Some years ago a man I knew fairly well came to see me in the surgery.
“Doctor,” he said, “what I’m going to say will be a surprise.”
I wondered what was coming. Was he having an affair or had he another dark secret I was about to hear?
“Doctor,” he said almost whispering, “I wear a wig.”
I tried to look professional and not smile.
The whole waiting room must have known he wore a wig. It was obvious. He had the black mop on top of his head with wispy strands of grey hair creeping out from the sides underneath the wig.
He took off his wig to show me his mild eczema on his scalp. I prescribed some cream and promised I’d keep his secret.
A friend of mine worked with a colleague who, one day decided to stop wearing his wig and admit that he was bald.
“It took real courage to stop wearing the wig,” he said.
My friend replied: “It must have taken more courage to wear it.”
But why are some men so unhappy about going bald?
Male pattern baldness is due to male hormones, the androgens, and so is a sign of virility.
If it’s alright for Prince William, it should be alright for us proletariats.
Despite being normal, many men see baldness as a problem.
A recent employment tribunal ruled that calling a man bald was ‘sex-related harassment’.
Adverts show the arial view of a man’s head with the line, “Do you suffer from male pattern baldness”.
No, I don’t suffer from it. It is just a reality.
When I was a student I was having a haircut when the hairdresser tried to sell me hair restorer.
The hairdresser pushing his sales technique said: “You’ll be bald before you’re 30.”
I didn’t care but I was stuck. If he had been any other salesmen at the door or on the street I could have politely said ‘not today thank you’ and walked away but sitting in the barber’s chair I was literally a captive audience.
I would have been more comfortable with Sweeny Todd.
Clearly, he believed that I should be devastated by the idea of losing my hair. As it turned out he was also wrong. I still had my hair at 30.
The fear of going bald could be the men’s version of women suffering from eating disorders.
Young girls look online at unrealistic ideas of the ‘perfect’ body, size 0, and diet inappropriately.
Men look at pictures of other young men with a full head of hair and worry that they might be going bald.
While some men are terrified of going bald some shave their heads, especially some professional footballers.
Unlike Samson cutting their hair did not take away their strength.
When I was a teenager the idea that boys would use cosmetics of any sort would be ridiculous.
It took the former heavyweight boxer Henry Cooper advertising aftershave to change the zeitgeist.
Today, it has been rebranded as ‘male grooming’ and is predicted to be worth $81 billion worldwide by 2024.
Despite various creams, lotions and even hair transplants there is no really effective treatment for male pattern hair loss but research continues.
The first pharmaceutical company to find a ‘cure’ for male pattern baldness will make a fortune.
Sadly, there is probably more money to be made from ‘curing’ male baldness than many lifesaving treatments.
To most men going bald is just a bit embarrassing but for a few it can be devastating. For some it becomes an obsession.
It is possible to change the image of the balding man.
In the magazines, catalogues and on the wall of fashion shops are pictures of men in the latest fashions. The models are now ethnically diverse. There are even pictures of older people but all have a full head of hair.
So come back Yul Brynner. I can say from personal experience going bald is OK.
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