You’ve probably seen them around. They’ve colonized your boyfriends’, your brothers’ and your fathers’ faces. They’re ridiculous and they’re for a good cause. They’re moustaches, and pretty soon they’ll all be gone.
Movember is at once a month-long facial hair festival and a marvel of modern public health marketing. Started in Australia in 2003 as a way to raise awareness and money for prostate cancer research, Movember truly became an international phenomenon in 2007, the year that it became an official entity in Canada and quickly started to expand.
But the moustache was already here. Local band SitDownTracy hosts an annual moustache party, and as bassist Aaron Zeghers recalls it, the band had already recognized the social allure and the marketing potential behind the ‘stache before its members had even heard of Movember.
“We just had this moustache party because we thought it would be fun and funny and a unique way to get people out,” Zeghers says. “It was in November of that year (2009) that was the first time that we heard about Movember being an actual thing.”
Ahead of the curve as they were, SitDownTracy realized that they could continue to capitalize on moustaches while also contributing to a cause that supports men’s health.
“So we decided to do another moustache party just six months after we did the first one,” says Zeghers.
So SitDownTracy signed up with the Canadian Movember Foundation and set up an official Movember event. The foundation sent them some promotion resources and prizes to give away at the party and a Winnipeg institution was born.
Now in its third year, SitDownTracy’s annual Movember show is proof that moustaches work to bring people together.
But the statistics also prove that moustaches are money magnets. In 2009, Movember Canada raised $7.8 million and by 2010 the total global funds raised since 2003 were nearly equivalent to $75 million in Canadian currency.
It’s fascinating to see such big numbers, but what it all comes down to is the upper lip of each man that participates. Zeghers relishes in the preparation and the execution.
“I had the goatee going on and the moustache combo,” Zeghers says of his pre-Movember facial hair. “Kind of Spanish inquisition-style.”
While the official rules dictate that all participants (known as Mo Bros) should begin the month with completely shaved faces, Zeghers wants to get the most acute humiliation out of Movember that he can.
“My personal feeling on the subject is that it is more embarrassing to have a full grown moustache for the entire month instead of starting from the ground up,” he says.
So with the arrival of November the goatee departed and the campaign began. Each of the four guys in SitDownTracy also register separately so that they can raise pledges for their moustaches.
But besides the charity aspect of Movember, Zeghers says it also provides an opportunity for the moustache-shy to give it a go.
“Doing it for Movember is a good excuse for people to try a moustache for a month and then shave it off and not have to be totally embarrassed or self-conscious,” Zeghers says.
The two-pronged awareness and fundraising approach that Movember takes towards men’s health means that even those people who aren’t taking pledges can be part of the movement.
“I think awareness is just as important as the fund raising,” says Aaron Frost, a teaching assistant in the Theatre and Film Department at the University of Winnipeg.
“I think if I can still grow a moustache people see that and assume that I’m taking part,” says Frost, who is not actively raising money. “I think if you look like you’re taking part that’s half the battle.”
“Hopefully the idea that people get is that its perfectly normal to go out and get a finger up the bum,” says Frost, who admits that Movember has reminded him that he needs to get his prostate checked.
With the stellar combination of hilarious fashion choices and the positive message that is Movember, it’s not surprising that the naysayers are few and far between.
“Some of the girls aren’t huge fans of moustaches,” says Frost. “But I think everyone takes it with a pretty light heart.”
Alexandra Winters, whose boyfriend Neil is a registered Mo Bro, completely supports his decision to grow a ‘stache.
“Once people understand the cause, I think that’s important,” she says.
“I feel like breast cancer has a lot more awareness surrounding it than other forms of cancer,” she says. “It’s good that whoever had this idea pushed it and that it’s catching on.
“Considering all the awkward things that girls do with their faces, a moustache is pretty innocuous for a man,” Winters says.
SitDownTracy’s Third Annual Moustache Party, hosted by The Real Santiago & Dunbar, is at the Pyramid Cabaret (176 Fort St.) on Thursday, Nov. 24. The Bokononists and DJ Rob Vilar will also perform. Admission is $10 at the door. Prizes will be awarded for best male and female moustache.
Published in Volume 66, Number 13 of The Uniter (November 23, 2011)