The stages of going bald

It’s a very tricky time when when a man goes bald. Give him a break, it’s tough man. What’s hardest to come to terms with is the irony of it all; his body will continue to grow hair till the day he dies, metres of the stuff, he is condemned to be shaving every morning, and it grows everywhere, out of his ears or nostrils, on his toes, on his back but alas, it will never grow again where it should be. On his head.

Mother Nature must have been poking fun right? Humans are mammals, warm blooded-vertebrates that nearly always have hair. This is Mother Nature’s first slight at the bald man, that her definitions of the  animal kingdom, should have the bald man edging away from this definition. Sure, she threw a few bum cards at women like childbirth pains and periods, but the joker in the pack was at the male of the human species in giving him alopecia; childbirth and menstruation serve useful purposes in human development. Hairloss? Not so much.

It’s quite an enigma, just what was on Mother Nature’s mind?A rung up Darwin’ s ladder? Perhaps a smooth shiny bald patch would be lice-free, or that that balding early caveman were better fighters because they couldn’t be dragged by their hair.

Despite protestation, men are as vain as women and men’s hair products are a multi billion dollar industry from shampoos to gels, wax, creams and oils – and that’s just for beards.  In fact, some men believe their masculinity actually  derives from their hair. Look at the hipster with his immaculately combed hair (how paradoxical then that the hipster movement, born out of a desire to be individualistic, to rebuff the mainstream, has left them all looking like clones).

This hair = masculinity myth has been doing the rounds since Biblical times when Samson believed his strength came from his locks. My my my said Delilah. It’s a load of bollocks, despite which men have had such a big issue with going bald

But it needn’t be like that; if baldness is able to run its full natural course, through its 6 stages, going bald needn’t be all bad news.

The Six Stages of Going Bald

When a man starts to see his once fly away hair actually fly away and fall on the floor, when having a haircut becomes having a hair cut, he goes through certain distinct stages:

  1. Denial. This is a harrowing experience, this is the stage of follicular angst that leads to worries as bad as acne in his teenage years. His scalp show-through perturbs him, the hairs on his pillow, the stuff of nightmares. The writing’s on the wall; he’s destined to become a chrome-dome billiard-ball baal head.
  2. Crafty combing. In this stage he indulges in the curious yet beautiful art of crafty combing. Creativity blooms. Combing forwards, sideways, combing over, ringlets, curls, twirls and whorls. Any which way but backwards. The scalp show through is covered over with a myriad of pasted down hair, like isobars on a stormy weather map. Just hope it’s not a windy day.
  3. Struggling for a cure. Then he resorts to articulate covers and restorative medication and there’s an armoury of products on the market to free him from his torment. These range from toupees (some of which are made from real hair, yet utterly unconvincing) to hair transplants, lotions and potions, Regaine, Rogaine and coconut oil, to invigorate the scalp, and even silly-string like sprays which coat the head with a fine crop of synthetic hairs. Which is fine if you want to look like Trump.
  4. Indifference. In this phase he starts to realise hair is as useful to him as a nipple, one of the things left on the roadside of Darwin’s evolutionary highway, another thing  Mother Nature forgot to take back. He stops caring and becomes resigned. The name calling, one of the last bastions of acceptable political incorrectness, no longer affects him.
  5. Shaving it all off. This carries with it a certain amount of risk and financial benefit. No longer having to spend money on cures, he realises all he needs is a hair clipper. Less certain is the shape of the head which could range from alien to uncle Festa.
  6. Feeling handsome. (This depends on how number 5 goes). In the early 2000s, the great  bald fight-back arrived. Handsome men with hair, like David Beckham, popstars and actors made the unforced decision to let it all go down on to the barbershop floor. Suddenly the naturally bald, blended in with handsome men who were voluntarily bald.  The in-look was the chrome dome. Dwayne Johnson, Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Stewart, Vin Diesel, Bruce Willis proved a buffed shine was bad, lean and mean. So much for the hair = masculine theory; at long last the bald man, so long the butt of all jokes, was taking back some of his lost self-esteem.

The finest sportspeople of our age Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo (not the one with hair), Andre Agassi, Lebron James, Michael Jordan are bald. History has been shaped by hairless men like Napoleon who grew his hair long at the back so that he could comb it forwards; Julius Caesar who was so thin on top that he fashioned laurel leaves as an organic pre-Christian wig; Gandhi; Gorbachev; Eisenhower; Lenin; Churchill. The last century was shaped by men without hair whose self-belief was unshakeable, unlike their roots.

When Gene Roddenberry was looking for actors for his new Star Trek movie, a young bald Patrick Stewart turned up for his casting. Once he had read his part and proved his great acting ability, Roddenberry’s assistant whispered to him, ‘but won’t mankind have found a cure for baldness by the 25th century?’
‘No,’ Rodenberry replied. ‘In the 25th century no one will care.’

With four centuries to go, its seems the process is truly underway.


This article first appeared on

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