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Chicago students grow mustaches, donations for Movember

  • Chicago students Kevin Murray (left) and Brandon Clark participate in Movember.
Chicago students Kevin Murray (left) and Brandon Clark participate in… ((Handout) )
November 15, 2012|Erin Vogel | For RedEye

Ever wonder what it would be like to live in a world where stubbly soul patches and questionable goatees were banned from men's faces all year?

Don't get too attached to the idea – it will never happen. But you can take some comfort in the fact that in November, soul patches and goatees, no matter how classy or creepy, are against the rules for Movember participants, who grow mustaches to "change the face of men's health" by fundraising and using their facial hair to start conversations about men's health issues.

Movember was first conceived in 2004 by a group of Australian men, making its way over to the U.S. two years later. The annual month-long campaign is still often confused with No Shave November, where individuals raise donations to forego their razors and grow the furriest, fuzziest beards possible.

Movember requires more upkeep. In fact, Movember outlines five strict rules on its website for its "Mo Bros." (Ladies, don't feel left out, you can participate as a "Mo Sister" by spreading the message, no upper lip fuzz required.) For example, rule four bars against "connecting handlebar hair to your chin" –see, no goatees allowed! Check out the rest of the rules here.

This month marks the second Movember for 19-year-old DePaul sophomore Kevin Murray, who raised $250 by himself last November. This year he tried to form a team with some guys who were enthusiastic about the idea– until they found out their wives and girlfriends weren't as excited. "Two days later they were like, ‘Uhh, they didn't want us to do it,'" Murray said. But he wasn't discouraged. He registered on his own and set his fundraising goal at an ambitious $1,000. He's raising money by spreading the word to family and friends by posting a picture of his daily progress on Facebook and Twitter.

Right now Murray isn't dating anyone who objects to his new look, but he said he definitely notices a difference in how girls treat him now that the mustache is back. "You can kind of just feel her eyes going up and down at it when they don't think you're looking," he said. "My mustache is the equivalent of guys staring at a woman's cleavage. When people don't think I'm looking, I feel like they're looking at my mustache."

Manuel Beltran, a 24-year-old UIC senior studying political science and sociology, signed up for his first Movember this year five months after his father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Doctors caught his dad's cancer early, but Beltran knows that isn't always the case for a lot of other men who don't get their health checked regularly. He said has used his mustache to start conversations about disease prevention with men in his largely Hispanic neighborhood.

"Some of these guys are already getting symptoms but refuse to get checked out because they're scared," Beltran said. "A lot of guys just assume they have to go to the doctor to get checked out for prostate cancer when they're older but they don't know how old older is."

After raising money on his own last year, 30-year-old DePaul University law student Brandon Clark got together with some fellow law students this year to form a team called the Handlebar Association. They've raised $1,388 so far. Clark admits that a mustache is more out of the ordinary for someone his age, especially in his South Loop neighborhood. "It fits someone with skinnier pants than me," Clark said. "In Logan Square it goes over fine, but in the South Loop it's like, ‘Keep away from my kids.' It's something you have to bring a sense of humor to.

"There is a part of me that thinks it's not a bad look," Clark added. "I came into it last year with a very self-deprecating attitude, but about 3 weeks or so in, I started getting some compliments on it. We'll see if the compliments keep coming in or not."

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