As I enter middle-aged I am rapidly losing my hair. While I am not quite bald, I have a large and ever-growing bald spot on the top of my head. Luckily, I am not losing follicles from the front; thus, when I gaze at my image in the mirror, I don't “look” bald, or so I have deluded myself into believing.
Although I'm not overly vain, losing my hair distresses me greatly. I would never consider such drastic measures as hair transplants, a hair weave or a toupee because they tend to look ghastly and, well, is a tacky thing to do,
When I was younger I had a full head of silky, luxuriant black hair (probably my only good physical feature). Seeing old photographs of myself is a painful and sad experience.
However, here in the year 2012, I have noticed that men younger than me -- 10, 15, even 20 years my junior -- have even less hair than I do! In fact, I have even seen college students who are nearly bald!
I suspect that balding is occurring more frequently and at younger ages for at least three reasons: harsh chemicals in shampoos and hair treatments; a change in diet; and rising levels of stress.
Even though genetics plays a dominant role in determining when men lose their hair, I think dramatic changes in lifestyles over the past few decades also have emerged to counter the DNA factor.
Clearly, men are getting balder younger and quicker.
I recall seeing a photograph of James McCartney, the son of Paul McCartney. James, who is only in his mid-30s, is completely bald, while his famous dad still has a full head of hair.
My own father, who passed away four years ago, also had a full head of hair to the very end.
However, what I find most surprising about baldness is that there seems to be no “stigma” attached to having little or no hair (at least for men).
When I was a child, most men were ashamed and embarrassed by their baldness – men didn't bald until they were at least middle-aged. A bald head was generally considered “unattractive,” and even “ugly.” The only prominent actors I can think of who were bald back then were Yul Brynner and Telly Savalas (yet these two gentlemen weren't exactly “conventional leading men”). Of course, many comics were bald, but they weren't considered “sex symbols.”
Indeed, going back to the Biblical days of Samson (and probably long before), hair was intimately connected to a man's attractiveness, strength and virility.
In the 20 century, virtually every paragon of male attractiveness had a full head of hair (can you imagine a bald Rock Hudson or Dean Martin?).
By the 1960s, with the hippie revolution sparked by the hairy Beatles and others, long hair became a cultural and political statement. (A bald John Lennon would've been bizarre and unthinkable).
But something has changed in our attitudes and perception in recent years.
Indeed, a great many popular male pop culture figures – including Bruce Willis, Jude Law, Michael Jordan, Prince William, among many others – are either bald or seriously balding, And yet, they are considered “attractive,” “sexy” and “desirable.”
Some young men have even intentionally shaved their heads completely, even when there’s no urgent need to do so.
How did all this happen? Have standards of beauty declined that much?
Or are men assessed on completely different parameters now – like wealth, success and physical strength?
Perhaps this is a good thing – or maybe the fashion trends will swing the other way again. Either way, I wish I had all my hair back!