Mantober: A Fraternity of Beards

Written By: Marissa Korpan

Every beard has a beginning. For some men, their current facial hair is the result of a rushed morning with no time to shave. For others, it is the product of a long growing process. Some men exhibit the “five-o-clock shadow”―the bearded outline that appears in late afternoon on the face of a man who last shaved in the morning. Although beards of various lengths appear on different men, they do not all begin to grow at the same time―except for the one month of the year called No-Shave November (or, at Providence Christian College, Mantober).

If one were to gather a group of college men, have them shave all their facial hair, and stipulate that they could not shave again for four weeks, which one would have the longest beard at the end of the month? This is the question that Mantober seeks to answer.

In contrast to the No-Shave November phenomenon, the Providence tradition of Mantober begins in October (hence the name “Mantober”). When it commenced in 2008, this event was part of the widespread No-Shave November movement, but later transitioned to October so that male actors in the Drama Club’s November performance could participate. Justin Bleeker, the Director of Student Life at Providence, states that the original event began at the instigation of Resident Assistant David Ligtenberg. It also encompassed smaller events “geared around ‘manhood,’ including chivalrous acts…[and] feats of strength” in addition to beard-growing.

Mantober demands that the participants start the month with a clean face―and most likely a dirty razor. No hair from the previous month is permissible. Otherwise, it would be cheating. While competition drives Providence’s Mantober event, one website claims that the purpose of No-Shave November “is not so much the contest…but rather the sheer laziness of being unkempt and rough…for an entire month.”

An article posted on the website of The Daily, the newspaper of the University of Washington, outlines the beginning of No-Shave November: “Unbeknownst to many, the event began in 1999 as a way to spread awareness of men’s health issues, especially prostate cancer.” This idea originated in Australia, where the event came to be called “Movember” (a combination of “mo,” Australian slang for mustache, and “November”). It was not until then that the wider No-Shave November movement began, which mostly focuses on the pleasure and competition of growing a beard.

Providence students agree that Mantober is a worthwhile observance. According to freshman Caleb Grimes, beards “exemplify the manliness that every guy wants to have.” He also adds that deep down, every guy knows that ladies are attracted to beards. On the other hand, Jim Herrema, a junior at Providence, admits that he is not participating this year because he values his girlfriend over his beard. Sophomore Tim Veltkamp summarizes Mantober this way: “It is a way for the men at Providence to be able to participate in a fellowship beyond normal communication. It shows a type of commitment to each other by agreeing on an action and agreeing to do it together.” This sentiment gives a whole new meaning to the word “fraternity” as defined on college campuses.