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Movember: What’s the story behind all of those mustaches?

You might be noticing a larger-than-usual number of men growingmustaches this month.

You might be noticing a larger-than-usual number of men growing mustaches this month. Welcome to Movember, the annual campaign for raising awareness and funds for prostate and other male cancers.

Now in its fifth year in the U.S., Movember started as a joke in Australia in 2003, when Adam Garone — Movember’s CEO and co-founder — along with his brother and a friend were lamenting the death of the ’70s mustache. The trio dared each other to grow a mustache and keep it for an entire month. And what’s in a name? Mo is Aussie slang for mustache.

“It started as a social experiment, and then we legitimized it by adding a cause,” says Garone, who now lives in Santa Monica, CA. “We were inspired with what women were doing to raise awareness about breast cancer. Prostate cancer is the male equivalent of [female] breast cancer in mortality rate.”

In 2010, nearly 65,000 participants started November clean-shaven and grew a mustache for 30 days, raising $7.5 million for the Prostate Cancer Foundation and LiveStrong, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which are Movember’s U.S. men’s health partners.

“A mustache starts a conversation,” Garone says. “There’s a reticence in many countries to acknowledge prostate cancer. The mustache adds this fun, rebellious aspect to it. We want men to talk about prostate cancer. Men at my age, 40, need to start getting tested.”

You don’t need to grow a ’stache to help

TOMS Shoes has teamed up with Movember to launch shoes benefiting the cause. You can purchase both Grey Black Waxed Twill Botas and Classics emblazoned with the signature Movember mustache. And in true TOMS fashion, for every purchase made, a pair of new shoes will be donated to an underprivileged child. The shoes come in both men’s and women’s sizes, so ladies can lend a hand too.

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