It’s a male of a tail.
By Neptune’s beard! Making a viral merman calendar is thirsty work.
“I was ready to drown myself in alcohol at the end. It was nuts,” Hasan Hai, creator of the bearded dudeoir calendar flooding your social media feeds, told Moneyish about organizing 12 shoots featuring almost 30 volunteer mermen in just 22 days.
But now the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Beard and Moustache Club is riding a tidal wave of support ever since shots from the 2018 MerB’ys Calendar (which combines “merman” with the gender-neutral Newfoundland term “b’y” for buddy) have gone viral.
The $20 calendar, which will be officially released Nov. 18, shows burly, tattooed men blowing kisses, grooming their beards and drinking beers in naught but shimmery mermaid tales. All proceeds (after covering the printing and marketing expenses) will benefit their local Spirit Horse Mental Health Program, which provides animal therapy for people with mental illness and physical limitations, and also teaches life skills to youths and adults.
Their first run of 1,000 calendars has already sold out in presales, so they’ve printed several thousand more to meet demand. “We’ve sold calendars to more than 20 countries around the world now,” said Hai, 39, “and the feedback is that people are loving the same things we are: The body positivity aspect, the fact that it’s linked to a good organization that supports mental health awareness — and the photos just bring so much joy.”
Hai was fishing for a way to raise money for Spirit Horse last August when someone on Facebook suggested that he and his hirsute club make a splash as mermen. He posed the idea to his NL Beard and Moustache Club members, and everyone was on board.
“We wish to keep the total donation amount a surprise until the end of our campaign,” he said, “but we are looking at tens of thousands of dollars.”
It took a village to pull this project together. The nine photographers, the make-up artists and the crafters all donated their time and talents.
To get camera-ready, Hai dished that beards were brushed and oiled to look their best – with some of the longer ones even getting blowouts. “A blow dryer never hurts to really fluff it up,” he said.
Makeup ranged from minimal concealer to full-on glitter beards. “Look out for the December page!” he teased.
Of course, the pièce de ré·sis·tance was each merman tail, custom-made for each MerB’y by local artists Clare Fowler and Kyle Sampson – and most were free thanks to materials donated by area businesses. The fancier shiny green and red tails did cost about $30 or so in fabric.
They were a lot more graceful to look at than to move around in, however.
“The key thing is to pose yourself before putting the tail on, otherwise there’s a lot of hopping and squirming involved,” laughed Hai.
And the men stripping down to their skivvies to slip on their mermaid tails weren’t just braving potential body shamers — they were also exposing themselves to Newfoundland’s beaches, fishing piers and waterfalls in October, when temperatures average just 44 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
“We later learned we could keep tight pants on under them, or some fellas would wear shorts,” Hai said. “It was pretty cold.”
But it was worth it, since even the most self-conscious mermen found this to be a priceless liberating experience.
“Body positivity is a huge part of this; that definition of what a ‘real’ man looks like goes part and parcel with this culture of beards and mustaches, and it’s garbage for the most part. Real men look any way that you can imagine,” said Hai.
“A bunch of fellows who were very uncomfortable at the thought of doing this — those who never took their shirts off in public – after having done it, it’s opened a whole new world to them of confidence,” he added. “When you get enough fellows together of all body types doing this, you feel much more comfortable. You’re not alone.
Hai has body image demons of his own. “I’m a bigger fellow. I’ve got a big old belly. I don’t fit into tight jeans very well,” he confessed. “But one of the premises of our club is to be inclusive of all people. Women are welcome. And with our calendar, we wanted to showcase the same values that are integral to our club.”
But they still embraced the humor and whimsy of being mermen during their shoots. Hai would call on his dudes to blow kisses, hold hands, and look at a fellow merman like “he’s the most gorgeous fish you’ve ever seen!”
“That stereotypical view of what masculinity looks like – particularly with these bigger, bearded men you think should be wearing flannel and holding an ax – we’re turning it completely on its side,” he said. “We’re literally doing the reverse of that here by being very vulnerable, and very silly. And it’s for a great cause.”
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