MAW began in Spring 2003 with the follicular efforts of student Tom Balsley '05. Whereas that first spring found one student growing and 2,999 appreciating, this year's iteration improved that ratio.
Nearly 150 students grew mustaches for this year's week, said MAW 06 Chair Erik Carlson '06. In anticipation of this year's festivities, the MAW committee began tabling nearly a month ago, allowing students time to prepare growing out their facial hair.
Organizers hoped to move beyond the traditional liberation theme to a focus on appreciation.
Growing facial hair is part of becoming a man, but I know I wouldn't have the same confidence without this kind of support network, Carlson said. The week isn't just about showing your appreciation, it's about discovering it, fostering it.
Part of the change in emphasis emerged from an e-mail sent to the St. Olaf faculty by College Archivist Jeff Sauve in February. Sauve unearthed a 1948 Manitou Messenger article that detailed the results of a mandatory beard-growing contest held on campus. Participation was enforced with a 50 cent fine for those who were caught shaving between Christmas and the mid-February's Winter Sports Day.
Winners received $10 rewards for the greatest growth, reddest, black and dirtiest, best effort, and most unique beards. While no rewards were handed out in conjunction with this year's MAW, Carlson viewed those students as kindred spirits in facial hair experimentation.
I think this year's results show we've come a long way, Carlson said.
While the numbers Carlson cited may be optimistic, a walk around campus revealed that many students were channeling their inner Tom Sellecks (and Balsleys).
One student found his personal Magnum, P.I., more directly. On Friday, Matt Fedde 06 dressed as the virile 80s sex icon.
MAW is all about discovering that individual that lives inside each of us the mustached one, Carlson said. Matt's happened to look like Tom Selleck that day.
One of MAW's principal tenets is that students should feel free to dress as the mustaches they sport. This year, the result was a variety of pirates, scoutmasters, dads and middle-school teachers roaming campus. As the week progressed, students shaved off parts of their accumulated facial hair as they saw fit.
I call this one 'The Admiral, said Karl Olson '08 on Monday as he sported what was essentially a full beard minus the chin hair. By the end of the week, Olson's mustache was all that remained, a style he called The Used Car Salesman.
The students congregated in Fireside each day during Chapel to compare styles and 'staches. This flock was alternately praised and frowned upon by onlookers. What is this bearded revolution? asked visitor Clair Tannenbaum.
Some women were sympathetic with the cause: Amy Wicks 06 and Keisha Sedlacek 06 both modeled prosthetic mustaches on Wednesday.
Most people fell in between.
As long as they don't keep them, I guess it's fine with me, Kristen Roys '07 said.
As this week's clean-shavenness can attest, most students did not keep them. As Danny Szydlo '06 said, I thought about it my dad has had a mustache my whole life. I know I'll be joining him someday, but [the growth] just wasn't there yet.