Hobart security manager Tom Windsor has a pretty heavy reason for wanting as many blokes as possible to have a laugh and grow a moustache this month
Tom Windsor has done a marvellous job promoting this hilarious month of hair growth — and for good reason.
When the first Movember was held in 2003, raising money to fund men’s health awareness programs, the moustache was no longer a terribly common fashion statement among men, especially younger men. So the idea of getting people to sponsor you for growing an outrageous, embarrassing or epic moustache was an instant hit.
The sight of blokes of all ages, from all walks of life, going out in public with soup-strainers in varying states of growth and unsightliness has become a common topic of conversation every November — exactly the intention.
But in the intervening years, a curious thing has happened. The “ironic beard” crept into fashion among the young hipster set, spawning related offshoots like the ironic porn star moustache and the ironic handlebar moustache.
More recently, beards have ceased being ironic and are a legitimate trend. Moustaches have yet to reach the same contemporary acceptance, but with facial hair suddenly as mainstream as jeans, does Movember still have the same impact?
“Yeah there’s a little bit more traffic to cut through with your mos now,” says veteran Hobart moustache-grower Tom Windsor, 37. “It takes a little more effort to really stand out.
“But at the same time, I hope it makes more men feel comfortable doing it and to sign up for Movember.
“We certainly get more participants every year, our team is always growing.”
The team in question is the Mobart Mo Bros, formed in 2006 so a group of a dozen Hobart mates could participate in Movember together, with Windsor as the team’s captain.
As of last year, the Mobart Mo Bros numbered around 140 people — including Mo Sistas as well as Mo Bros — and have now raised more than half a million dollars for Movember, with funds going towards raising awareness of men’s heath issues such as suicide and prostate cancer prevention.
The Hobart Mo Bros have been the highest Movember fundraising team in Australia three times. They have set themselves a target of $130,000 for this year’s Movember and, if previous years are any indication, this moustachioed juggernaut will most likely reach that target easily.
But for all the fundraising success of the Mobart Mo Bros, the group has its origins in a much more personal show of support for mates in need.
In 2005 Windsor lost his dad to suicide, something that came as a shock to his whole family.
“Dad had been depressed for a couple of months, we knew that,” Windsor says. “But he had done all the right things, he had told us about it, he was seeing his GP, he was on medication for it, he was doing all the things we always encourage people to do.
“So it completely blindsided us. It was a really short bout of depression but it ended his life.
“About a year later, some of my mates, mostly from the footy team I played in at the time, said we should give Movember a crack. They wanted to do something to support me and help me and we thought this sounded like a fun thing to do together as a group and they wanted me to be the captain.”
In that first year the Mo Bros not only grew moustaches for sponsorship, but ran a 200km relay from Launceston to Hobart, calling it the Tache Dash. The event was so successful that it
grew year after year, eventually spawning a second leg from Swansea which was run in parallel.
Soon the Tache Dash got so big that it was becoming too dangerous to hold — the sheer number of runners on the busy Midland Highway was becoming a liability.
So in 2010 the Mo Bros aligned themselves with the established Point to Pinnacle run up kunanyi/Mt Wellington, becoming the half-marathon’s official ambassadors, helping participants to reach the top and holding a series of training runs for other members of the Mo Bros team in the lead-up to the race.
And just to keep things fresh and interesting, this year the Mobart Mo Bros have added a new piece of merchandise to their fundraising arsenal: a specially designed fishing lure called the Mojo 18.
“One of our long-time Mo Bros, Sam Shelley, has always loved fishing and the benefits it brings to his mental health,” Windsor says. “So he approached a local manufacturer, Wigston’s Lures, to create a custom lure for Movember.
“It’s based on their most popular design, the Tassie Devil, but instead of stripes down its back, it will have tiny little moustaches. Only 100 will be produced, sold for $6 each online and all proceeds will be donated to Movember.”
Shelley says fishermen will be encouraged to share stories of their Movember fishing trips online.
“The main feature of this project is that we will be encouraging people to actually use the lure and get away fishing and ‘tackle men’s health,” he says.
“It kind of ticks all the boxes: you purchase something that you might have bought anyway, you make a donation to Movember and you get away fishing, which is great for your mental health.”
