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Male Baldness Need Be No Barrier to Success in Life

Bruce Willis: Bald Star - Caroline Bonarde Ucci
In an age of image obsession, technology to change appearances and to fight aging, strangely, baldness can be an asset, inspiring confidence and authority.

There is an entire website devoted to famous baldies, or follicularly-challenged/hair disadvantaged as political correctness would have it, which lists, among many, bald actors (John Malkovich, Yul Bryner, Patrick Stewart, Telly Savalas); African Americans (Samuel L Jackson); musicians (Sinead O’Connor, Moby, Elton John); politicians (Winston Churchill, Gorbachev); and sportspeople (Duncan Mayhew, Michael Jordan). Clearly, in no way can their lack of hair have meant any shortfall in success during their careers.

Bald Men Facing Fashion Issues

In the article Embrace Your Baldness in 5 Steps, AskMen UK advised fashion conscious worried balding men to “embrace their baldness.” It said that “Michael Jordan made it cool for black men and Bruce Willis paved the way for white guys,” and offered five easy steps to dealing with it. First, they suggested men “assess the fallout damage.” see how bad the loss was; then accept it. Get over the denial, anger, bargaining with God, the depression and find acceptance. “Realise that in life, hair is a privilege, not a right.”

They strongly urged men to resist covering it up with whatever artificial means was to hand, or wasting money on solutions that may look ridiculous. Shaving the head may be an answer in fashion terms, that is, a complete razored shave, moving down with the grain. Finally, they recommended getting over the comments and maintaining proper upkeep, washing regularly, moisturising, protecting the head from sunburn. “Are you man enough to own your baldness?”

The site suggested a shaved head can make a man look younger, more hip, cooler, in control and tough. Ideal in business, media, creative, sports environments. The singer Elton John for years was unable to face facts, and used wigs and hats. In the end, it did his career no harm. Those who employ the “comb-over,” putting a few remaining strands across the pate in a vain attempt to hide the truth, are usually mocked.

It would appear that for most men in the public eye, hair loss is not a disaster. Some thought British politician William Hague gained gravitas and credibility in proportion to the widening visibility of his cranium. For others who really can’t face it, wigs and extensions are as commonplace as hair colourings and makeovers (teeth, skin, breasts). Hundreds of businesses have evolved selling products to stem hair loss, to repair damaged hair, to make hair grow where a head has become barren. Some may work; many cannot possibly make much difference.

The Medical Facts on Hair Loss

Hair loss causes differ between men and women, according to article Hair Loss in Men and Women on MedicineNet. They reckon losing 100-150 hairs per day is normal, and that hair grows in three phases: anagen (active growing phase), catagen (hairs begin to break down) and telogen (resting or late phase, getting ready for shedding).

They also state that hair loss is affected by predetermined genetic factors more often than health conditions, and that life variations like “temporary severe stress, nutritional changes, and hormonal changes like those in pregnancy, puberty and menopause may cause reversible hair loss.” Chemotherapy causes hair loss and there may be connections with skin, nails, thyroid, iron deficiencies too.

Most of the purveyors of hair loss treatments cite medical diagnoses and solutions, but thorough scientific research is not widely available into their efficacy. Men are more likely to accept it as an inevitable consequence of advancing years, if their father or grandfather experienced it either as receding hairline or full wipeout. It can happen relatively young. Prince William, born in 1982, has thinning patches in much the same away as his father Prince Charles did at the same age.

Baldness in History

Historical accounts of hair loss reveal it an ancient problem, according to the website StopHairLossNow.com. There are mentions in the Bible about it. In Kings 2:23 Elisha is mocked by youths: “Go on up, you baldhead,” he called a curse and two bears mauled 42 of them. Leviticus 13:40-41 said that when a man has lost his hair and he is bald, he is clean. In Numbers 6:1-21, we read the Nazarites had special rules regarding treatment of hair.

Samson never cut his hair as a sign of God’s strength, until he confided the fact to Delilah who allowed the Philistines to cut it and destroy his power. Grey hair is “a crown of splendour” in Proverbs 16:31 and 20:29. In the Middle East, hair loss was generally regarded as shameful. In Ancient Egypt, wigmakers were important workers, and a remedy for hair-loss survives: “Toes-of-a-Dog, Refuse-of-Dates, Hoof-of-an-Ass.”

During the centuries in ancient civilisations, fashions see-sawed from shaven heads, to wigs, to full beards, moustaches only, long hair, cropped hair. Variously Persians, Hittites, Celts, Greeks, Romans have regarded whatever they didn’t do as laughable, contemptible, absurd, a sign of weakness or merely unfashionable. In 400BC, Hippocates (The Father of Medicine: doctors still take the Hippocratic oath) prescribed “a mixture of cumin, pigeon droppings, horseradish and beetroots or nettles, to prevent hair loss.”

It’s reported that “Eunuchs are castrated males (had their testicles removed), and if this was done before puberty they do not go bald.” In later cultures “wigs were worn mainly by women, then in 1624 Louis XIII of France launched the era of the ‘big wig’ – by wearing one,” Some believe Shakespeare was bald. Wearing of wigs by barristers and judges is a historical hangover from the times when gentlemen wouldn’t leave home without one.

Oliver Cromwell, leading his Roundheads against Cavalier royalists in the English civil war, wore a wig. The taking of scalp, practised by some North American native Indian tribes, is believed to stem from an understanding they were taking the strength of their enemies to themselves.

Undoubtedly, hair, whether we have it or have lost it, is vital to us. The musical Hair celebrated long hair as sign of youthful rebellion. The irony is that those hippies of the 1960s are now bald or balding.

First published on Suite 101, 1st October 2010.

Photo: Bruce Willis: Bald Star – Caroline Bonarde Ucci

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