October raises women's health and breast cancer awareness through everything pink and girly. But recently, men's health advocates have taken to a campaign with a look that's more burly.

Welcome to the middle of "Movember."

Also known as "No Shave November," the movement's nicknames are also names of organizations that aim to use everyday people to creatively put a face on men's health awareness.

"The ribbon for men's health is the mustache," said Denis Guyer, the operations and special project manager for Jane Iredale skin care and makeup company in Great Barrington.

Brent Ashby sports his ’Movember’ mustache outside of the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield.
Brent Ashby sports his 'Movember' mustache outside of the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield. (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

Guyer said just as the pink ribbon has become an icon for breast cancer awareness campaigns, the mustache -- or "mo" as it's nicknamed from the European spelling of "moustache"-- has become an icon for men's health awareness, including prostate and testicular cancer, as well as overall health.

"It's a conversation starter," the first-time mustache grower said.

Guyer and a group of male colleagues -- Keith Babcock, Tom Haskins Vaughan and Christopher Tatro -- are all growing mustaches and facial hair this month, working with the national Movember website (http://us.movember.com) to honor the awareness campaign and also raise funds for organizations like the Prostate Cancer Foundation, LiveStrong Foundation and Movember Foundation.

According to the Movember website, guys need to be talking more about and taking better action toward their overall health.

"The average life expectancy for American men is almost five years less than women (presently 76 compared to 81), however, there is no biological reason for this. The reasons for the poor state of men's health in America and around the world are numerous and complex," according to the website.

James Hespeler, a P.E. teacher at Conte Community School in Pittsfield, shows off his ’Movember’ moustache.
James Hespeler, a P.E. teacher at Conte Community School in Pittsfield, shows off his 'Movember' moustache. (Stephanie Zollshan/New England Newspapers)

The Movember campaign says lack of awareness and understanding about the health issues men face; lack of open discussion and stigma surrounding physical and mental health; risky behaviors and inaction are among the challenges.

Across Berkshire County, men are growing handlebars, horseshoes and other fashions of facial fuzz to raise awareness, and have fun doing so.

Brent Ashby of Pittsfield began growing a November mustache about five years ago with friends, just for amusement. Three years ago, he came across the official Movember website, and formed the Berkshire Mustache League to generate interest in the cause.

Asked why he thinks mustaches are back in vogue, he said, "I think it's part novelty -- You just don't see mustaches as much on people as you did 20 years ago."

Andrew Schmidt sports his ’Movember’ mustache outside of the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield.
Andrew Schmidt sports his 'Movember' mustache outside of the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield. (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

The first year of growing a mo', he modeled his after actor Tom Selleck's iconic full, dark ‘stache. The second year, he went for a more Charles Bronson-like look. This year, he's still pondering a style while his whiskers grow out.

"For people my age, and I'm a 30-something, I think it's remembering the way things used to be, or thinking about childhood. I think every 10-year-old boy wished he had a mustache at one point growing up," Ashby said.

As Movember and No Shave November have grown in popularity, girls have been able to join the fun too.

Leah Casucci, an executive assistant at Berkshire Bank in Pittsfield, has joined a first-year, in-house bank-wide campaign to raise awareness and funds for charity. There will be a company-wide poll for best mustache, and the Berkshire Bank Foundation will donate $1,000 to the charities chosen by the top five winners.

She donned a thick stick-on mustache during a recent interview with The Eagle and Berkshire Bank colleagues Mark Pedrotti, Sumi Basnet, Justin Burdick, Mike Trainor and Ray Smith.

Casucci said going to work every day and seeing her co-workers,' ahem, growth, has been "hilarious." She said she wanted to join in for a couple of reasons.

"I lost my dad to cancer a few years ago, so it's good to raise awareness. Plus, it shouldn't be the guys that get to have all the fun," she said.

But growing a ‘stache isn't as fun as it looks. Most of the Berkshire Bank crew, for example, are also first-time mustache growers.

"It's still itchy for me, and it's only been five days," Smith said during his first week of growing. "The toughest part will be making it to the end of the month."


PHOTO GALLERY | Movember in the Berkshires


Basnet said both he and others are struggling with his No Shave November look.

"I've never gone more than three days of not shaving in my life," he said, noting that when a clean-shaven guy decides to grow a mustache, "people definitely look at you differently."

Pedrotti said he literally had a mother pushing a baby in a carriage take one look at his face and then cross the street. His mustache grows across his upper lip and then dips into a sort of "mutton chops" formation.

"I definitely get extra looks," he said.

Both he and Trainor said their mustaches have also put an interesting twist on their relationships.

"It's funny. My girlfriend loves the novelty mustaches, like the stickers and T-shirts that you see. I finally grow one and she's a little more hesitant. I don't think she likes the real ones," Pedrotti said.

"My wife has been very supportive," said Trainor, "but I think she'll be happy when the month is over."

Though not all the mustaches grown this month may last, all who are participating say it's important that conversation behind the facial hair continues.

"Much like with breast cancer and women, there are thousands of men living with prostate or testicular cancer who don't know it because they refuse to go to the doctor because they don't think they need to," said Ashby. "This is a reminder for everyone to tell the men in your life to get checked out. We all know someone who has lost their life to cancer, but most cancers can be prevented."

13 Mustache Muses

(Author's picks)

  1. Actor Tom Selleck
  2. Character Ron Burgundy of ‘Anchor Man'
  3. Frontiersman Wyatt Earp
  4. Genghis Khan of the Mongol Empire
  5. Gandalf, ‘Lord of the Rings,' ‘The Hobbit'
  6. Mr. T, ‘The A-Team'
  7. Dick Dastardly, various Hanna-Barbera animated series
  8. Juan Valdez, fictional advertisement character for the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia
  9. Musician Frank Zappa
  10. Boris Badenov, ‘Rocky & Bullwinkle' shows
  11. Yosemite Sam, ‘Looney Tunes'
  12. Comedian Groucho Marx