turn into a moustache, that’s fine considering the end result.
Have you raised any money so far?
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Last year we raised $3300. This year we’ve raised a little over $1,000. Our goal is to raise $10,000. It’s kind of a significant increase, but we have about 25 members on the team, so we think we’ll be able to get there.
The Movember website advertises gala parties and events. What events are coming up in Miami?
BRIAN WILLIAMS: [Movember] is really pretty nascent here in Miami. We’re still trying to put together some events. They’ll come at the end of Movember, a happy hour or something like that where we can get all the moustachioed men in one room. That’s in the process, and I’m hoping by early next week to have an End of Movember party organized.
Check out the promo video for Movember’s U.S. campaign. To join the Miami chapter, click HERE.