TALLINN - The moustache has had a long and conflicted history. It has dipped in and out of public favor, resting on the upper lip of kings and tyrants alike. From Stalin and Hitler to Burt Reynolds and Salvador Dali, a moustache has always made a bold public statement and has, for better or worse, made an impact on society.
Now it is helping to prevent cancer.
Next month has been dubbed "Februhairy" in Estonia, thanks to a project organized by Mark White, a DJ at Energy FM 93.2 in Tallinn. During Februhairy men are encouraged to grow a moustache for the month and participate in a wide array of events aimed at awareness and prevention of testicular cancer.
"This is meant to be fun, to promote awareness in an exciting way and at the same time be educating guys about preventing the cancer," said White, "There are simple ways to avoid getting it, and then rather than have to worry about curing it men can focus on prevention which is actually cheaper."
Contests, prizes and concerts will supplement this first annual Februhairy and all collected funds will be donated towards the purchase of a new machine 's valued at 500,000 kroons 's for detecting testicular cancer.
Februhairy will actually kick off on the last day of January, when participating men are expected to shave their faces clean of any existing facial hair or stubble. They are then asked to take a picture of themselves and to send it into the Energy Radio Web site, where it will be posted alongside those of other participants.
There will be an opportunity to take progressive pictures at a wide number of events held over the course of the month. In addition to comparing the follicle developments, these pictures serve as tokens of participation and increase chances for winning large prizes at the final momentous Februhairy event.
Events and competitions will be held almost every day for the entire month, along with additional opportunities and bonuses for men growing their 'staches.
One of these competitions is called "Has X Got the Balls for It?" and will be broadcast daily during the Energy FM morning show. Recorded in a bowling alley, one of the DJs will let loose a bowling ball and listeners will call in to guess the number of pins knocked down. Whoever comes closest to the actual number will win free bowling for two.
The morning show will also feature a top Estonian doctor specializing in testicular cancer to discuss the issue and the importance of spreading awareness of the problem. A special clinic will be set up by the doctor to check for testicular cancer and to teach how to check for signs of the disease.
A charity football match will take place in Februhairy matching up Energy FM listeners and the Tallinn Team Nomme Kalju, again with all proceeds going towards the testicular cancer apparatus.
Many of the planned events allow men and their moustaches to get out and take advantage of Tallinn night life. A karaoke night will take place at an Old Town bar one night, and a small fee for singing will be donated towards the cancer checking machine. Men with moustaches will be allowed free entry to Hollywood Club one night of the week, and White hopes to set up a testicle checking clinic in the VIP room (then standing for "Very Important Pair").
The month-long series of events will be capped off with a final bash featuring a live show by Estonian rocker Tanel Padar, who may also work on growing his own facial soup-strainer during Februhairy. The concert may feature a special performance of "Welcome to Hair-stonia" and an acoustic set in Club Seduction.
In an eloquent show of support for the cause, Padar confirmed his involvement by saying "Anything for the balls."
Several prizes will be given out at this wrap-up party. In addition to items won for participation in events, a competition will be held for various types of moustaches and their degrees of repulsiveness or attraction. Several large companies have agreed to donate sizeable packages for the cause. These include use of a Land Rover Discovery for a weekend in Finland's off road course, a home entertainment system, a paintball weekend for two, fleeces and other merchandise.
Discounts will be given to men wearing moustaches at several local bars and restaurants that display a Februhairy poster in their windows. Maintenance of the majestic facial hair will be available from a special hairdresser at the radio, providing trimming and styling services.
White developed the idea for Februhairy in Estonia after speaking with some Australian friends and expressing his wish to put some effort into charity and contribute to a good cause. The Australians told him about the growing popularity of "Mowvember," held in November in five Commonwealth countries. A moustache is termed a "mow" in Australia, and the month follows the same principles of growing a moustache and spreading awareness of testicular cancer prevention.
The main point of the project organized by White is to have fun and contribute to a little-recognized and worthy cause. He said that statistics show men often ignore this problem, although each year as many men die from testicular cancer as women die from breast cancer. White is in a prime position to champion the cause, given that the main demography listening to his morning show is men aged 17 - 35. This is also the age group at highest risk of developing testicular cancer.
Women are not fully excluded from Februhairy although they commonly lack facial hair. The Australian version promotes "Mowsisters" who show their support by wearing fake moustaches and attend events in support of the guys. Cancer is a problem which bridges the gender gap in threatening important parts of the body.
The moustache is a perfect tool to spread awareness for this cause throughout Februhairy. White said that having a moustache makes a visual statement, and can provoke conversation about the reason for the wearer sporting the new look. It is also a good symbol of health, opposite to the loss of hair which occurs when a patient is undergoing radiation therapy during cancer treatment.
White also points out that this type of social and enjoyable approach to a depressing subject is becoming trendier and more youthful.
"It used to just be an old lady on the corner shaking a can to get coins for research. We don't need to dwell on the fact that cancer is a dreadful thing. We all know that. It will always be that. What's important is to not be negative but to make it fun and at the same time make people aware," said White.
More information about participating in Februhairy can be found at www.energyfm.ee