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ISSUE 120 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/2/2007

Bald is the new black: Men embrace receding hairlines

By Miriam Samuelson
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 2, 2007

What do Bruce Willis, Michel Foucault and LL Cool J have in common? Their contributions to society? Their devastating sexiness? Yes, but even more importantly, all three men are bald. Although baldness can be a sensitive subject for some, men across the country are bringing sexy back by taking pride in lacking locks. One of them is Alan Stout '08, who offered some insight on the subject.

“I think the main thing for me is that I have really good inspirations and role models – my favorite role model is Patrick Stewart,” Stout said. “He's a British sex-bomb and gorgeously bald. No one else drips with testosterone in the same way. Seriously, something would be less sexy about him if he had hair.”

Stewart, who lost most of his hair to male-pattern baldness before age 19, is one of many celebrities who use baldness as part of their charm. Indeed, Stewart was voted “Sexiest Man on Television” by TV Guide in 1992.

According to Stout, many women don't seem to mind baldness. “Most girls don't care if you're going bald, or they see their dads going bald so they think it's distinguished or sexy,” Stout said.

Most students with receding hairlines don’t even seem to care. “My receding hairline isn't something I think about all that much. I usually just put a hat on, but I guess guys who have hair do that too,” Andy Prazich ‘08 said.

In an article discussing baldness in 1994, “Ebony Magazine” cited psychiatrist Gail E. Wyatt, a sex and relationship researcher at UCLA: "Women like to kiss and to touch the bald head. They see it as a vulnerability in a man. The head is a vulnerable part of the body, so when you expose it, you say, 'I'm up for this.' Baldness is truly an attention-grabber.”

While baldness can be sexy on its own, Stout warned against bad hairstyles for balding men. “The only thing un-sexy about baldness is growing your hair too long. Sometimes you just want to tell balding guys, 'Cut it!' There's no excuse for looking ugly as sin. Chances are you are a beautiful person – you just need the appropriate trimmings.”

Stout also suggested using moisturizer on the skin. A huge array of male skin care products are available online or in drug stores; the market has made room for brands such as “Bald Guyz,” a company that sells head wash, moisturizer, head wipes and sunscreen for bald men.

Stout also emphasizes the importance of focusing on your entire person, not just your hair. “If baldness is a point of insecurity for you, which it is for a lot of people, you focus on your personality. It makes you a sexier person than if you only rely on your locks of luscious hair,” he said.

Indeed, many men go through an identity change when they lose their hair in their 30s, 40s or 50s, a change that can bring about anxiety and mid-life crises. “Forcing people to deal with it at this age is better than when guys have to face it in 15 years,” Stout said. “They have to deal with this source of insecurity now, which makes it easier in the long run.”

Male pattern baldness, known scientifically as androgenetic alopecia, is caused by an increase in the sex hormone dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. DHT works by miniaturizing follicles so that hair becomes thinner until it no longer grows. Severity of baldness varies among individuals, ranging from thinning hair or a receding hairline to an entirely bald head (also known as alopecia totalis) to loss of hair throughout the entire body (alopecia universalis).

Although baldness is mostly genetically determined, many balding men hope to prevent further hair loss through increased aerobic activity, stress reduction and adequate sleep. Other men use products to reverse balding, such as Rogaine or Propecia, and others may wear a toupee or try the oh-so-embarrassing-when-unsuccessful comb-over.

Increasingly, however, men shave their heads or flaunt their thinning locks, countering the insecurity that has surrounded balding in the past. “bald pride” websites such as celebrate male baldness, and most are complete with picture galleries of famous men with bare heads.

Sophomore Jacob Meyer is pretty convinced that baldness is the next fashion trend, and that bald men should be proud of their lost locks.

“I think it makes a person more sleek and virile,” Meyer said.

Jessica Steinbach ‘08, who dates a balding student, agreed that men should be proud of their baldness.

“Part of the reason I think [my boyfriend's baldness] is hot is because he doesn't try to hide it – it's just who he is,” she said. “He'd wear a hat whether or not he had hair. And when we have to dress up to go out together, he rocks the baldness.”

As Stout pointed out, balding men may find more hair on other parts of their bodies. “The hair doesn't so much go away as move down,” he said. “Many balding men will find themselves with more chest hair. Although dealing with body hair in conjunction with loss of head hair can be difficult, lots of people see chest hair as a sign of James Bond-like manliness. You're handsome in that rugged mountain man kind of way.”

Stout's best piece of advice to balding men, however, is to avoid giving hair loss too much attention. “So many people worry about losing hair and whether or not people will like them when they do,” he said. “You go through a stage where you wonder if girls care and then you realize that things that prevent you from finding the ideal woman do not include hair.”

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