Movember, growing 'staches for charity

November is in full swing and you may have noticed a few people on campus looking just a bit different. More mustaches, more beards, and all around just more hair. Associated Students outreach director Robert Espinoza is cultivating a beard along with the instructional support director Jeffrey Lewis Jr., as well as campus club Generation of the Future’s president Trae Smith, announcing his lack of shaving as “a Movember thing” during public comments at the most recent AS meeting. For the last couple of years, November has been a full month of determination for both men and women to grow out unruly hair. Many people conceptualize this month as "no-shave November," an annual dedication to surrendering the razor; Movember.

Movember is a month-long event dedicated to raising money and spreading awareness for men's health, with a particular focus on, prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health.

Founded in 2003 in Queensland, Australia, Movember is now present in 21 countries. Eleven years later, the event has gathered four million participants and raised $600 million in the U.S.

Tom Whiteside, business and community engagement manager for the Movember Foundation commented, "[It's] a registered charity, an organization, and in full, a global men's health movement, with no affiliation to any other November hair contests." This is in reference to later organizations with different names that have sprouted around the world with the same or similar premise.

Movember goes beyond a competition of lengthy facial hair. Participants register at the Movember website, and begin growing a mustache for 30 days to "spark conversation and raise funds," said Whiteside. Registered participants create a "mo- space," which is a personalized fundraising page dedicated to spreading the word and raising money.

Chris Rojas, who goes by “Niner,” is a barber at Active Barbers in Santa Monica who started growing his mustache during Movember of 2013. “My dad thought it was a dumb idea at first,” said Rojas, recalling initial reactions from his friends and family. However, he enjoyed the novelty of it and he felt that the cause was worth it, so he kept the 'stache and is happily participating again this year.

Participants have the opportunity to attend any number of Movember events, all accessible through the website, or even host an event of their own. Some of these events include, "Shave the Date," a party dedicated to starting freshly shaven on the first of the month, "Mustache Dache," a five-K marathon held in 23 cities, and the "Movember Gala Parté," an end of the month costume party in celebration of the achievements and efforts by all the participants.

“Barbershops are becoming like hot clubs everybody wants to go to,” said Rojas. “I think it’s a barber’s job to tell clients about the Movember month movement.” Though his own Active Barbers store doesn’t have any Movember events planned as of now, Rojas mentioned very popular barber shops that hold events, such as Tip Top Barber Shop in Whittier.

Some students on campus have contributed to Movember donations and attended events for several years.

SMC student Sarah Winick attended last year's "Mustache Dache" with her boyfriend, Angel, who has been participating for three years now. "Movember is a clever idea," Winick said, adding that, "It's a fun way to get people involved and to raise money for prostate cancer. It's not really something we hear about often."

SMC student Jake Tartaglini participates in Movember to spread awareness by only growing out his mustache. "Actually a lot of people ask me why, so there's my in on talking about [men's health]," he said. It's important to Tartaglini that people are more aware of their health and the risk factors for various cancers, such as prostate and testicular cancer.

He was initially interested in Movember, because, like so many, cancer has touched some part of his life. "My granddad's a survivor of testicular cancer, and that's the only reason I know what I know about it. It's really common in younger people, which isn't typically the case for this kind of thing," said Tartaglini. Both Movember member and personal experiences have taught him the severity and risks of testicular cancer and encourages others to become aware as well.

Rojas also learned of Movember and became interested because someone in his family was affected by prostate cancer. “It’s really embarrassing to talk about,” said Rojas. “Men don’t like to talk about what’s going on in the behind, it’s a big insecurity for men.”

Although Movember is a male-oriented foundation, Whiteside remarked that they truly do invite women to participate. In fact, he says, this whole movement was inspired by women and their health movement. "It's usually the women in our lives that encourage visits to the doctor," said Whiteside.

Whiteside elaborated that some easy facts about health can change the life of many. In the U.S., for example, prostate cancer will be diagnosed in at least one in seven men throughout their lifetime, one in 36 will die from it, and likelihood increases with age. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men of 15-35 years of age; and 79 percent of U.S. suicides in a given year are men.

Whiteside still stresses to SMC that "it's not too late to get involved." Although the month has already started, he still calls it a fair game. "We suggest [students] visit the website to learn about it and how to become empowered participants."

Rojas is hoping to still get more people involved next year with his barber shop. His advice to people interested in participating in Movember is simply forget about the razor and let the mustache grow. “See how it goes. Go to your barber shop and let them clean it up for you.” In the end, Rojas said, “Just have fun with it.”