I have been growing a fine, nay, magnificent, horseshoe moustache since the first of November, in the name of charity. You may have heard of Movember, the fundraising scheme which encourages men to grow a moustache in order to raise awareness of men’s health issues such as testicular and prostate cancer.
I’ve fancied taking part for the last couple of years but somehow always managed to forget. This year, though, I stated my aim early, set-up a page on the official Movember website, and then, on the first of November, made sure I was completely clean shaven so I could grow a moustache from scratch.
It’s been an odd process; several of us at work are taking part, and between around a dozen of us we’ve now raised well over £1,000 in sponsorship. We’ve met up once a week to see how we’re all getting on with growing our face-furniture, and the camaraderie and encouragement in the first couple of weeks, when we all looked like hapless adolescents, was a definite help.
I decided to grow a full on “Hulk Hogan” style moustache (which I understand is called a ‘horseshoe’ in some circles), as it seemed the most fun; a tiny hint of style and a healthy dose of self-aware amusement. For the first few days it was fine; a couple of weeks in and I was very aware of the fuzz above my mouth, conscious of it every time I moved my lips to speak, eat, or assume any kind of facial expression. There have been a couple of moments, generally when very tired or warm, when it has itched me into irritation, but the weight of sponsorship has kept me from shaving it off.
The itching barrier is always what prevents me growing a full beard (that and vague patchiness / creeping ginger) on the occasions where I’ve left it more than a few days without shaving and wondered whether I could / should take it further. (I hate shaving, and try to only do it a couple of times a week; I’m cursed with sensitive skin, which no amount of moisturiser or soothing aftershave balms can keep from becoming inflamed and irritated when I scrape sharp metal over it.)
I’ve been called a lot of things whilst growing the moustache: “el bandito”, ‘a German porn star”, “a trucker”, “a hipster”, “a Mexican”… A colleague’s toddler son called me “daddy” purely because his dad apparently has a beard, and toddlers are nothing if not easily confused by facial hair. Several people have told me that it suits me, and asked if I’ll keep it; while it’s nice to know that I don’t look as daft as some people taking part in Movember, I don’t think I’ll be keeping it; for a start, Emma’s dad has had a moustache for as long as she’s been alive, so she’s not keen on me keeping it past the end of the month. Also, it seems like more of an effort to maintain a moustache than to shave completely; a well as being careful not to clip the edges of it when shaving, you also have to shampoo, comb, trim, moisturise and manicure the damn thing, and all while it’s on your face, to prevent tangles, dry skin, and looking like a tramp.
Having a moustache this month has made me wander what moustaches mean, what they signify, and I haven’t the foggiest. It does change the way people look at you, from time to time. Some people stare; some people take a second glance. Is growing a moustache about the reclamation of an eroded masculinity? Beards in recent years have assumed a certain counter-cultural acceptability when worn by young men, generally geeky alternative types empowered by certain musical aesthetics. But the moustache, although celebrated in some hipster circles, and popular with a certain breed of cyclist, still seems to be a rare affectation except during Movember. Obviously there are a number of styles it can be worn in, each carrying its own signifiers and cultural baggage – no one, I would wager, will be growing a “Hitler” this month. Almost anyone you see with a proper, established, more-than-a-month-old moustache is generally older, but beyond that I can’t generalise. Some look like truckers. Some don’t. Not many look like Charlie Bronson.
If I can manage to put up with it for a few days past the first of December, my hairdresser has offered to shear the moustache off for free with her clippers next Saturday, to save me the agony of scissoring and wet-shaving it off. I think I’ll grow another next Movember.
If you’re feeling flush, you can sponsor me here.