The bald truth
Male pattern baldness came knocking early for me. I can most likely thank my Dad’s genes for that. When I was 19 years old my boss at the restaurant where I worked was walking down some stairs, with me walking in front, and he asked the question “Steve are you going bald?”. Fast forward a few hours and I was at home trying to view my crown with various mirrors in order to confirm my fears.
Throughout my early teenage years I always had problems with my fine hair – I envied all of my friends who always seemed to have cooler hair styles than me. Products such as spray, gel, moose and brylcreem (!) never seemed to enable me to get the style I craved. My early hair loss was to hit me during my time at University and it knocked my confidence for six. In these formative adult years I was very self-conscious of my condition and it would take me at least a decade longer to be comfortable with the way I looked.
Managing through my hair crisis was a challenge – there were various ways I learnt to cover up thinning areas to try and avoid being called out. My receding hairline went through various stages, from rapidly diminishing hair at the temples through to full on landing strip at the front (which can be seen on the photo below) always trying to disguise the barren areas with strategic hair placement. I never needed to opt for a full-on Bobby Charlton comb over but I did give up trying to hold on to my wisps in my late 20s when I finally decided to go for the complete shaved look. Of course, there were comments at work but I found that if I didn’t rise to any of the nastiness or insults then these would soon go after everyone has got used to my new hair style.
The (Hair) Transporter
Fortunately for me there are some people out there that don’t mind men who are bald and some have a real thing for bald men. I was trying to think about famous bald male sex symbols and I could think up a few: Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Pep Guardiola, Thierry Henry, to name a few! There seems to be a higher level of stickiness in me remembering bald men who play villains, Voldemort in Harry Potter, Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon, Walter White in Breaking Bad (who had hair when he was good), Dr Evil in Austin Powers, Lex Luthor in Superman Returns, and Blofeld in James Bond. There are certainly some celebrities who spring to mind with more hair to share: David Ginola, Russell Brand, Harry Styles, Brad Pitt, Jason Momoa.
I recall a failed first date with a Liverpool make-up artist who proceeded to tell me about all her famous bald men fantasies. This included Simon Rimmer (celebrity chef), who she seemed to be regularly messaging on Twitter, and Peter Cox, the lead singer of 80s band Go West, who this particular lady had managed to track down and date for a while. I didn’t see her again.
My ‘likeness’ to a handful of bald celebrities has been noted over the years: way back it was Duncan Goodhew (the Olympic swimmer), then it was PJ (from the 3rd series of Big Brother, famous for his under the sheets altercation with Jade Goody and looking like me). At the 2012 FA Cup Semi at Wembley an Everton fan called me Jonjo Shelvey (former Red, now playing at Newcastle), which was to be the first and last time that particular reference was made.
More recently it has been a likeness to Greg Wallace. Despite the fact that he has nearly 10 years on me and doesn’t have a bushy beard it has certainly caused confusion with the public on a couple of occasions. Firstly, after exiting arrivals at a UK airport I was greeted by a gathering at the barriers who were clearly there to see the Greg Wallace. There was a mild buzz as the doors to ‘nothing to declare’ fizzed open, but this was followed by the realisation at close quarters that I was never their beloved Greg. Secondly, a photo was posted on Facebook by a friend (thanks Ruth) with the caption ‘Burns Night with Greg Wallace‘ which caused quite a stir as one friend in particular was very impressed! Finally, a barista at the Euston Pret swore blind I was the man himself, and this is the one and only time I have profiteered from my ‘likeness’ by getting a free coffee!
So bald can be sexy (although I’ve never been likened to the traditional sexy bald men) and there are loads of advantages to having a partner that is bald – they are not going to clog up the shower or hoover with stray hair and they certainly won’t be stealing the last of your shampoo and conditioner.
