It’s that time of year again: fall is in full swing, and so are those creative individuals who plan to grow out their facial hair.
November not only celebrates American heritage and giving in to our inner gluttons, but it also highlights spirited individuals who decide to put down the razor and grow out their aspirations.
During No Shave November facial hair becomes as ubiquitous as sweaters, from peach fuzz to Viking-esque–whatever the thickness–it’s become the norm to grow out facial hair during the month. For many, it goes well beyond No Shave November–there are even organizations that offer men the opportunity to grow out their beards, mustaches, and goatees in order to raise awareness about a certain cause or charity (or to use as a hairy conversation starter).
When speaking to some of the freelance beard-growers, the ones who do not associate with any particular organization, they explained why they take part in the tradition. Some do it out of boredom, some are overly passionate about the newfound ability to fill in their chins. And some are forced to endure added attention to their year-round lush beard.
While No Shave November is celebrated for a number of reasons, to Drew Skellett, second-time beard-grower, it’s to “get ready for Decembeard.”1 It also keeps his face warm.
Josh Capiga–out of laziness, tradition, and nostalgia for beards past–has taken part in No Shave November for the past six years. After almost a decade of facial hair grooming, he said “you look back at past beards with a certain fondness. [T]hey remind you of a part of your life, where you were, what you were doing.” He takes part in the annual tradition with friends.
Growing facial hair goes beyond mutual encouragement and competition among friends. There are organizations that celebrate the start of a few sprigs which can evolve into a piece of fleecy art.
Speaking to Chad Roberts, president and founder of RVA Beard League, helped shed light on some Richmonders’ participation with growing facial scruff. It started in 2011, with a mouthful of a name: The Follicles of the James ‘Stache & Beard League. Its purpose is to bring about a sort of camaraderie among members, whether they have a voluptuous beard, sparse ‘stache, or nothing at all. Meetings are the second Monday of every month and give members a chance to get out of the house and talk about upcoming beard competitions, charities, and proper beard upkeep. Registration for the league spikes in the fall when the weather starts to get brisk.
The 100 or so members aren’t only men. The group has also made way for Whiskerinas, women who support the growth of facial hair, and even sport fake mustaches and beards. Like their male counterparts, some have even brought home awards from national competitions.
Aside from basking in their burly glory at competitions across the country, RVA Beard League takes part in raising money for charities. This April, they will host their Second Annual Mid-Atlantic Beard & ‘Stache Championships, in which proceeds will benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters. (Last year, it benefitted Central Virginia Food Bank). When asked as to why they choose different charities instead of partnering with just one, Chad said they alternate in order to “spread the love.”
Pabst Blue Ribbon beer company recently sponsored the Beard League and helps cover some of the costs, including transportation. In return, the League hands out PBR branded items, a transaction many Richmonders would drool over. What expenses PBR can’t cover, the members handle out of pockets. This shows their dedication with the upkeep of the organization and the passion behind their bearded works of art.
Speaking of which, like every piece of art, these beards take a lot of effort to design. “I have more hair products than my wife,” Roberts said, laughing, as he recounts the growing number of bottles, canisters, and other beard care accoutrements that are starting to take over the shelves at home. He proves that growing a beard takes hard work and dedication, and wants to challenge the stereotype that beards are associated with miscreants and dirtiness.
What started out as sheer curiosity for Chad, has now made him into a staple when it comes to the beard league. “I’ll keep growing it until it overstays its welcome,” he said.
One international organization is making headway into spreading awareness of men’s health. Movember is an Australian-based organization that has its members, called Mo Bros, grow mustaches in order to build a team and get sponsors to back their cause. Taking place after October, which is breast cancer awareness month, Movember uses November as a time to raise awareness about prostate and testicular cancers.
Movember has spread to 21 countries since its creation in 2003.
Tom Whiteside, leading the stateside Movember campaign, is passionate about the cause behind Movember’s efforts. He said the main focus of the organization is “changing the face of men’s health.”
Although they don’t consider themselves affiliated with the trend of No Shave November, Tom said they get half of the total registration from November 1st -15th. This is mainly because the movement is highlighted in November, when Mo Bros are supposed to keep up with their mustaches and start conversations about men’s health.
Movember knows that the focal point is men, but behind every Mo Bro there is a determined Mo Sista. Her job is to rally the men around her. Tom said that women are the “gateway to men’s health,” since men are not the best at talking about their physical pain (…or any pain at all really). Tom relates it back to breast cancer awareness by saying the mustache is their pink ribbon. What could be more masculine than that?
To participate, get some guys and gals together to start a team, register the team online, start the month clean shaven, and grow a mustache until the 30th. It takes time and effort, “no one grows a mustache from scratch,” Tom said. And with that, he’s right. It’s one thing to grow a beard and throw away the razor, but to upkeep a perfect mustache takes creativity and diligence.
So, this month, if you see someone with a mustache, they’re either a Tom Selleck fanatic, or a Mo Bro who is trying to make a difference. Regardless, spark up a conversation, in the name of men’s health!
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- Decembeard is less a real thing and more a term used by guys to give them another reason to display their facial hair excellence in the wintry months. ↩
photo of the 2009 World Beard & Moustache Championships by Ayleen Gaspar