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Derek Peterson currently has what he describes as a “police officer mustache.”
It's not particularly fancy (unlike the fu Manchu his coworker sports). It's just a matter-of-fact mustache, and he's been growing it since the first of the month.
Normally, the account executive at the Bailey Lauerman advertising agency is more of a beard guy. But the past two Novembers, Peterson — along with many, many other men in Omaha (and around the world, for that matter) — has committed to one full month of upper-lip facial hair only.
The reason is Movember, a worldwide event which encourages men to grow mustaches (the rules specifically disallow beards) to raise awareness of testicular and prostate cancer research and raise money for it. It's also an excuse for the Movember teams (and other general mustache enthusiasts) to throw parties celebrating both their effort and their results.
Movember was founded in Australia in 2003, according to the organization's website, and it's grown quickly since, giving men like Peterson a reason to experiment with their facial hair while drawing attention to cancers that historically haven't received much attention.
And the facial hair definitely attracts attention, he said. Often it's the first thing clients ask about.
“If you don't wear a mustache normally, and if all of a sudden you have one, they immediately want to know what is going on with your face,” he said.
Five men at Bailey Lauerman are participating this year, Peterson said, and they're hoping to raise $1,000 in pledges from family and friends via the Movember website.
Around 15 men at The World-Herald are participating in Movember, and in the first half of the month, they've grown mustaches ranging from sparse and patchy to full and lustrous. At Methodist Health System, 11 men are growing mustaches, said Judd Coffman, a pharmacist organizing the hospital's Movember efforts.
Like Peterson, Coffman has found that suddenly sporting a mustache is a good way to facilitate discussion about the reason behind Movember.
It's also a good way to bond with coworkers.
“Some guys dread it, and the ones that don't really grow the best mustache often have just as much fun,” he said.
The men of Methodist have participated in Movember the past three years. The first year, they celebrated the end of the month with a costume party. Nearly everyone incorporated his mustache into his costume, Coffman said.
Jake's Cigars and Spirits is planning a mustache competition — complete with prizes, costumes and the public shaving of the entrant with the worst mustache — for Dec. 2, just after Movember ends. The bar also will sell calendars featuring portraits of mustache-sporting staff and patrons.
Technically, the competition isn't affiliated with Movember, said Jake's manager Alex Diimig, who is coordinating the event. But it, too, is a fundraiser for testicular cancer research. They're donating the money they raise directly to the Eppley Cancer Research Center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
The Jake's competition didn't start out as a fundraiser, Diimig said. It was just a way for several Jake's bartenders and regulars with mustaches to compare their facial hair.
“Men like to grow a good mustache,” he said, “and people like to see a good mustache competition.”
The first contest, six years ago, was a small affair with just four or so participants. It's grown since and this year they're expecting more than 20.
Diimig, who has a mustache, said that sporting one was a way to express an adventurous spirit.
“Men don't get to be daring very much anymore,” he said. “We don't go on the same sorts of adventures. A mustache connects someone to a sense of rugged individualism.”
Chris Anderson, who has participated in the contest every year but one, has the distinction of coming in dead-last one year and winning the next. He said just the novelty of growing a mustache was reason enough for him to participate.
“When you first start wearing it, everyone who's seen you without a mustache grins every time they see you,” said Anderson, who works for Johnson Brothers, a liquor distributor. “It makes people happy.”
It's an excuse, too, to adopt an alter ego. The year Anderson won, he paired his mustache with a pair of tight vintage jeans, aviator shades, gold chains and a vintage shirt he couldn't figure out how to button until his mom told him it actually was a blouse.
The mustache — and the costume — identified Anderson as someone who had a sense of humor, who didn't take himself too seriously, and who excelled at growing a mustache.
It's sort of a club, said Anderson, who now sports a mustache year-round.
“You see someone with a great mustache, you make eye contact, you kind of tip your hat, and everyone's day just got a little bit better.”
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