November has arrived, and things are going to really get hairy now. Every November, two charitable organizations I like, Movember and No-Shave November, raise funds by encouraging people to not cut or shave their hair.
Movember began in Australia in 2003 when two friends joked about bringing back the moustache (or “mo”) as a male fashion trend. Inspired by a friend’s mother who was fundraising for breast cancer, they decided to create a Movember campaign in which men grow moustaches to raise funds for men’s health and prostate cancer.
No-Shave November “is a monthlong journey during which participants forgo shaving and grooming in order to evoke conversation and raise cancer awareness,” according to the organization’s website. It was formalized in 2009, after Matthew Hill passed away from colon cancer, and his eight children created the charitable organization to raise funds for cancer research.
Both organizations have made November a very fun month as people share photos of their thickening facial hair on social media. I’ve grown a goatee a few times over the years, but never went full beard until COVID-19 turned half the country into homebodies. Not having to shave every morning was a gift from the heavens.
But an unexpected benefit of sporting a thick, graying beard was that strangers finally give me some respect — as though I am a college professor or some kind of dignitary. Bearded, I look like the type of fellow who would never default on a bank loan or who can explain how the Federal Reserve works.
I’m a big fan of the beard and both charities but there are always going to be those who rain on our parade. In 2019 a spate of beard-bacteria stories hit the news with headlines like this one in the Daily Mail UK: “Men with beards carry more germs than dogs with deadly bacteria in their facial hair, study reveals.” I wonder if that study included dogs with beards.
In any event, some previous beard studies found differing conclusions. Medical Daily reported in 2016 that beards may actually help fight infection — and that even if a beard were to trap some bacteria all a fellow needs to do is wash it on a regular basis.
Which brings us to the war against COVID and our biggest anti-beard crusader, our beloved federal government. “Certain types of facial hair, like beards, can make mask-fitting difficult,” according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “To have a better fit, people with beards can shave their beards or trim their beards close to the face.”
The CDC goes into painstaking bureaucratic detail to explain which of 46 beard styles are medically acceptable, reports CNN. Most beard styles are frowned upon, but a few, such as the “toothbrush” — the small moustache made famous by a certain Nazi dictator — get the CDC’s thumbs up.
That makes sense, I guess, since top-down, big-government socialism is becoming popular of late. Anyhow, with all the mixed COVID messages government public health experts have given us the past year and a half, I’m not sure what guidance to follow anymore.
I do know this: If our health experts want us to trust their guidance more, maybe they ought to grow dignified beards.
Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at Tom@TomPurcell.com.