When I placed a call to a longtime friend yesterday, Bashir Hajji Zeid was in an exuberant mood.
It had been months since we last hanged out and knowing the kind of a person he is — laid back yet talkative when need be — I found his ecstasy a little bit weird.
“Hey what’s up Hajji, how are you doing?” I began the conversation.
In our pleasantries exchange, I realised his excitement was nothing much of a fuss but a particular feeling every man enjoys when he books his date with the barber.
“I haven’t shaved the entire month of November in support of the No-Shave-November and my beards have grown. I am just excited that finally, I will be getting my cut today at 1 pm,” Mr Zeid explains.
You are probably familiar with the term No-Shave November or Movember, either because you participate in the monthly event or someone in your household does.
While most people, especially men associate the movement as mere social media trends, others like Mr Zied, have a somewhat meaningful and noble connotation.
“I have always been supportive of the No-Shave campaigns every year, which is to support those battling with cancer.
“We have seen people shave their hair and beards and donate them to cancer warriors and survivors who during the battle always lose their hair,” says Mr Zied.
About 20 years ago, No-Shave November emerged as one of the newest cultural phenomena as men and women were encouraged to ditch their razors for November in support of men’s health and important cause.
However, as years went by and with the beard culture emerging, the No-Shave-November became more popular among men.
“When I got involved in the campaign, I did it because I felt it was a cool thing. A trend of some sort, every guy that I knew growing a beard would go crazy about November. But I later came to understand that it No-Shave November is a campaign on prostate cancer and being a musician, I felt this was a noble cause, and ever since I have been involved in many charities in November,” says gospel artist Moji Short Baba.
Moji, however, does not shave his beard.
“It’s become part of my identity, it has integrated into my brand and my wife loves it,” he says.
While Movember and No-Shave November are used interchangeably, these are two different charitable initiatives aimed at the same goal.
The Movember Foundation, the older of the two, was started in 2004 in Australia by a group of 30 people who decided they would go without shaving for 30 days to raise awareness of prostate cancer and depression in men.
A few years later the movement grew in leaps and bounds and was emulated in other countries.
In 2012, the Movember Foundation was ranked among the top 100 non-profit organisations in the world by Global Journal.
No-Shave November started three years later after Movember in the United States when Mathew Hill died in November 2007 after a prolonged 18-month battle with colon cancer.
Hill’s eight children started the initiative to raise money for cancer research.
On the No-Shave November website, participants are asked to register and donate the money they could have used to shave and groom the cause.
However, not all men subscribe to the same cause as far as N- Shave November and Movember are concerned.
“For me, my beard grows very fast and I would be lying to you that I can keep it for an entire month. I visit the barber every week and this is because of the nature of my business,” Ashok Sunny.
Ashok runs the Ashok Sunny Tailored Limited, a company that crafts bespoke suits.
“Beards and what I do not get along. I meet clients every day and optics are everything. Beards are probably what you will first notice about me before anything else and how in groom them is very important. But that is not to mean I don’t appreciate the initiative.”
Ashok would love to see the No-Shave November expand to include different facets of life affecting men.
“Most men nowadays are attached to their beards, it gives them a purpose. In a society where men are not supposed to be vulnerable, I would be happy to see an emergence of events that can bring men together to exchange energies just based on beards,” he adds.
While ditching the razor to raise awareness has been a relatively modern phenomenon, the practice in itself dates several decades back.
Giving up on shaving for a given period was first introduced by Athenian scholar and philosopher Plato. Plato believed the best way to embrace the acquisition of knowledge was to don full god-like beards for 30 days.
He would later influence one of his famous students, the Greek philosopher Aristotle. In one of his best-known works on ethics, the Nicomachean Ethics book, Aristotle states: “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.”