As smoothly as Windsor is able to slip into his Movember ambassador patter, the Coverall Security managing director’s dedication to the cause is still very much a personal passion.
“Our sole intent from the start was to create attention around the cause, and the crazier the idea the better, as far as we were concerned,” he says. “So if we look a bit silly and the mos are a bit rubbish in that first week or two and people laugh or ask you about it, then that’s the idea.
“Guys don’t always know what to say to each other or how to start a conversation with someone about cancer or depression but it’s pretty easy to grow a mo and have some fun and raise awareness that way.
“I think a huge part of our success comes from engaging the community so well. And people are fairly easy to engage because, unfortunately, everyone has a story of their own around mental health or cancer, so it touches a lot of people. Prostate cancer and suicide are the two biggest killers of men aged between 15 and 45. And three out of four suicides are men, it kills more men than cancer or road crashes.”
Windsor says close mates were a vital support network during the worst days of his life and he thinks events such as Movember are succeeding in encouraging men to be more open and talkative about health and mental health issues.
“Movember is held in 22 different countries now, and it has evolved to the point where it is not only raising awareness of men’s health issues, but it’s also contributing to changing that male culture in Australia,” he says. “In this country we are so proud of our Aussie blokey culture, we love it, but that culture is producing some horrible statistics around life expectancy in men. It would be naive to pretend our concept of masculinity isn’t having a negative impact.”
As part of Movember, Speakeasy nights are being held around the country, including on Friday, November 9 in Hobart — where men can gather to talk to others and learn how to communicate more effectively.
But Windsor says men shouldn’t just wait for organised events such as this to encourage them to check on their mates and talk about what is happening in their lives. It should be an everyday thing, and other structures already exist.
“Take sporting and footy clubs, for example. They’re favourite places for blokes to hang out and get together and when I lost my dad, my footy mates were the best support I had,” he says. “Those clubs might breed that traditional blokiness we are looking to address or tweak, but they are also the best place to foster relationships that keep us safe and alive in the bad times.”
Windsor says everyone is invited to join the Mobart Mo Bros for Movember — even the Mo Sistas, since there are other ways to be involved other than growing a mo, such as participating in the Point to Pinnacle, making a commitment to improving your fitness during the month, hosting a fundraising event, or finding other creative ways to support the cause.
As for Windsor, he calls himself a traditionalist and plans to grow a mo again this year as he has every year since 2006. Even if his efforts are usually a little poor.
“I grow what I’m given and I usually scrape in by the end of the month, that’s when it finally starts filling in a bit and looking less sad. It’s mostly ginger, but a bit of grey [is] creeping in. Sometimes the worse it looks, the [more] conversations it starts, and that’s all good with me,” he says.
“Suddenly half of the men in Tasmania are turned into walking billboards and whenever someone asks you why you’ve got such a silly moustache, that’s your chance to say ‘well, I’m glad you asked ...’”
And don’t worry if your mo is slow to grow. Or if you’re a bit hairier than most. Or if your significant other isn’t a fan of the fuzz. It’s all part of the fun.
“It’s definitely more accepted in my household these days, my wife is very supportive of the mo and what it represents,” Windsor says. “And it’s amazing some of the mos we’ve seen grown in 30 days. The official rules state that you need to shave down on November 1 so you start from scratch and we all have to go through that tough early period together. But by the end of the month, I’ve seen one guy grow his all the way down and blend it into his chest hair.”
So if you see some bloke walk past you in the next couple of weeks with a really embarrassing moustache, don’t just point and laugh, or chuckle about it afterwards. Go over and talk to him about it, even if it’s just to comment on how bad it looks. Chances are he probably already knows. And if you’ve started talking to someone new — for whatever reason — that wispy rubbish mo has already served its purpose.
If you or anyone you know needs help contact: Lifeline 13 11 14 or beyondblue 1300 22 463.
Movember runs until November 30, raising funds and awareness for men’s health. Movember finishes with the Mogala Party, hosted by the Mobart Mo Bros on December 1, 7pm-midnight, at the Tasmanian Club, 132 Macquarie St. Tickets are $150 per person and can be booked at movember.com. For more information about the Mobart Mo Bros, visit mobartmobros.com