Fan-tache-stic: Why business loves Movember
A technician applies a mustache to the wax figure of David Cameron at Madame Tussauds Museum in London
Andrew Cowie | AFP | Getty Images
Scary sightings are usually preserved for the last day of October, yet in London's Square Mile — and across the world — an even more chilling sight will greet people at the end of November: a sea of men in unkempt mustaches.
For nearly a decade, “Movember” has seen men grow a mustache for 30 days to raise awareness and money for men's health, namely prostate cancer, testicular cancer and men's mental health.
In 2004, in its first fundraising year in Australia, 450 participants raised 43,000 Australian dollars ($40,900). In 2012, 21 countries participated, with 1.1 million people raising £92 million ($147.5 million).
It has been a phenomenal rise for a fundraising model that initially started as a joke among friends in Melbourne in 2003.
(Read more: America's most mustache-friendly cities)
“They were in a bar and kind of musing on what was currently in fashion when they were served by a girl wearing a Ramones t-shirt, tight jeans and Vans,” Jon Sim, the corporate community manager at Movember told CNBC.
“They said, 'How come everyone's wearing that now? We've been wearing it for years!' So they started to muse on what would never come back into fashion, started laughing about cricketing heroes with mustaches, and dared each other to grow one.”
It was only when they later saw how many men were dying from prostate cancer that they decided for the following year they would grow their mustaches for charity.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, prostate cancer is the sixth most common cause of cancer death in men worldwide and was estimated to be responsible for almost 258,000 deaths in 2008. In the U.K. in 2010, 10,700 men died from prostate cancer, roughly 29 every day, according to Cancer Research U.K.
Movember's connection between the male-only art of growing a tache and men's health charities has been successful in putting the fun into fundraising, especially when men would rather not run a marathon to raise money for a good cause.
(Read more: Why the wealthy don't give more to charity)
“Absolutely,” Sim said. “It's a lazy man's charity: get online, grow your “mo” and have some fun with your mates.”
People in The City of London, the heart of the U.K's financial services sector, have been particularly enamoured with the event, no doubt pleased to raise money without having to take time away from their desks.
Movember's official birth year, 2004, was also the year in which first came online, and Sim argues that this has been crucial to expanding awareness.
“I think it's grown in parallel with social media,” he said. “I might be wrong with the phraseology when talking about charity, but I think there has been a gap in the market for a men's health charity to tap into men's health in the same way that the Pink Ribbon movement did for female cancer.”
Homeland actor Damian Lewis during Movember 2012
Corporates and celebrities
Celebrities and companies have jumped on the Movember bandwagon. Byron Burger, an upmarket hamburger chain in the U.K., produces a different burger every November to support the cause and contributed over £120,000 ($192,000). TOMS shoes and Gilette are also Movember partners.
The Formula 1 driver Mark Webber and an assortment of U.S. football players are set to take part this year, with Homeland actor Damian Lewis being one of a number of celebrities to take part in former years.
This year in the U.S., Nick Offerman, who plays Ron Swanson in NBC's Parks and Recreation, has teamed up once more with Movember to produce a video for the campaign, “Great Moments in Mustache History.” In 2011, 209,342 people participated in Movember in the U.S., raising nearly $21 million.
Some have been critical of the growth of Movember, arguing that either growing a mustache is far too lazy a way of raising money for charity, or that the spectacle has meant most men participate just for the fun, without any awareness of the charities involved.
“It's a way of engaging blokes; it's a way of creating some fun,” Sim responded, arguing that Movember has provided key sums to cancer research.
“We're currently funding ground-breaking research into prostate cancer and doing more practical projects with Prostate U.K. and Cancer U.K.
, anything from community hubs where people can get psycho-sexual counselling to employing dedicated prostate cancer nurses.”
(Read more: Rich, forget charity, start businesses: McNealy
A man receives a clean shave ahead of Movember
Some people definitely do fall into Movember without an awareness of what it is about, but that can quickly change.
Nick Dart, who works at Deutsche Bank, told CNBC that he had grown a mustache last year just for a bit of fun and did not raise any money. “Now, I'm taking it seriously because it's a really important cause, and I think it's quite fun to take it really seriously and go head-strong into it,” he said.
Dart's colleague, Richard Fox, concurred. “A couple of guys in my team are doing it this year so they kind of roped me in,” he said. “Originally we started out doing it as a bit of fun, and then we read into and realized it's raising money for a good cause.”
This year, a large number of financial firms will once again get involved in Movember. Last year, roughly £300,000 ($481,000) was raised through the Square Mile financial challenge that pitted firms against one another in a race to raise the most cash. Accountancy and law firms have also enthusiastically been involved with Movember. So what's the allure?
“I think particularly in the City, people a dress-down Friday, and this is just almost a dress-up month where people can let loose a little bit” Sim proffered. “I think it taps into a bit of an innate eccentricity in Brits, particularly in guys who are dressed up in suits in the City. It's a chance to cut loose a little bit.”
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How to Do Movember Right 2020 – Movember Explained
Phil DentGetty Images
A few years back, Movember (or some variation of a scruffy theme-month) was on the unshaven lips of every cool guy who wanted to turn growing his facial hair into a movement. Granted, sometimes that conversation got a little conflated.
No one was quite sure if they were doing Movember, No Shave November, or just growing out an unironic neck beard and calling it activism. The reality of it is, Movember is its own separate thing, with its own separate rules, and it is activism.
(That also means that if you have a neck beard, it’s still super gross.)
But in recent years, Movember has felt a bit more quiet. Is he okay? Is he on vacation? Has he shaved recently? For every question, there is an answer, so we searched him—this anthropomorphized month of activism—out and found all the answers you could ever have about Movember.
So, I Actually Haven’t Heard of This.
That’s fine. Movember was started in Australia in 2003. As men are wont to do, a group of guys sat around and talked about their ability to grow a mustache. Interested in bringing it back, a group of 30 guys (known as mo’ bros) set off on a journey to grow hair on their upper lip.
The next year, they decided to leverage their hairy conversation pieces for good. The first year, 480 participants helped raise almost $50,000 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA).
Over the next 15 years, Movember moved across the ocean and is now a global event, raising massive amounts of money for men’s health causes, ranging from testicular cancer to mental health.
Why Can’t I Just Grow a Beard?
Dammit, listen to me: It’s Movember. Because Australians and the British love extra vowels, the Mo in Movember comes from “moustache.” Yes, sure, you can grow a full beard, but that’s No Shave November (or just, you know, growing a beard).
It’s not Movember, because there is something strangely polarizing about a mustache. The whole premise behind it is to be noticed and start a conversation about men’s health that wasn’t happening before. Long story short, you can grow a beard, but it’s not technically Movember.
Movember is mustache only, y’all.
What Are the Rules?
The official Movember website lists only five rules. Simplified, they include registering at movember.com and starting the month with a clean face.
From there, you must grow and groom only a mustache and use it as a conversation starter to talk about men’s health and raise donations. Also, every participant must “conduct himself a true gentleman.
” That feels a really solid addition there at the end because I think we’ve all known a guy with a mustache who was certainly not a gentleman. Changing the narrative!
What About the End of the Month?
Then you’re free to live your truth—shave it, don’t shave it, use it as a jumping point to start a full beard. Your face is your palette. Be the facial hair artist you were meant to be.
Here are a couple things to help out on that front: