End of Movember - 'taches to ashes

Movember is over, and women the world over are breathing a sigh of relief. Liam O'Brien salutes the charity phenomenon on everybody's lips

It was once the preserve of bohemian intellectuals, Village People impersonators, knowing East London hipsters and the just plain idle, but last month saw the moustache explode across the top lips of 250,00 Britons raising money for men's cancer charities.

Movember, as it's known, encourages men – or "Mo Bros" – to abandon their razors for the 30 days of November and to document their facial growths on social networking sites. Perhaps to the chagrin of bosses across the country, the movement really took off this year. The UK's Mo Bros have already raised £14.7m as part of a £63m global total, easily surpassing last year's impressive take.

In a sign of the movement's ubiquity, David Cameron thanked Welsh MP Nick Smith for his splendid moustache during Wednesday's Prime Minister's Questions.

"For those who are capable of doing so, it is a very good way of raising the profile of prostate cancer," he added. He also complimented Lib Dem Roger Williams on the "magnificent specimen lurking under his nose". Movember organiser Ric Boullemier said: "It's been in the UK now for five years, and this year it has 'popped'. Men's charities do tend to get overlooked; women have their pink ribbon, so we're trying to make the moustache the male counterpart. It's probably the laziest charity in the world."

But yesterday the fun came to an end and grateful wives and partners across the country rejoiced as men slapped on the shaving foam and scraped the fuzz from their faces.

Movember began in Melbourne, Australia, in 2003, but was thrust into public consciousness last year when the Australian cricket team – and England's own Kevin Pietersen – sported moustaches during the 2010 Ashes series. Since then, celebrities have been eager to get on board. World 5000m gold medallist Mo Farah grew a beauty this year, quipping: "Don't forget, every time you shave, a moustache dies."

Stephen Fry, Daniel Craig and Ricky Gervais have all taken pictures of their efforts to the approval of fans worldwide, but some debutants found their 'taches sourly mocked. Alas, 17-year-old Justin Bieber's fruitless growth was hardly a rival for the Groucho Marxes of this world. "In some ways it's those guys who we should thank, the ones who put in the most effort but take the most flak," said Mr Boullemier. "He's one for our Lame-Mo category for people who can't grow their moustache in 30 days."

But the campaigner said there was a moustache to suit every man. "I've gone for a Rufus Hound one, a bit of a trucker," he adds. "People doing it for the first time tend to go all-out with handlebars. Gary Lineker's was particularly good this year."

But dissent rumbled against Movember's relentless drive to colonise the upper lips of men across the world. "The golden truth at the heart of Movember," wrote Canadian journalist Scott Gilmore last month, "and other campaigns like it, is that it is more important to be seen doing something, than it is to actually do something."

The man who has raised the most so far has only managed to curate something thin and wispy. Canadian Neil Rossy amassed £50k, beating British Airways chairman Martin Broughton's £41k. The donations, still being taken, will go to the Prostate Cancer Charity and the Institute for Cancer Research.

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