Follically challenged, baldy, slap-head, bald as a coot, chrome dome, cue ball, skullet (new one to me) are some of the phrases used to describe people like me who have lost their hair. These are used behind our backs and to our faces. I recall as a 14 year old getting a tour round a prospective High School with my parents and the headmaster (who along with my Dad, was bald). After exiting one classroom I remember the door opening after we had left and a pupil shouted ‘slap-head’ down the corridor at us. I didn’t know whether it was directed at my dad or headmaster. Needless to say I didn’t go to that school.
I didn’t choose to be bald, nature did, and of course there is always fun to be had at another person’s expense. There is always someone who feels it appropriate to point out that you are bald (no sh** Sherlock!) or mock your lack of hair. This is typically done in a group to try and be funny and in doing so belittle you. I am sure these things were said in jest with little malice intended but it does, even now, make me uncomfortable on the inside as I remember how I used to feel.
If someone was to make fun of a person because of their race, sexuality, gender, handicap, other visible condition, whatever – they would be rightly pilloried. In mental health awareness week I was saddened to learn about the mental health issues of Luke Chadwick, the former Man United footballer who was publicly ridiculed because of his physical appearance. It seems like teasing someone because of their appearance is deemed more socially acceptable, but to me it is not. It still carries on now, with my beard growth I now get comments like it ‘looks like your head is upside down’. Yawn. Perhaps it says more about the insecurities of the individual who is making the ‘fun’, feeling the need to belittle someone to their own benefit.
Lean on me
Research suggests that ‘male pattern baldness‘ is likely to affect half of all men by the age of 50. This means that as I rapidly approach that age there is one thing I don’t need to worry about, but I do have a number of pals who are going that way. To them, I feel your pain, and have been there, got the t-shirt, albeit nearly 30 years earlier. If you need any advice then you know where I am – if anyone has made you feel uncomfortable with reference to your baldness make it known to them that it is unacceptable or just send them a link to this blog.
The idea for this blog came about when I was shaving my head during lockdown. I have seen a number of people complaining about the state of their hair and missing their hairdresser/barber. My wife spent around 2 hours cutting her sons hair the other day – it looked like a science experiment with clippers and string. There have been quite a few newsworthy home haircut fails and my friends often preface any photos of themselves on social media with some sort of apology about their ‘lockdown hair’. For those with hair I would imagine getting it cut will be one of the main luxuries you crave once lockdown is over?
I see lockdown as a great opportunity to ‘test the water’ with a new style. You can’t really mess up a buzz cut (or a razor shave – although if you nick your scalp, particularly in the shower it does feel like you are going to bleed to death!) and you can do it in the comfort that it will grow back before anyone sees you. If you want to you can also make an event of it (like a couple of my friends have done) in order to raise some much needed money for a chosen charity.
That said, once you go for a short cut you do need to keep on top of it. I keep on top of mine at least every week – any longer and I start to look like Riff Raff out of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
I don’t think many of my friends will remember me with hair – in fact, if I was suddenly to gain a full head of hair (like Wayne Rooney, or more recently, Xherdan Shaqiri) I think it would freak most of my friends out!
There are a number of other benefits to being bald:
- I am used to it and had to deal with it early – so it’s one less thing I have to worry about in middle age
- I have saved a shed load of money on shampoo, conditioner and trips to the barbers
- It is one less thing that I have to worry about fixing when I’m going out (or on a zoom call!), or get caught in a sudden downpour
Baldies of the World Unite
I am not sure what this has to do with recruitment or location planning – there has certainly been an explosion in Barber Shops since male pampering has become an acceptable social norm. Unfortunately, bald men will always be subject to teasing and name calling – this is a form of bullying and some will inevitably happen in the workplace. I also think the topic is related to the mental health and wellbeing themes that we write about as it is certainly something that affects people in different ways. I just hope that members of the bald fraternity empathise with some of the observations I have made in this blog, and those who choose to make fun think twice.
I have now lived more years on this planet without hair than with. Never one to reveal our secrets to ‘muggles’ there is an undocumented code amongst fellow baldies – we certainly never reference our baldness in front of non baldies. I just wish that non baldies would do the same. One thing that’s guaranteed is that at least some of my friends will be joining me over the next few years; welcome to this exclusive club!