Toothbrush, walrus, painter’s brush, lampshade, horseshoe, chevron, cookie duster, lip sweater, man pelt — all names for what’s more commonly known as the moustache.
Over the last few years, the moustache has been enjoying a resurgence, thanks in-part to the hipster phenomenon, but also due to Movember, the month-long campaign to raise funds and awareness about men’s health, notably prostate cancer and, more recently, mental health issues.
Moustaches, or the lack thereof, get people talking — at least that’s the hope for the annual Movember campaign, launching Nov. 1 around the world.
The idea is this: men shave their faces clean and register at Movember.com. Over the next 30 days, these “Mo Bros” selflessly search for sponsorship for their mo-growing efforts, all while grooming, trimming and waxing their brand new lip sweater into something stylish they can be proud of.
One of these Mo Bros is Monday cover model Matt Morrison, night manager at Sugar Nightclub and owner of one of the most iconic moustaches in town — that is until last week, when he let Matthew Conrad of Victory Barber and Brand shave it for the cause.
“It think it must be like what a hunter feels like when they’re about to take out a majestic elk in the wild,” says Conrad. “This is a beautiful creature I’m about to remove from the earth. I don’t hunt myself, but I imagine that’s how they feel.”
Last year was the first time Morrison registered at Movember.com. “I’ve donated a portion of my tips every year, but this is the first year I’m really pushing it. I’ve got cards getting made saying, ‘Yes, I did have a fantastic moustache. How come I shaved it off? To raise awareness for men’s health,’” he says. “Every guy’s got a prostate and every guy’s got a brain, so it’s important to be aware of the health of both of them. Especially mental health issues; people are all like ‘That guy has a disorder and it’s a very big deal.’ No it’s not. A lot more people do than most people realize.”
“Let’s face it,” adds Conrad. “The prostate has a pretty bad rap already. Anything we can do to make it more fun to talk about … It’s an uncomfortable topic, it’s uncomfortable to check, it’s something we sweep under the rug. Girls talk about boobs and breast cancer all the time. It’s also a nice chance for men to grow a moustache and get their girlfriends off their back because they’re doing it for charity,” he says with a laugh. “Regardless of why you decide to grow a moustache, the fact is that it draws attention to something important.”
The Movember campaign has picked up significant speed since its launch in Melbourne, Australia in 2004. Since then, more than two million participants have raised almost $300 million for its causes. Canadians came onboard in 2007 and Movember received official charity status in Canada in 2011.
More than $64 million has been raised and allocated to men’s health initiatives in the areas of awareness, education, research and survivorship across Canada — almost $360,000 of that to various research studies at UVic since 2010.
Conrad opened Victory Barber and Brand in the Atrium building on Blanshard in July 2011, with a strong focus on male grooming, but not the Maxim Magazine version of masculinity.
“There were a lot of men that were falling through the cracks, who couldn’t get what they want in a salon and couldn’t get a good haircut at a barber shop. We seem to have filled that hole,” says Conrad.
“We don’t play to the contrived cliches of a barber shop — we don’t have porno mags, we don’t have sports on TV, because that’s what masculinity has been propped-up to look like now. It’s a super-shallow concept of masculinity. If you really look at those things, it’s an immature concept of masculinity — those are things that you do as a teenager — and part of the reason why we have a generation of grown-up boys now instead of a generation of grown men is because nobody really showed them that it’s time to grow into manhood, and that’s what we’re doing here, we’re moving past the grown-up boy and seeing what it looks like to be a gentleman, and sometimes that can be as simple as grooming.”
Conrad was inspired to open the modern barber shop thanks, in part, to a box of stuff he inherited from his grandfather when he passed away a couple of years ago.
“My generation grew up with men deriving their style from the ’60s and ’70s, and if you look back there was a real disconnect with masculine grooming in that time. Women’s styles on men were really prevalent and so we really lost touch there,” says Conrad.
“[My grandfather] had brushes and pomades, he always carried a comb and he had a safety razor. He was 95 years old when he died and he still used a safety razor — a screw-together contraption that has a housing that holds a single razor blade. They’re slightly more dangerous than what we use now, but at the same time, they’re so much cheaper to use, provide you with a better shave once you learn how to use them, and they’re just classic — anything with a small element of danger makes it more masculine.”
Victory Barber and Brand is a seven-chair, full-service barber shop, offering everything from a no-fuss barber’s buzzcut to the classic hot-lather shave, complete with hot towels, steam treatment, foamy lather, a straight-razor shave and a “renewed masculinity.”
“I’ve been a hairdresser for 17 years, and before we opened this thing, the peak of men’s grooming, as far as hairdressers go, culminated in two words: Manscaping and Metrosexual — and both of those words are an absolute pox on our sex,” says Conrad. “It’s emasculating and it’s a problem that these cutesy marketing words are sucking any masculinity left out of any man who wants to be groomed —they turn them all into douchebags or Nancyboys and there’s nothing masculine left about being well put together. My grandfather wasn’t either of those things, he was never manscaped and he was not a metrosexual, but he was well-groomed every day of his life because he knew that part of being a gentleman is about presenting your best self to the world. We need to make it not only acceptable, but cool again, taking that gentile approach to life. When you present your best self to the world, you behave that way.”
And Morrison feels the same way.
“I think that metrosexual is used in a derogatory way and it sounds kind of homophobic — but what’s wrong with taking time to invest in your appearance and look good. Women do it. Here at the nightclub, you see women taking an hour to get ready and the guys spend maybe five minutes.”
“No one’s ever said to me ’You groom your moustache? That’s not very manly.’ People respond well to the moustache. It’s usually ‘That’s a very manly moustache’ … It’s also an instant personality … Otherwise, I’m the average white guy, regular build with brown hair — I got nothing. But the guy with the giant moustache? Everyone knows who that is.” M
Moustache grooming tips from Victory Barber and Brand
Ready Set Mo! at Glo
Official Movember launch party
Thurs., Mov. 1, 7:30pm
Live music, prizes and a complimentary beverage for all Mo Bros and Mo Sistas
Manscape Spa Mo Launch
Fri., Mov. 2
Thurs., Mov. 22, 9pm
With Handsome Distraction, Warbuck, Citizen Joy and DJ Jeremy Baker.
$12/10 at Ditch Records and CDs.
Less is Mo Fundraiser
The Boxers are Brief Boylesque are dropping their drawers to raise money for Movember.
Thurs., Nov. 29, 7:30pm
Victoria Event Centre (1415 Broad)
$20 online at boxers.ticketbud.com/movember2012
or $25 at the door.
Movember Gala Partés
Nov. 29, 8pm
Club 9ONE9 (919 Douglas)
Best Mo in Character
– Team Mo
– Miss Movember
– Man of Movember 2012
Lone Stars and Handlebars 2: The Mo Down
Fri., Mov. 30
Sugar Nightclub and Victorious Events host the second annual country-themed Mo Down.
$10 minimum donation to Movember