"It is uncomfortable," he said. "I am trying to support the campaign in other ways." He has been recording the stories of students touched by prostate cancer — as well as marking the progress of their mustaches.

Nothing is ever simple at the Naval Academy, so of course there are "midshipmen mustache" commanders, who check that the regulations are met. Each of the 30 companies in the brigade will choose its best-mustachioed member, and an overall mustache champion will be chosen at the end of the month.

And, as it should be perhaps, the midshipmen aspire to grow a mustache as fine as the distinctive sandy-hued one owned by the superintendent, Vice Admiral Michael H. Miller.

"His is the ideal," Herbold said.

"In an institution that is primarily male, this is an important issue," said Hall. "And it is something that has never been allowed here before."

Wilcock, the campaign's originator, is gratified by the response. But when asked why he isn't participating in his own event by growing a mustache, he gives what is apparently a very practiced answer.

"It's there. The light just has to hit it in a certain way."

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

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