As difficult as it still is to believe, there was once a time – not so long ago – when the realizsation that the hair on a man’s head was beginning to leave him would pierce his very soul with a white-hot spear of unfathomable fear.
Whether a receding hairline from the front or a slowly expanding crater of thinning strands on the top, the dreaded moment would drain the blood from his face and fill his tiny, terrified mind with the horrific thought: “My life is over. I’m going bald”.
To see a man at this point is to see a man depleted. Condemned to a life of constant anxiety, he must now endure jokes from friends and colleagues, a deep sense of frustration and powerlessness.
Worst of all was the judgment from women and the ultimate question: Do women find balding men attractive?
While variation exists in the results tabulated from international studies, extensive surveys conducted to address the issue have found that the number of women who did so was approximately zero.
Fortunately, not all men who begin the balding journey complete it.
Oftentimes the hairline retreats to a holding position, leaving the gent with enough hair to establish a stylish, even distinguished, look, preferably with a strategic smattering of grey around the temples.
For most, however, the curse of male pattern baldness would leave them with little more than a withering arc of hair beneath a deforested dome.
This presented the man with few options, all of them frightening.
Most harrowing was the prospect of wearing a hairpiece – or toupée – the credibility of which depended largely on how deep his pockets were.
And however undetectable he believed it to be, the man would nevertheless live in perpetual fear of high winds or of having the hairpiece plucked off by an overly inquisitive child.
Then there were hair transplants, colloquially referred to as plugs because, once stitched into the scalp, that’s precisely what they looked like.
Again, money largely determined how good the procedure looked though, in all honesty, the result was never 100%, especially after a swim or while standing directly beneath a downlight.
As for the wide range of creams, lotions, special shampoos and other miraculous scalp treatments promising rejuvenated follicles, the world still awaits the Holy Grail product that will turn Elmer Fudd into Elvis Presley.
The most viable option for the balding man was also the easiest and the cheapest – The Combover.
This involved a gent valiantly attempting to cover the bare expanse of his head by growing what hair he had left and stretching it over.
Limited only by the imagination, this resulted in a wide range of styles so bizarre they qualified as works of art. Yet as varied as these configurations were, combovers fell into four broad categories.
The Hood: Hair is swept up from the back to sit over the head, much like a racing cap.
The Swirl: Hairs from all quarters are formed into semi-circular patterns across the front of the hemisphere.
The Swoop: The most common form of combover: Hair is swept from one side to cover as much of the head as possible.
The Bridge: Rare but breath-taking to behold, strands of hair from both sides of the head would be combed up to meet in the middle.
Combovers were once everywhere. Alas, the era of the combover appears to be drawing to a close as the prospect of baldness no longer poses the threat to a man’s dignity it once did.
The bald head has not only become acceptable but positively fashionable, with many women now openly declaring how they find the sight – and presumably the feel – of a meticulously hewn head rather attractive, even sexy.
Some men like to buzz their remaining crescent of hair down to the stub, leaving a shadow of bristles showing where their hair once flourished.
More daring are those men who prefer the Scorched Earth approach, taking the cranial shave right down to the scalp for that unequivocal “I don’t care” statement. Call it Head Pride.
Even celebrities who once spent countless thousands on plugs, meticulously sculpted toupées and binding legal documents committing their trichologists to non-disclosure agreements under pain of death have gone the buzz.
So popular is the look that we now have the once unthinkable phenomenon of men with perfectly good heads of hair shaving it all off for the sake of a fashion style.
The broader societal consequence of all this is that the prevalence of the combover in everyday life is ever dwindling as men – especially older men – now have a very alluring option to the traditional combover.
Once they spent many intensely private minutes each morning in front of the bathroom mirror, their combs carefully sculpting their few remaining hairs across the barren tundra atop their scalps.
Now they can abandon the practice and embrace their baldness by going with a cleansing buzz cut. And the transformation is as obvious as it is powerful.
With a combover a man is but a withering old dolt living in pathetic denial. “Who is he kidding?” people would think as they marvelled at the dire attempts at coverage.
A robustly shaved head, however, signals to the world a man reborn – virile, proud, his once- devastated confidence now reconstituted by a head that not only makes him look younger but – much more importantly – feel younger.
And with the rejuvenated bravado bestowed upon him by his gleaming dome, the man now radiates a new message to the women of the world, asking them to kindly form an orderly queue.
As for those men who persist with their combovers, one can only wish them Godspeed as they carry the art into well-deserved oblivion.