The Bald Truth


Journalist Pete Paphides on thinning with dignity

When the moment of realisation came, the biggest surprise was that it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it might. It happened in the changing room of the Harringay branch of Next. As my daughter was trying on a sweater, I caught sight of my bald patch in the angled mirror. “Bloody hell!” I exclaimed. Yes, it had felt a little thin up there, but I didn’t realise how thin.

Even at the age of 10, my daughter knew what you’re supposed to do in these situations. “It’s not that bad, Daddy,” she said brightly. But oddly, I felt fine. Actually, I felt more than fine. I realised that no-one had told me because they didn’t want to hurt my feelings. How lovely is that? For my next haircut, I thought I’d alleviate any further need for anyone to tread on eggshells. “I know about the bald patch,” I told my hairdresser, “and it’s fine”. “What do you want to do?” she said. Well, in some ways, it was easier to tell her what I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to give money to a hair growth industry that, according to the Washington Post, extracts $3.5 billion a year from Americans alone. The idea of a hair transplant or a weave was never in the running. Unless you possess Wayne Rooney’s simplicity of outlook (Look everyone! New hair turn sad Wayne into happy Wayne!), the idea of doing the school run or meeting some mates in the pub with a freshly furnished pate sounds mortifying. Gah! The awkwardness! The man in the corner shop with whom you’re on nodding terms staring quizzically at the top of your head! You may as well stick a flashing neon sign on it saying, “THIS WAS AN ISSUE FOR ME.” Why put anyone through that?

Of course, there’s always the option of shaving it all off – but that seems a little too much like the tonsorial equivalent of those husbands who douse the family home in paraffin and set fire to it rather than share custody with their ex-wives. I also can’t help feeling that some people who take to the clippers after realising they were losing their hair, feel that this is in some way superior to the much-maligned combover. But inasmuch as both are acts of hairline concealment, don’t they amount to different manifestations of the same impulse? In fact, I feel oddly defensive of the dad at my kids’ school who has stoically refused to change his parting, in spite of the fact that there’s hardly any hair left to part (although I think this might in part be an emotional response triggered by his resemblance to Van Morrison on the the cover of his 1986 masterpiece No Guru No Method No Teacher).

In the end, I told my hairdresser to cut it shorter, lest (a) I look like a man in conscious denial of what my genes always had planned for me; or (b) encroach on the look that the late Terry Nutkins spent several years making his and his alone. So now there is hair where there is supposed to be hair and baldness where fate decreed that there would be baldness. I look like what I am. A 43-year-old dad with a sensible car and a cardigan for most occasions. What, ultimately, has this most personal of journeys taught me? In the winter, the warmth of my tonsure feels pleasing to the touch of my cold fingers. Um, that’s about it.

Image credit: lindaaaslund

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  • StavRuler

    Interesting take, I guess. I was discussing the other day awful it must be but then again, you’ve proven me wrong. Good on you!

  • Kath GTL

    “New hair turn sad Wayne into happy Wayne!” made me do actual lolz.

  • subs

    I laughed out loud at the shaving it off/setting the house on fire simile. My boyfriend shaved it all off. Now he gets told he looks like Tom Hardy. I think he’s pretty pleased.

  • jojobananas

    Terry Nutkins, that was a special ‘do’. Laughing out loud at this.

  • chap near brighton

    The clipper option is indeed far superior to the combover! – esp if the pre-lap-parting is just above the ear, as seems to happen on the most boiled-egg-topped style-criminals. (assuming a normal shaped head is available for the clipperee).
    I used to spend a fortune in money and time tinkering with my hair throughout the 70s/80s. – Since I first shaved away the dwindling remains I’ve never looked back. Apart from day 1 when I caught a glimpse of myself scurrying Boris Karloff-like in every shop window. Bottom line – once you get used to it, the shaved head is a blessing.

  • jen pobble

    Love a Nutkins reference.

  • Jennifer

    Hmm, but while there are plenty of people who have a thing for bald men, I think only a few would say that it’s those long strands of hair glued to a shiny pate that really get them going (cue seven thousand menswear designers sending their models down the catwalk with combovers).

  • Nicola Ridings Watson

    You can’t go wrong with a dad in a sensible car and a cardigan

  • Rooty Tooty

    Never get a transplant. Never get a transplant. Never get a transplant. i loved it when Sam in Cheers finally revealed his bald patch. And when Phillip Schofield just went with the grey. You did use the ‘journey’ word ironically though didn’t you Pete? You did, didn’t you?

  • wiiaholic

    You didn’t mention the baseball cap/beanie option ;o)

  • Margaret D. Gtl

    My husband (clipper option) is most harsh on people who, in his words, need to “face it, you’re bald”. The bouffant option is a popular one these days, and brushing forward. All denial as he sees it… FIYB

  • Cuntpuffin

    My dad calls his bald patch a solar panel….

  • Gabi Jones

    haha, loved this. Really enjoying the contribution to SHB from men.

  • Helen H

    My OH started losing his hair at 16, he now has a number 1 all over. When discussing how to approach this possible trait with our 3 sons (the oldest of which is just about to turn 16) he says he will tell them that he ‘pulled me’, so everything worked out for him and they’ll be fine!

  • Morgan Freeman

    Try being young and balding; receding or thinning. The social injustice is near debilitating for many. Its too bad that women don’t have to go through public ridicule over balding, perhaps maybe then it wouldnt be socially acceptable to make fun of bald men? I’ve had people point out my receding hairline straight to my face. Online its even worse.

    There should have been a cure ages ago, but society does not give a shit about helping mens health. For every 43 medical journals published in PubMed on womens health, there is only 1 published for mens health.

    To anyone who thinks baldness is not a problem, educated yourself and dont downplay this disease. Bald men are now more exposed to sunlight on thin scalp which exposes them more to skin cancer, damage skin, sun spots, frequent and overwhelming sweating. Hair helps us keep us warm in the winter, etc. Of couse, women and men with hair don’t care and would prefer to keep men bald if only to give them relief that their lives are more meaningful than others at the expense of someone else.

    Congratulations society, youre scum of the earth.

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