Growing facial hair for a good cause

It is the Year of Beard, from the Dodgers pitcher Brian Wilson to Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach.

This trend toward furriness ought to benefit Movember, the Aussie-born charity that uses the power of facial hair for good.

Movember encourages men to grow a “Mo,” or mustache, during the month of November, and utilize that hairy decoration to raise money to fight prostate and testicular cancer and depression in men.

Created in 1999 by a group of “Mo Bros” in Adelaide, the movement grew like Burt Reynolds’ push broom. Worldwide, Movember raised almost $100 million in 2012 and $121 million last year.

Over the last six years many new followers have sprouted in Atlanta. More than 3,000 locals participated in Movember last year, raising $309,883.

Movember encourages its Mo Bros to start with a clean slate on November 1 — often at “shave the date” parties” — and this year some historically significant ‘staches will be sacrificed for a good cause.

“I’ve had it since I could grow a mustache in high school,” said Greg Morrison, 55, senior vice president and chief information officer for Cox Enterprises, the parent company of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “My wife has never seen me without a mustache.”

Still, Morrison says he’s happy to put a razor to his Walter Cronkite. “I have some very, very good friends, including the godfather of my son, who were diagnosed with prostate cancer and successfully treated.”

African-Americans are also disproportionately affected by the disease, so “anything I can do to bring awareness to the cause, I think, is going to be good thing,” he said.

Evan Pulliam, proud farmer of face-hair, says his waxed handlebar raises Movember awareness year-round. Pulliam, 29, is a producer and copy writer at start-up web and mobile developer Make & Build.

Whenever new acquaintances ask him about his lip shrubbery, he promotes the Movember effort. He also turns the question on hirsute men who are non-Mo Bros. “Every time I see men with mustaches, I ask, ‘did you raise any money with that thing?’” Pulliam then counsels them against letting a mustache live “rent-free,” and demonstrates how it can be monetized.

“I usually get a solid chuckle.”

The 16 men at Pulliam’s West Midtown office raised $4,500 last year, and Make & Build CEO Ed Grasing hopes to bump that number up to $6,000 this year.

The money-raising technique is simple: Mo Bros sign up at Movember.com, create a team and seek pledges from their friends. They also host events. Make & Build will participate in some “follicle-fueled philanthropy” on November 5, at their “Mustaches and Brews” get-together.

Some celebrities with very high-profile mustaches have come to the assistance of the cause, including wrestler Hulk Hogan, world music star Yanni, and “Parks and Recreation” actor Nick Offerman.

These he-men have taped public service ads, lending their names (and the power of their Fu Manchus) to the cause of men’s health. None of them have actually shaved off their iconic bristles, although Yanni axed his whiskers for other reasons.

Pulliam feels a kinship with this group, and insists he doesn’t plan to mow down his strawberry-blond lip warmer. Cutting it and regrowing it, he said, would be counter productive. “I am not one that believes I ought to repaint the ceiling of the Sistine chapel.”

Women, known as “Mo Sistas,” can also start a Mo team, or help coordinate fund-raising for their hairy brothers, boyfriends, husbands and others. Elyse Moore handles marketing and social media at Marietta’s Red Hare Brewing Co., and will be sporting a fake Groucho during Red Hare’s “Movembeer” fund-raiser and beer tasting Nov. 21.

“It’s interesting to hear a lot of their stories, and the reasons they participate,” she said. “It’s not just fun and games.”

The Movember movement is small compared to some other charities. The Susan G. Komen foundation raises perhaps four times as much money.

But the laid-back idea of growing a mustache, rather than walking 60 miles, appeals to some men.

“This is the easiest way to be a philanthropist,” said Pulliam.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

X