Men and their mane struggles: From ponytails to nose hair, it’s a hairy tale

Jun 05, 2023
Why does hair start to grow out of control in all the wrong places after the age of 40? Source: Getty

Men, especially when they reach the age of 60, develop a strange relationship with hair.

And it’s not just the hair on their heads, but all over their bodies.

A quick study of the dining room on Holland America’s Oosterdam cruise ship where I am this week making my way from Greece to Italy, shows four distinct haircuts and a myriad of facial hair styles.

Haircut-wise, there’s the number two clip on the back and sides, with a tidy-up on top, cut. The most popular.

Then there’s the “it’s all too hard I’ll just let it go” windswept and interesting look. Definitely the funniest.

The silver foxes have the George Clooney clone meticulously trimmed hair and beard. They are always at the coffee shop making 70-year-old women swoon.

And, last but certainly not least, are the guy’s with the ponytail escaping from the back of the Boston Red Socks baseball cap.

That’s the one that I find most puzzling. I have a simple rule on ponytails. Only Brad Pitt should be allowed to have one. You need to be a special kind of guy to pull off the ponytail look.

Actually, I’m not a fan of man buns either – on any generation. Footballers with man buns, squeezed into their tight uniforms, look like giant toddlers. Do they seriously think a man bun makes you look tough on a rugby league field?

It seems almost incongruous for an older guy to have to cover the thinning hair on the top of his head with a baseball cap, in order for him to hang on to his late 1970s ponytail. Most of the ponytail guys also have a least one earring, dangling pirate style, from their left ear.

Remember Status Quo frontman, Francis Rossi? That’s the look.

You know when they are coming to the dining room. It’s not the swagger in the walk, but rather the stomping of their footwear.

You can hear the thwack thwack thwack of thongs as they enter the room. Their string-tie shorts and Jimmy Buffett t-shirts have been folded, never ironed. They have mastered the “just woken up” look.

I wonder if they gaze in the mirror every morning, contented, still seeing a young man staring back at them. I do hope so.

My nephew Michael had a ponytail when he was 20. Actually, it was more of a carrot-coloured rat’s tail. One day when he was having lunch with his nan and pop (my mum and dad), Pop walked behind him and cut it off with a pair of scissors.

Extreme by today’s standards, but back then everyone just laughed and got on with the Sunday roast.

The more pressing issue for men my age though is not thinning hair on your head.

We know that is a fact of life and it’s something I can cope with.

The issue I have is the spikey hair on my ears and the dangly bits that sprout from my nose.

Why does hair start to grow out of control in all the wrong places after the age of 40?

The medical answer is that “it has a lot to do with testosterone and genetics”.

Hormones influence when and where hair grows on the body. And changes in testosterone levels cause hair to grow at different rates at different stages of your life.

My wife calls me Bear, not because of my extraordinary hugging abilities, but because I’m hairy.

If you want an idea of how hairy, a Thai massage therapist once said to me after a treatment: “If you were mine, I would shave you every day!” Now that’s hairy.

If I let my eyebrows go wild, they rival those unruly brows of our former Prime Minister John Howard. At their peak, Howard’s eyebrows looked like hungry caterpillars about to go on a rampage.

So how far are men prepared to go to rid themselves of excess body hair?

We all remember, and cringe, at the Steve Carell waxing scene from The 40-year-old Virgin. That scene is real by the way. Carell allowed them to actually wax his chest and the actor playing the therapist forgot to put Vaseline on his nipples before waxing, so those screams – although hilarious for us to hear and watch – are very real and extremely painful for Carell.

My first waxing experience happened at a barber in David Jones in Toombul. I had my eldest daughter Emily with me. She was about six at the time. The barber said he would wax my neckline which would help it remain hair free for about a month. I asked him would it hurt? He lied and told me no.

He ripped. I swore. Emily cried. And I left without even finishing the haircut.

Many years later a Turkish barber in New Farm waxed the inside of my nostrils. Blood poured onto my white shirt as he ripped every hair from my nostrils. It looked great, but it made my eyes water. Now I do my best with a pair of scissors each week.

My current barber, who knowingly asks short back and sides every time I sit in her chair, says that I should get my hair cut once a month and my beard trimmed every fortnight. That sounds good to me.

A recent Men’s Health survey found that 62 per cent of men engage in some form of manscaping – that’s a step beyond having a shave and getting a haircut.

 Australian men are now spending more money than ever on grooming. The GQ Magazine just put out a list of 17 top grooming devices that every man should have. 17! I have three. And seriously, what is a Facial Roller? It was number three on GQ’s list.

The thing to remember about hairstyles is that there’s only one person you need to make happy. And that’s you. So if you want to look like Chewbacca from Stars Wars, then I say: May the Force be with you.


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