Shinny Happy People
Why mankind’s crushing fear of going bald is a menacing social construct that needs taking down
Article by Nick Scott
Of all things in life that make the creaking of the wheels of time sound deafening, people of my age group losing their hair is up there with Prince having a hip replacement. One close friend of my brother’s was still in his early twenties when he noticed that his annual Christmas gift haul contained less and less hair-care products as the years went by. “Before long, Santa will start giving me black crayons,” he quipped one Boxing Day, gesticulating wildly with a hairbrush that had more freshly plucked locks clinging to its bristles than there were on his entire wispy bonce.
A man naturally indisposed to vanity (yet far too cool for a combover), he one day realised that the feathery remains of his once densely thatched cranium had gone from looking ridiculously faint to faintly ridiculous, and reached for the clippers. But not all men embrace the irreversible onset of male pattern baldness with such insouciant grace. In the US alone, hair loss related quackery is a $3.5 billion industry — as big a money-spinner as the vastly more medically legitimate over-the-counter cold and flu market.
And it’s not just vanity that’s prompting men, in particular, to spend their hard-earned on hormone supplements, blood flow-bolstering lasers and follicle-nurturing potions: while enough ‘studies’ (invariably by obscure American business schools) have found that bald heads denote masculinity, dominance and even leadership potential for the phrase “power buzz” to be taken seriously in some quarters, one can’t help noticing that there hasn’t been a bald Prime Minister since Sir Alec Douglas-Home in the 60s, while across The Pond, the last US president who regularly required the services of a powder puff compact when the sun was shining on the White House Rose Garden was Dwight Eisenhower.
Those who have been sentenced, by hereditary precedent, to join the legions of relatively young slapheads can take comfort from the fact that they’re by no means alone – around 40 per cent of men have noticeable hair loss by the time they’re 35. And, alopeciaphobia – it’s about time there was a word for it – is nothing new: Since the dawn of civilisation, men have called on Gods, gunk and more recently genetic research to combat cranial malting. The Ancient Egyptians used to rub pigeon faeces or rancid python fat (literally, snake oil) into their scalps in the hope of fertilizing the follicles.
And yet all common sense dictates that my brother’s friend, in parting with his hair on his own terms, is a shining example (apologies!) of exactly how men should deal with the fallout (apologies again!) when their healthy head-jungle succumbs to deforestation. After all, a disproportionate number of proudly slap-headed male celebrities – Bruce Willis, Vin Diesel, Sean Connery, Jason Statham, Samuel L Jackson – are figures of hard-boiled virility. Famous men who have opted for a hair transplant, meanwhile, include Silvio Berlusconi, Elton John, Shane Warne and Wayne Rooney. Form an orderly queue, ladies.
At least they’ve shown dedication to the cause, though, unlike men who attempt to make their thinning hair look more abundant by dyeing it. Paul McCartney’s regular appointment with a bottle of Grecian 2000 might simply come down to concealing the grey; on the other hand, this is a 72-year-old man who, at the age of 25, wrote the lyrics: “When I get older losing my hair, Many years from now; Will you still be sending me a valentine; Birthday greetings bottle of wine?” It’s hard not to conclude that this is a case of seriously misplaced vanity from one of the four men who popularised the moptop haircut half a century ago.
Those considering any of the above measures should contemplate the fact that plenty of academic chin-strokers now surmise that baldness is an evolutionary signal expressing social maturity, and therefore depleted aggression, increased wisdom and nurturing faculties. In other words, the prominent, shining, vaguely phallic cranial dome could be interpreted as a silent mating call: “I’m daddy material – let me impregnate you”.
And so, good gentlemen, it’s time to embrace being bald – and not “as a coot”, as the derogatory expression goes, but with the dignity that Victorian English poet Matthew Arnold attached to it: “Bald as the bare mountain tops are bald, with a baldness full of grandeur.”
It’s enough for an alopecia-free mop-top like me to actually feel a pang of envy over my shinier, happier peers.