Every November men are posed with the same question: To beard, or not to beard?
Sometimes a brave soul might even take it one step further and trim the beard back to a mustache. Either way, facial hair is given a spotlight during the month of November.
Participants who choose to flaunt a mustache participate in a nationwide event called Movember, while participants who choose to forgo grooming participate in an event called No-Shave November.
At Concordia, facial hair is approached with a certain amount of laziness and coming of age.
“I don’t care how dirty it gets sometimes,” said David Schneck, a sophomore who alternates between the beard and the mustache on a regular basis. “When I shave sometimes I look like a 12-year-old.”
Schneck says that his father, who has a mustache, has influenced his outlook on how to view the upper lip.
“I love the mustache and the idea of the mustache,” Schneck said of the once popular grooming style.
According to Movember’s website, in 2003 two friends met for a few drinks at a bar in Melbourne, Australia. They noticed that the mustache had disappeared from fashion trends, and decided to try and bring it back. What Travis Garone and Luke Slattery did not realize is that they would be starting a global facial hair movement.
The 30 men who participated in that first Movember discovered that the mustache had an ability to generate conversation. They decided to put that to good use. In 2004, the group of men created the Movember Foundation and started raising money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. That year 480 “Mo Bros and Mo Sistas” raised $40,851.
In 2007, Movember made its U.S. debut partnering with the Prostrate Cancer Foundation. At this point the foundation had raised a total of $27,149,041 and had funded 73 men’s health projects. In 2009, with the help of Movember funding, the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center made a significant research breakthrough by identifying over 25 different kinds of prostate cancer.
In 2014, The Movember Foundation reported 4,746,905 Mo Bros and Mo Sistas and has raised $649 million worldwide and has funded 832 health projects since its beginning in 2003.
No-Shave November has a slightly different background.
According to its website, No-Shave November had previously been an unofficial tradition, but in 2009 members of a Chicagoland family decided to use it as a way to raise money for charity after their father had passed away form colon cancer. Participants are encouraged to forgo grooming for the month and donate what they would have spent on grooming supplies to the foundation. Over the past five years, the No-Shave November organization has raised over $2 million for cancer prevention, education, and research.
For Sam Nysetvold, a senior who normally has facial hair, No-Shave November allows him to put the razor down for a month and let nature take its course.
“I just let it flow,” he said. “I wouldn’t define it as a style.”
Schneck and Nysetvold enter November clean shaven as they prepare to grow beards while competing in friendly competitions. However, neither one is officially affiliated with a charity. For Scheck, it is a friendly competition with the members of his residence hall and for bragging rights with his roommate. For Nysetvold, it is a competition at an internship.
Nysetvold admits that there are currently no formalities to the competition he is competing in, but that the lack of rules and regulations will not stop someone from being crowned a winner.
“We’ll vote at the end,” he said.
Facial hair in November is nothing new for Schneck or Nysetvold. Schneck says that he started participating in the tradition while in 9th grade when only hints of sideburns could be visible. After a few awkward years it has progressed into a beard that better fits social norms.
“Last year it started to become socially acceptable for me to walk out into public at the end of the November,” Scheck said.
Nysetvold says that he started partaking in the yearly tradition of growing out his beard as an upperclassman in high school.
“Thankfully it’s gotten progressively fuller each year,” he said.
Nysetvold also added that he will often carry his facial hair over to December.
“Last year I kept a mustache,” he said. “That was fun.”
Schneck and Nysetvold feel privileged to have the ability to grow facial hair.
“I know that some people aren’t fortunate enough to grow facial hair yet,” Schneck said.
Not being able to grow facial hair does not prevent someone from participating in the annual event.
Zach Zitur, a senior who is normally clean shaven, says that he feels slightly left out because of his inability to grow facial hair past the point of peach fuzz.
“I can grow it,” he said. “It just doesn’t like to come out and say ‘hi.’”
Zitur says that he usually shaves twice a week even though it is not usually necessary, and calls the peach fuzz that he can grow “annoying.”
Zitur says that he has tried to participate in No-Shave November starting his first year of college, but can never finish and usually shaves around the two-week mark.
For Zitur, the inability to grow facial hair has its positives and negatives.
“I can’t relate to my friends who grow full beards,” he said adding that his lack of facial hair growth has allowed him to save a lot of money on razors and other shaving products.
No-Shave November extends beyond the student at Concordia as well. Dr. Daniel Biebighauser of the math department says that he initially grew his beard out during the month of November informally because he was tired of being misidentified as a student.
For Biebighauser, it was the second time in his life he had tried having a beard. The first time came during his engagement.
He was attending graduate school in Tennessee while Amanda, his fiancé, was finishing up her schooling at Concordia. Biebighauser said that in an age before Facebook, there would be great lengths of time between when the two would see each other.
“I showed up a week before our wedding with a surprise beard,” Biebighasuer said. “I had never done that in my life – she was quite mad – I had to get rid of it that evening.”
However, the second time around Amanda liked the planned beard.
“She wants me to keep it,” Biebighauser said.
Biebighauser has never thought about how it might influence his children’s outlook on facial hair.
“They know me this way,” he said.
Giving up grooming for a month makes it seem like it could be difficult to secure a date, or possibly even a wedding, but this does not have Schneck or Nysetvold worried.
Schneck says that it fully depends on the girl. In high school Schneck dated a girl who he says, “liked me clean shaven.” However he remains optimistic about his chances in November saying, “I know a lot of girls like beards.”
Nysetvold says that having facial hair definitely helps his chances of securing a date.
“It hides my ugly face,” he said. “I feel like that’s a win.”
Nysetvold added that having facial hair gives him confidence.
“I feel manly in the sense that my body has the ability to grow hair,” he said. “If I have a scruffy beard I feel like it works with everything.”
Beards that grow for 30+ days require a level of maintenance. Nysetvold and Schneck recommend shampoo and conditioning the beard once it starts becoming itchy. And even though the unofficial rules state no grooming at all, Schneck would recommend cleaning up the neck.
“I would never recommend letting the neck beard get as long your actual face beard,” he said.
Senior from Moorhead, Minnesota. Sports writer for The Concordian.