On Saturday morning I had a shave and, as usual, I ended by trimming my sideburns. Nothing new there yet for the rest of November I will forgo my upper lip and grow a moustache. I will not be alone, over four million across 21 countries have participated in Movember and this will be my third time, the first since returning to the UK.
The rules are pretty simple –
1. Start clean shaven on November 1st
2. Grow and groom a moustache for the entire month
3. Don’t fake it. No beards and no fake moustaches
4. Use the moustache to spark a conversation of men’s health
5. Conduct yourself like a true gentleman
Movember has steadily grown in popularity since 2003 and has raised over £345 million towards improving men’s health. It should not come as much of a surprise to know that the movement has its origin in hipster heavy Melbourne. In fact, the co-founders; Justin Coghlan, Travis Garone, Luke Slattery and CEO Adam Garone are all Melbournites.
Having lived in the city for a year I know full well how commonplace moustaches are in Victoria’s capital. You can walk through Brunswick or down uber-trendy Chapel Street during any other time of the year and you will see lads my age sporting facial fuzz. To that extent, growing a moustache while in Melbourne, and Australia in general, is not that daunting so now I am back in Blighty there is a worry as to what I may endure going through November.
You see, the main point of Movember is not to just raise money for men’s health but to raise awareness. As women check their breasts for lumps, men should check their balls. It is that simple yet to try and get men (especially Poms) to chat about prostate or testicular cancer and you can expect a few dropped heads and shuffled feet. Perhaps this is due to masculinity yet part of overcoming that is, as an Australian would say, “sucking it up”.
The ability to talk up is probably one of the reasons why Movember has been so successful down under. If an Australian has a problem, more often than not they will open up and confront it. Simply getting an issue into the open can go a long way to helping solve it which is a trait I have a lot of respect for. I won’t lie, having returned to Blighty I really miss that aspect of Australia where you could say something and not worry about it being taken the wrong way. There was little, if any, shirking.
Pride plays a part in all this and there is no shying away from it, for a significant proportion of men in this country growing a moustache is seen as a challenge. Beards are still en vogue yet there is a sense that a man can hide behind the beehive-esque growth on his face. Moustaches are now considered a bit camp, a little silly and thus far more daring. Think of the moustache and you think of Tom Selleck in Magnum PI, the Village People and Borat. They simply cannot be taken seriously and part of me is actively hoping for someone to look up, stare then giggle at the pathetic wisps of hair on my upper lip. Do it, I dare you.
From what I have seen so far there simply is not the clamour for Movember here as there was in Australia. Let me give you some background. Just a few weeks after arriving I had begun working for Rabobank in Sydney in October 2011. I had considered doing Movember yet needed convincing so was pleased to find a makeshift Movember board had been set up to track the progress of the entire Key Acquisitions team of which I was a part of. Around five more from around the office took part and there was a sense of safety in numbers. Photos would be pinned up every week and you could vote for your favourite MoBro then donate. I could walk around the city knowing full well that I could bump into a MoBro and feel proud that I was part of such a good cause.
Here it is markedly different. This is the first week of Movember and few in my office have heard of Movember, let alone decided to participate. Among my friends I am the only one bothering which kinda frightens me. I wonder if this is a generational thing, that for Poms my age the thought of growing a moustache is seen as far too uncouth.
One of the things that I have noticed since returning is how style-conscious lads have become here. As if blinded by fashion, I can walk down the street and see the same skinny jeans, anorak and douchebag swept haircut countless times. At least in Australia the men dared to look different, which largely meant scouring the racks in thrift shops and vintage stores. They were confident enough to pass on labels and cultivate an individual style which made Movember seem so easy to them and why I am worried about standing out next month.
Movember might not be as well known here yet that is improving. The Football League has introduced a Movember ball for the month and several celebrities have created awareness themselves. The likes of Stephen Fry, Ricky Gervais, Clive Owen and Damian Lewis have all participated. Like me, perhaps they will all look ridiculous too but at least it is for a good cause.