Mo Bros getting ready to shave it off

From the pencil-thin Errol Flynn version to the coiffed homage to Ming the Merciless, thousands of normally clean-shaven men across the world have been embracing the lost art of moustaches this month.

Almost 850 000 men from London to Singapore shaved carefully around their top lip during November as part of a global campaign to raise awareness and cash for men's cancers, almost double last year's registrations.

Eight years after the first "Movember" in Australia, the campaign has become a big hit in Canada, Britain, the United States, New Zealand and South Africa, as well as winning fans in the Middle East and Asia.

Support from celebrities

In Britain, Formula One driver Jenson Button and England footballer Peter Crouch among those sporting face fuzz, while actor Stephen Fry has recreated the glorious 'tache worn by his "Blackadder" character General Melchett.

Organisers said this year's campaign has so far raised 48.4 million ($75.2 million, 56.4 million euros) across the world - already matching last year's 48.5 million, much of which was collected in December.

Most "Mo Bros" do it for a laugh, accepting the mockery of their peers for a good cause and a chance to try out a style of facial hair that was common among their grandfathers but which they had razed from their memories, and lips.

"I was going for a handlebar. I'm quite pleased," said Alexander Jordan, a 23-year-old freelance photographer sporting a neat and tidy moustache running along his top lip and down to his chin.

Last year he went for a Flynn-style pencil moustache but decided this time around that "I'd go a bit more hardcore".

"The reaction has been good from everyone except my girlfriend, who is not very happy. I've not seen much of her this month," he told AFP, adding that he would be shaving it off when December 1 dawns.

"I think it's the girlfriend or the 'tache."

Jordan does not have much to show for his efforts financially - he raised about 30 - while another Mo Bro, chef Kris Dorward, admitted he wasn't even trying to win sponsorship for his brown bushy moustache.

Doing it for fun

Dorward, 22, is doing it for fun, aiming for something akin to Tom Selleck in 1980s private detective drama "Magnum PI".

"I did have the handlebars a couple of days ago but I shaved them off because they looked a bit stupid," he admitted.

For the organisers, however, raising awareness of men's health issues is as important as the money - and in this case, any moustache helps.

"Somebody growing a moustache in the month of November talks to an average of three people a day about it," said Owen Sharp, head of Britain's Prostate Cancer Charity, who himself grew a neat handlebar moustache for the campaign.

"That's nearly 100 conversations that each Mo Bro is having, which is just going to keep raising awareness of the issues of prostate cancer and testicular cancer and men's health in general."

Sharp's charity gains half its annual funds from "Movember", which go towards new research and campaigns into the disease that will affect 11% of men in Britain at some time in their lives.

Where it began

Movember began in Melbourne in 2003 among a group of about 30 friends, primarily as an excuse to experiment with facial hair.

"Moustaches had vanished pretty much off the planet, but when we looked back all our dads had them, our sporting heroes had them, and we thought why not see what it looks like for a month," said the movement's co-founder, who goes by the name JC.

"So we bought back the moustache and tied it to men's health, because there's nothing more manly than a moustache."

Now a 'tache can be seen on every street corner in Britain during November, among them on Ahmed Ahmed, a 28-year-old account manager who has raised about 4 000 with his work colleagues.

"Some people have taken it quite seriously, dyeing theirs and getting the wax," he said, rubbing his own patchy but neatly trimmed black moustache.

But he can't wait to shave it off on December 1: "I'm always checking to make sure I haven't got food in it. It's just not my look." – (AFP) 

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