Movember turns 20: An explainer on the moustache charity fundraiser

Movember turns 20: An explainer on the moustache charity fundraiser

Happy Movember!

No, that isn’t a typo. Well, it is - just an intentional one.

For those unfamiliar, this is the 20th anniversary of Movember, a charity moustache growing initiative that lasts the month of November.

Heard of Movember and always wanted to give it a try? Do it every year and just love reading about a thing you already participate in? Never come across it before and still pretty sure a subeditor hasn’t corrected my misspelling of November?

Whatever your reasoning, here’s Euronews Culture's definitive guide to Movember.

What is Movember?

Let’s start with the basics. Movember is a fundraising movement that raises awareness for men’s health throughout the month of November through people growing the best moustache they can.

If a movement that has men’s health as its core principle sounds a bit icky, be assured Movember isn’t a hipster-wing of the kind of men’s rights groups that populate the nastier sides of the internet. In fact, Movember is a good example of the opposite attitude to the gross commenters that spring up every International Women’s Day bemoaning a lack of advocacy for men’s mental health. The Movember movement does this by using the fun annual tradition to promote important charities that lean towards men’s issues.

Run by the Movember Foundation, the three causes central to this year’s campaign are: mental health and suicide prevention; prostate cancer; and testicular cancer.

While some people think that participating in Movember is exclusively about growing your finest set of whiskers over the month, that’s only a part of it. The Movember Foundation’s chief goals is to raise money for charities relating to those particular causes.

Since its founding in 2003, the Movember Foundation has raised funds for over 1,250 projects across 20 different countries. Instead of the misogynistic whataboutery of internet commentators, Movember is a concerted effort to actually improve the situation of men’s health. Men on average die 4.5 years earlier than women and account for 69% of all suicides. Prostate cancer is the leading cause of cancer in men aged over 45 and testicular cancer is the most common cancer in younger men. Raising awareness for these issues and funding projects to tackle them is at the heart of Movember.

How did Movember start?

Interestingly there are two origin stories of Movember, both based out of Australia. The first recorded mention of “Movember” comes from a news story in 1999 of a group of men in Adelaide using the month of November to grow moustaches to raise money for charity. An early campaign was raising money for the animal charity the RSPCA with the phrase “growing whiskers for whiskers”.

Even the Burger King sported a Movember look in 2017
Even the Burger King sported a Movember look in 2017 - AP Photo

Separate to the Adelaide trend, in 2003 Travis Garone and Luke Slattery met in a pub in Melbourne and came up with their own version of Movember. Inspired by a friend’s mother fundraising for a breast cancer charity, they got 30 friends involved to pay AUS$10 to grow moustaches in aid of prostate cancer.

After Garone and Slattery’s campaign was a success, they formalised the concept with the help of Adam Garone and Justin Coghlan, creating the basis of the Movember Foundation. Their 2004 campaign involved 450 people and raised AUS$54,000 (approx. €32,000) for Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA), the then-largest single donation in the charity’s history.

The Movember Foundation was established as an official charity in 2006. In the years since, the movement has grown international interest. It’s now an official partner of PCFA, as well as its sister associations in the US, the UK, Spain, Ireland and more.

Today, the number of participants in Movember since its start in 2003 ranks at nearly 7,000,000.

They’ve funded projects related to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as Family Man in 2021, an online programme aimed at helping dads to be better parents.

Check your cherries
Check your cherries - Canva

Similar charities

A big part of Movember’s success is how simple the concept is. Grow a moustache, raise awareness.

Across history, many charities have employed similar easily identifiable traits to help grow awareness, from the remembrance poppy to commemorate veterans through to the ice bucket challenge that swept the internet to raise awareness for ALS.

Oh, and for all those internet commentators still hung up about International Women’s Day, there is also an International Men’s Day. It’s on 19 November, slap bang in the middle of Movember. So if you want to actually raise meaningful awareness of men’s health issues, get growing that ‘stache!