Men don’t cry. For centuries together, people have grown up with a warped notion of masculinity and what it means to ‘Be a man’. Representation of men in popular culture has only added to the skewed understanding of gender roles in the society, leading to fewer discussions around men’s health and wellbeing. As a result, men can often find themselves in a place where they’re reluctant to seek help and be more hesitant to consult healthcare professionals for routine check-ups or early intervention.
In recent times, efforts have been made to break down these barriers and promote open dialogue about men's health, including initiatives like ‘Movember’ that have been successful in raising awareness about men's health issues, particularly prostate cancer and mental health. Another initiative facilitating change is The Distinguished Gentleman’s Drive (DGD), which emerged as an offshoot of The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride that kickstarted in 2011 by Mark Hawwa in Sydney, Australia.
As part of the DGD initiative, drivers and passengers come together to embrace a ‘dapper’ dress code, celebrating classic style that complements the timeless elegance of their pre-1980 classic cars. Since its inaugural drive in 2021, more than 6,000 drivers have participated in over 200 distinct drive events spanning 66 countries worldwide. This collective effort has not only generated substantial awareness but also raised nearly $400,000 (USD) for the Movember movement, playing a crucial role in supporting essential programmes and financing life-saving research.
For the first time in 2023, Dubai joined the roster of countries participating in the Distinguished Gentleman’s Drive. In a conversation with Khaleej Times, host Frad Tabarrok and co-hosts Ewan Cairns and Simon King, the organisers for DGD Dubai, take us through the journey of establishing The Distinguished Gentleman’s Drive and the impact it has had on men’s health in the city. Edited excerpts from an interview:
Take us through the origin story of The Distinguished Gentleman’s Drive…
First came the motorbikes. The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride was founded in 2011 and was inspired by a photo of TV show Mad Men’s Don Draper astride a classic motorcycle wearing his finest suit. Mark decided a themed ride would be a great way of connecting niche motorcycle enthusiasts and communities, while raising funds to support the men in our lives. The Distinguished Gentleman’s Drive is an extension of that. The primary purpose is to raise awareness about the often-overlooked issues surrounding men’s health; with a specific focus on prostate cancer and mental health issues.
Secondly, in countries where local regulations permit, funds are raised by Distinguished Gentlefolk taking part in the events to support the Movember movement (www.movember.com). These funds are subsequently invested in vital research and programmes for prostate cancer and men's mental health issues to support the wellbeing of men all around the world. The focus is to help men lead happier and healthier lives.
Issues with men’s mental health have also come to the fore in recent years. In what ways does the initiative raise awareness about it?
In addition to spreading awareness on prostate cancer, which is the second most diagnosed cancer in men, mental health is also a key focus area of DGD. Globally, on average, we lose one man to suicide every minute of every day. That’s half a million men every year. The issue of suicide is incredibly complex, there is no single reason why men take their own lives. But we do know that by improving overall mental health we can reduce the risk of suicide.
Addressing untreated mental health conditions and helping men establish better social connections are some of the focus areas. Too many men are struggling alone. The traditional barriers and stigma associated with seeking support for your mental wellbeing remain strong. Together, The Distinguished Gentleman’s Drive and Movember are breaking down these barriers; however they require assistance in this fight.
The inaugural drive took place in Dubai on September 24. How did the event come together?
This was the inaugural Distinguished Gentleman’s Drive for Dubai, though it will not be the last! Having a time frame of only three weeks, it was a punishing schedule for us to deliver a successful event. Ultimately, 61 cars registered for the drive — all of which met the requirement of being from the pre-1980s era. In keeping with the ‘dress dapper’ origins, drivers and passengers dressed in period attire with some very impressive results. Many a flat cap, waistcoat and bow tie were to be seen, along with 1960s-style flower power outfits matching with the vehicles.
Taking the form of a procession, the stunning cars were escorted by the equally stunning, but more modern, Dubai Police Supercar Division — supported by volunteers from the Emirates Motorsport Organisation. The participants met and mingled at both ends of the drive and the event not only served to bring a beautiful collection of cars together, but also to unite many like-minded individuals who shared their passion both for men’s health and vintage vehicles creating a wonderful community event.
How has the initiative resonated with the UAE residents?
Specifically in Dubai, this first event was a real eye-opener for the organisers. The support has been incredible, not just from the entrants, but also from local authorities — such as Emirates Motorsports Organisation and the Dubai Police. We have no doubt that next year the event will be bigger and better, we look forward to the continued support of the people and authorities of Dubai in making the world a better and safer place.
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