Behind beards

Bearded folk imbue their hair with meaning

Illustration by Melanee Tessler

Being bold and creative with one’s facial hair as more than a fashion statement is a growing trend in Winnipeg.

“Our beards bring people together,” Manitoba Facial Hair Club (MFHC) Danyel Huberdeau says. His beard has led him to many organizations and clubs.

The now-familiar Movember is one group facial hair lovers might be drawn to. It’s a global organization that encourages men to grow mustaches in November as a way to raise money and awareness about men’s health.

New to the facial hair scene is Justache October, which is raising funds and awareness for victims of exploitation and slavery. Campaigners do this by styling their facial locks into muttonchops, a moustache or the eye-catching half beard.

The bearded folk of MFHC are also dreaming up more ways to contribute through their man-manes.

“(Facial hair) led me down this strange path to forming a facial hair club,” president of MFHC, Warren Lillie, says. His club raises thousands of dollars a year for various charities.

Facial hair can be a tool for social campaigns because of its shock factor, says Justache October founder Jason Friesen.

“They don’t know what hit them,” Friesen says, responding to reactions to unusual facial hairstyles. For the month of October, Friesen sported half a beard.

“The moustache is an authentic thing for us,” Tyler Small, Movember campus lead and community engagement manager, says. “It’s our ribbon or our badge.”

Small talks about the growth of a community where men, who are brought together through sporting a moustache, show they are comfortable talking about their physical and mental health.

People are sharing their personal stories that before would have remained silent, Small says.

“It’s a catalyst for conversation,” Small says. “People are dipping their toes into fundraising who never would have before.”

Outreach is important for these campaigns but the influential power of facial hair is that it actually draws beard-bearers to these types of causes as well.

“It gives an opportunity for people to not feel threatened,” Friesen says. “I hope anyone who has a half beard is approachable or else it’s just weird.“

He also emphasizes how his campaign is shattering traditional stereotypes about facial hair.

“(We’ve) bit into the myth that a beard equals a man, but that’s not the case,” Friesen says.

Just the fact that they’re using their facial hair for a good cause challenges that idea.

“We believe that a guy’s manliness is not dependent on the fullness of his beard but on the fullness of his character. That’s the heart of it,” Friesen says.

Friesen says everyone has different gifts. Facial hair is his.

“Whatever gift you’ve got, run with it,” he says.

Published in Volume 70, Number 10 of The Uniter (November 12, 2015)

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