Bearded without a cause

Man on the Street: No Shave November and Movember are popular at Syracuse University, but the purpose of growing facial hair to raise awareness for men's health issues gets lost off campus.

It’s that special time of year when hair prickles on chins and upper lips. Patches appear. Faces disappear behind giant tufts of bristly hair. Kissing becomes a little scratchy. 

No Shave November and Movember encourage men to grow beards and mustaches to show their support for men’s health. The point is to use the attention as an opportunity to raise awareness and funds for diseases that affect men, specifically prostate and testicular cancer. Too bad nearly no one in Syracuse knows.

Michael Riepma, a bearded employee of Alto Cinco restaurant, has never heard of either No Shave November or Movember.

“I’m just a bearded individual,” Riepma said. “Every month is a bearded month for me: Octoberbeard, Novembeard, Decembeard.”

Tom Waltos, a retired man from North Syracuse, hasn’t heard of the movement either, but he thinks the idea is novel.

“If it can generate income for a worthwhile cause, then absolutely,” Waltos said.

People who know about the month’s festivities tend to be younger. Bill Dell, a State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry student from Long Island, N.Y. wishes he could do No Shave November. His girlfriend Annie wishes he could too, since she “likes scruff on a guy.” Unfortunately, Dell can’t yet grow a full beard.

Erica Barrett, a home childcare specialist from Binghamton, N.Y. has never heard of No Shave November or Movember, but she likes that people are trying different approaches to raise donations for medical research.

“I have a syndrome myself and it’s hard to raise money when so few people know about it,” said Barrett, who has had Marfan Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder, her entire life. 

She believes fundraising for medical research is important but little attention is paid to lesser-known diseases, like hers. One in 5,000 people have Marfan Syndrome, according to the National Marfan Foundation website. One in six men get some form of prostate cancer, according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

“There’s very little funding for Marfan’s since it’s so rare,” Barrett said. “Most of these fundraising events happen for diseases like cancer or AIDS.”

McCoy Ricks and Marshall Jones, two friends from the Syracuse area, both think prostate cancer should have more awareness, but don’t think No Shave November really gets the point across.

“They could advertise that cause better, like breast cancer,” said Jones, an employee of a local moving company. “Breast Cancer Awareness Month. That was last month right?”

Ricks said he thinks breast cancer awareness groups are successful because of the way they branded the color pink. 

“You see pink everywhere,” he said.

Jim Hierolzer, a cook at Mario’s from Baldwinsville loves facial hair and was disappointed he hadn’t heard of No Shave November. 

“I wish I would’ve known,” Hierolzer said. “My boss would love this. He has a big mustache. He actually looks like Super Mario.”

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