The Debate: Should You Embrace Going Bald?
Illustration by Mr Timba Smits
What do you do if you start to notice the plink, plink, plink of hairs falling into the sink. You know…the dreaded “b” word? Should you try to preserve your hair at all costs? Should you simply let go and let God? Should you jump into the arms of a Turkish barber and hope he saves you from yourself? We let two men on opposite ends of the hair spectrum duke it out – should you go bald? Or should you go for broke for your hair?
01. Keep your hair on
Mr Jonathan Dann, Social Community & Creator Partnerships Manager, MR PORTER
When I wake up in the morning, I look like a shaggy, feral dog. And then I commit myself to a 45-minute process of getting ready. It amuses me to see the transition over the course of the next hour. It’s a ritual that makes me feel good, look in the mirror and like what I see. It helps me start my day. Or, at least, it did.
That was until I started losing my hair. I first noticed that it was thinning around the age of 30, but it didn’t really start to affect my overall hairline for at least another two years. Suddenly, my morning ritual started to make me feel, well, shit. That joy I found was being taken away.
I got depressed, and that depression seeped into my day, until it became unsustainable. Going bald wasn’t an option for me. I knew there were treatments, although, until then, I hadn’t engaged with them personally. A few years earlier, my mother started losing her hair and saw a trichologist. She had great results and recommended her doctor to me. So, I went to see him.
And it turns out that Dr Hugh Rushton is a pioneer of the particular medication that would help my follicles maintain their growth rate. When I first saw him, he confirmed that I wasn’t imagining it: my hair was thinning. One of the three hairs in each follicle was starting to fall asleep. Just having a diagnosis kept me happy for a while.
“They’re my looks, and I like them and gotten used to them. I want to keep them for as long as I can”
I hit a roadblock when, speaking openly about this medication with a friend, he revealed that he was one of the few people who take these meds and became impotent as a side effect (for as long as he’s on it). That put an end to my flirtation with the medication.
But, when, a couple years later, thinning hair was affecting me daily, I decided that I needed to take action. When your hair falls out, thins or recedes, you start to see what your face looks like without hair. And then you have to decide whether you like it or not – and I didn’t. Your other features become more prominent. I’ve never looked good in beanies or hats, I never liked the look of my face bald. If I liked how I looked bald, I would embrace it. But thick and wild hair has always been a big part of my look.
I like medication-based treatment because, to my mind, it’s still me, it’s still my hair, it’s non-invasive. If it didn’t work, though, I would have considered the other kinds of treatments, such as plugs.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m fully aware that my looks will fade. Losing my hair jumpstarted a realisation that my vanity is something I have to sort out within myself. It made me realise how much of my self-confidence came through the way I look. I don’t think I’m God’s gift, but they’re my looks, and I like them and gotten used to them. I want to keep them for as long as I can.
02. Go bald
Mr David McKendrick, creative director and editor of PAPERBOY magazine
I have to be very careful when I argue “pro bald”. After all, for most being bald is not necessarily a choice. And the process of migrating from the overwhelming desire to cling onto every last strand to accepting baldness can be long.
Reaching the point where you’re comfortable being a nude nut, chrome dome, egghead, Friar Tuck or a cue ball – it takes time. Acceptance can be difficult. I spent a number of years very carefully hair combing and avoiding sitting under lights to cover up the fact I was losing hair at a faster rate than Ms Liz Truss lost her prime ministership. Eventually, it took my girlfriend sitting me down and saying, “It is time”.
Hearing that was tough to accept, but at least I wasn’t getting dumped. Within the hour, I was on the bus to Argos, investing in a set of Wahl Super Tapers to remove the remains from my sparsely haired head.
I set to with the clippers and was filled with the feeling of elation. It was my “coming out”. I was bald and proud. I anticipated my friends gasping in shock at my generous display of head skin. I expected, “Oh my god David, you are bald as a coot!” In fact, no one really noticed, or cared, and those who did, said, “Wow, that looks cool.”
I was buzzing. I went from a number four grade to a number one within week. (The lower the number, the deeper the cut.) I went fully bald. I’d give other follically challenged men a nod in the street. Girls – who usually had bald fathers, by the way – would, after a few drinks, inappropriately give my dome an affectionate rub. I was loving bald life.
“No one really noticed, or cared, and those who did, said, ‘Wow, that looks cool’”
This was 20 years ago. I’m now a seasoned baldy and being bald is a solid part of my identity. One of my most treasured indulgences is the weekly process of bald maintenance.
Hussain, my Turkish barber, lavishes me each week in an hour’s worth of pleasure: hot towels, soapy lathers, razor head shave, eyebrow trims, flaming my ears, followed by more hot towels, a significant amount of nondescript, very strong, unbranded aftershave. Followed by an unqualified, slightly violent shoulder rub.
When all this is complete, Hussain, who speaks very little English, inspects my head, gives it a gentle stroke of approval, and each time without fail, quotes the lyrics of Rihanna: “Shine bright like a diamond”. The seal of approval and I’m finished, for another week.
After this session, I’m like a newborn bald man. I walk out into the street, freshly sheared and confident. A degree or two colder, of course, but I feel really good.
The process comes at a price. You may be surprised to discover that I spend a small fortune on having no hair. It is an expensive business. I have spent many thousands of pounds being bald, perhaps more than I would have had if I had hair.
I pay £40 for the privilege of visiting Hussain. Not bad for an hour of pampering. But, 52 times a year works out at £2,080. And I’ve been doing this for around 14 years, so… I’ve spent nearly £30k on being bald. The price of a decent car, deposit on a small flat or even a high-spec, full-head hair transplant. Although a hair transplant won’t get you inappropriate drunken head rubs from anonymous women with bald dads.