Is Movember Stigmatizing Mustaches?

There’s nothing wrong with charity, just don’t make a look we love into a punchline.
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There’s nothing wrong with charity, just don’t make a look we love into a punchline.
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Movember started with the best of intentions as an extremely Australian clarion call for vigilance on men’s health issues, specifically prostate cancer, which claims 30,000 lives a year. The movement started in 1999 and caught on quickly for one obvious reason: Every man, on some fundamental level, wants to see what he looks like with mustache. Thanks to the charitable endeavor, most men (the ones who work in offices where group emails urge young execs to take the “challenge") probably have. That’s both very good – men’s health is way better than the alternative – and really bad: Mustaches aren’t a joke.

Come November, facial hair leaves its home turf (Brooklyn, Portland, Austin) and makes its way into hairless hoods where dudes wearing the dude version of a basic bitch get-up (gingham button-down, baseball hat, bootcut jeans). It’s shocking to see those guys looking like Sam Elliott or, more likely, Che Guevara. And it prompts a question: Do they really care about health issues or are they simply letting their faces lie fallow so they can peacock around for a few weeks?

It’s probably more the latter than the former in most cases. The Movember ‘stache and the Movember Project fundraising campaign have sort of diverged over the last few years. The mustache is becoming more of an event than a vehicle to raise funds. As long as the money keeps coming in, we’re fine with it from a moral standpoint, but pretty pissed about it from a grooming perspective. Mustaches shouldn’t be a seasonal decoration a la festive gourds. Mustaches should be mustaches.

The assumption underlying the whole event is – on some level anyway – that men wouldn’t otherwise being growing ‘staches, that a hairy lip is a fundamentally ironic statement. It shouldn’t be. Do most men look good with a third eyebrow? Not really. But some do and they should be able to embrace that fact without people asking where to donate. Movember stigmatizes a look that we kind of miss. Burt Reynolds looked awesome in the seventies – never forget.

Any legit organization that encourages selfish mopes to donate money and time to a good cause is admirable. Far be it for us to mock the Movember Project. Wouldn’t do it. We would, however, feel little shame being part of the backlash against the idea of a mustache-themed month. Every month can be mustache themed if you want it to be. That’s one of the best parts about being a healthy man. 

Photos by Getty Images