The Origins and Trajectory of No-Shave November

If you aren’t still reeling from your Halloween hangover, you’ve probably noticed that it’s November now. Usually it’s a rather gray, unremarkable month compared to the other 11, but it holds a special place in the hearts of college men.

You might think that No-Shave November is a dumb college invention, but we can actually thank Plato for it. He did not come up with No-shave November because November didn’t exist in ancient Greece, but he did come up with the idea that there should be a period of time where men cultivate their beards and are not allowed to shave.

Apparently Aristotle agreed with Plato, because in his Nichomachean Ethics he said, “…no man can be trusted if he is without a beard.  For that reason, beard growth training is as important as proper training in ethics.” The basic idea was that young men had to imitate their leaders, who were all bearded, so they set aside a period of 30 days for these young guardians of Athens to accomplish this.

If we wind our historical clocks a little bit further forward — say to the time of Karl Marx — then we have a more modern explanation for our beard-growing month. Good ol’ Karl thought that one of the easiest ways to piss off the bourgeoisie was by letting your facial hair grow. He knew that the capitalist factory owners wouldn’t like their workers to have facial hair because of the danger of being scalped or injured by the industrial machines. I’m not exactly sure why Marx picked November as his month, but either way his attempt at a facial hair inspired rebellion failed miserably.

However, where Marx failed, lazy college kids have succeeded. Every November since I have been at CSU, I have avoided the intimate touch of a Gillette blade against my patchwork beard. The beautiful thing about our modern, college version of No-Shave November is that there aren’t really any rules, except for there is no shaving allowed.

I have had many heated debates about this, but I am inclined to say that trimming is fair game in November. I’ll admit that it is kind of cheating since trimming and shaving are so similar, but when you shave the blade touches your skin, which betrays the no-shaving part of the deal.

Trimming, however, is a necessary part of maintaining a beard of any shape or length. Just because we’re not allowed to shave doesn’t mean we have to walk around campus like cavemen. In fact, sporting a poorly kept beard in November would almost be a slap in the face to the whole idea.

I realize that about half of you reading this right now are not capable of growing facial hair. If you are a woman, or one of those unfortunate men who cannot even muster a few whiskers, there is no need to worry. No-Shave November has no prerequisites. The act of growing a beard, rather than having one, is what is prized in a participant. Even if you cannot grow a beard by the end of the month, you can still take part.

Also, if you think this is just another pointless thing that college guys do for attention, then welcome to Movember. Back in 1999, in Melbourne, Australia, an organization called Movember was born. Their goal was to raise awareness for men’s health by turning November into an awareness month, very similar to what is done in October for breast cancer.

Movember’s slogan is “changing the face of men’s health” because how it works is you sign up online and then grow a mustache in November. This is a little different than our college version, but the point is to raise awareness for testicular and prostate cancers.

Participants of Movember are referred to as Mo Bros, and once they are signed up online at Movember.com, they shave everything but the hair on their upper lips for thirty days. Women can get involved too, and thereby become fellow Mo Sistas.

In the past few years there have been ever increasing amounts of Mo Brothas and Mo Sistas participating. In 2011 there were more than 854,000 participants worldwide, and they raised more than $126 million dollars in the fight to change men’s health. So for all of you who have been waiting for an excellent excuse to grow a mustache, this is your time to shine.

Besides, how awesome would it be to see Peyton lead the Broncos to an unbeaten November, all while sporting a fabulous moustache?

Quinn Scahill is a senior English major. His columns appear Fridays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.