Lincoln Tan

Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Navy rule change embraces Movember

Hitomi Shiraishi gets Lieutenant Commander Mike Peebles ready for Movember. Photo / Natalie Slade
Hitomi Shiraishi gets Lieutenant Commander Mike Peebles ready for Movember. Photo / Natalie Slade

Lieutenant Commander Mike Peebles made naval history yesterday, becoming the first officer to be shaved in preparation for growing a moustache for Movember.

Until this year, Royal New Zealand Navy rules prevented sailors from growing a mo, for safety reasons, following tradition and British Royal Navy regulations.

"Queen Victoria had the opinion that she didn't want sailors to injure themselves at sea spending time styling their facial hair with a razor on a rocking ship," said spokeswoman Victoria Rendall.

However, the Chief of Navy, Rear Admiral Jack Steer, decided to ditch tradition and gave the go ahead for all male navy personnel to grow a mo for Movember.

Commander Peebles, 31, who lost his father to prostate cancer, said he had been involved with Movember for eight years and was thrilled the navy had changed the rules.

"Tradition's important, but I think promoting men's health is just as important. My father has taught me the importance of getting regular health checks, and that it's okay to seek help even for mental issues ... this is what Movember's all about."

Commander Peebles was shaved with a cut-throat razor at the Devonport Naval Base by professional groomer Hitomi Shiraishi from the Grooming Lounge.

Leading Marine Technician Jeremy Jeffs, 30, said sailors had been "real excited" about being part of Movember with the rule change and all but four of the 28 men on his ship, HMNZS Rotoiti, had signed up.

Last year, more than 15,000 men and women registered to raise over $1.57 million for men's health issues, including prostate and testicular cancer and mental health.

Funds raised through Movember go to the Mental Health Foundation and the Cancer Society, funding programmes to improve men's health. Organisers are setting a target of 20,000 this year for the month-long event, but are hoping for at least 18,000 registrations.

Movember manager Rob Dunne said about 7000 people had already registered, and urged more to "shave off any residual facial hair and start fundraising".

The men's suicide rate is nearly three times that of women and they die, on average, four years younger.

About one male adult passes away prematurely every three hours from a preventable illness. Mr Dunne said Movember was aimed at creating conversation and a strong community of understanding around men's health.

The movement began in 2003 when Aussie blokes grew moustaches during November for fun, but is now a global foundation with representation in more than 21 countries.

Yesterday sports presenter Martin Tasker, the voice of the America's Cup, shaved his mo for the first time in 41 years live on television, and other celebrities are following suit.

Register at www.movember.com to participate.

- NZ Herald

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