AS a young Mediterranean woman, I am no stranger to the moustache.
Not on my own face, you understand. I mean one that can dress a man’s upper lip.
I say this because my dad has impressive facial hair. I mean a full-on follicle frenzy on his face.
Growing up, I remember other dads picking up their children from school. They would arrive at the playground clean-shaven, with their chins visible.
Then my beloved Dad, Antonio Jose, would appear.
He would proudly arrive at 3pm with five o’clock shadow sitting below a tash that would rival that of a Freddie Mercury on steroids.
Facial hair is complex.
It can signify not only an evolved man’s post-pubescent prowess, but throughout history has represented social status, image and even religion.
While the moustache may have fallen out of favour as a facial fashion accessory (unless you’re a trendy lad from east London) it is still the culmination of testosterone.
So, perhaps it’s apt that the moustache should be used to symbolise the health of all things man.
Of course, I’m referring to Movember.
The month ‘formerly known as November’ is dedicated to growing a moustache and raising awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate and testicular cancer.
QPR players are some of the ambassadors sporting a moustache for causes like The Prostate Cancer charity and the Institute of Cancer Research.
Joey Barton, Shaun Wright-Phillips and the heavily handle-barred Shaun Derry are adorning the back pages with their Movember marvels.
Since its humble beginnings in 2003, the awareness month has grown into a global movement inspiring more than 1.1 million men to participate.
I met a team of four Movember men from the London-based asset management consultancy, Insight Investment.
The group, dubbed The Mochete Banditos, have so far raised £520.
El Marinho, 44, said: “Even though I’ve had what many people have called a ‘Brazilian’ on my bottom lip for years, I can’t get used to seeing myself with a big 70s bad-guy moustache.”
It really was impressive. Thick black lines swept his entire upper lip and travelled to his chin. His wife even offered to sponsor him more if he allowed her to style it. El said it was like being
part of an exclusive club.
“By taking part in Movember any man will be looked upon with respect for supporting a worthy cause,” he said. “Even if their moustache looks like it will blow away in the next gust of wind.”
So do men bond in their moustache-growing efforts? Or does the rate you can grow a moustache, and at what density, separate the boys from the men?
Sandeep Pankhania, 33, said: “It’s a bonus to show up a colleague who doesn’t have a hope in growing a Mo, even in a whole month.”
I sensed a slight whiff of competition.
“It's not what you grow but how you wear it that counts,” Gavin Tommey, 41, added.
“I think Confucius once said - or was it Tom Selleck? Anyway someone with a mo said: 'A man may grow a moustache but it's the moustache that grows the man'.”
Gavin has personal motivations for his Movember effort. His grandfather died of prostate cancer and his father is currently fighting it.
He said: “Things are looking good for him.”
But it's only good research and - this is the most important thing - early diagnosis that will save him.”
One in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK with one man being diagnosed every 15 minutes.
With men 80 per cent less likely to visit their GP than women in the UK, it leaves men more vulnerable to miss early signs of prostate and testicular cancer.
Doctors advise men over 40 to ask for a PSA blood test, which checks for levels of a prostate-specific antigen hormone which could indicate a problem.
This is the vulnerability Movember tries to redress.
And it works.
David McGranaghan, 25, said that, a few months after his first Movember in 2008, one of the fund-raisers in his team was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
It was detected because he had learned of the symptoms during Movember and has since had the all-clear.
“Just by us having a little bit of fun, it has saved a good friend of mine and, for that reason, I have kept up growing my mo every year,” he added.
I was taken aback.
Something that I first thought was an amusing cultural movement has proved to be life-saving.
It seems no amount of social ridicule can put off a true Movember man.
David managed to grow a moustache back in 2008, but it was so fair that a lady gave him black mascara to make it show up for a picture.
“The rest of the team gave me so much grief over that,” he said.
As December is with us and men finally reach for the razor, Movember UK rates this year as the most successful to date.
So, I pass on my hearty congratulations.
As a female, I feel I am a mere observer to this worthwhile social phenomenon.
But I’m doing my bit. I’ve convinced my Dad to take part next year He’s got the facial hair foundations, helped by his Mediterranean genes, so he might as well put it to a good cause.
He’s my very own Mov-hombre.
You can register to participate or donate at www.movember.com