July 1997
s m u g
smoking jacket
by Jack Smith

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

I can only assume that male pattern baldness is the payback for our creating the women's beauty industry. For years men have been selling women insecurity in the form of fashion rags. Then, and here's the truly brilliant part, those same magazines show you the relief for this newfound low self esteem. (Available for purchase at finer stores everywhere). Well, we should've known this would come back to haunt us three fold. Next to impotence and having to sit through "My Best Friend's Wedding," again, nothing haunts the male psyche like hair loss. We cover up our bald heads with makeup and hairpieces and have surgery to give us new follicles. This may mask, albeit ineffectively, our shiny scalps, (let's face it, gentlemen, if we can avoid a problem, we will), however, it can't hide our fears about our virility and attractiveness caused by male pattern baldness.


Every morning I look at myself in the mirror while shaving and eye my hairline moving back my head faster than Sherman's march to the sea. I hate that my bald(er) friends my own age always joke about their own hair loss. They do it not because they're really nonchalant. They joke as a not so gentle reminder that my day is coming.

According to the Rogaine (with Minoxidil) TV spots, once my hair falls out I'll never be able to go whitewater rafting, have a meaningful relationship or, gasp, I may never, ever smile again. It also doesn't help that our wives and girlfriends pat us on the head and tell us, "I think it's cute." Cute? Saying that going bald is cute to a man is like saying to a woman, "Those are terrible shoes and you look like a cow in that dress." This is all a pretty serious burden to bear so we as males have to develop a plan of action, a torturous public face to put on our follicle fallout. That's where the hair strategy comes in.


It's important to find a plan that works for you. It has to match your personality, physical appearance, and be a path you can follow for life. The trick is to start your hair strategy before your hair loss is readily apparent. There are a few hair strategies that I admire though they don't really work for me.

Marlon Brando. When I saw his bald mug on "Larry King Live" hawking the seaweed brownies, I knew that shaving his head was the right choice. The one thing I do have in common with Marlon Brando is that we both have a fat face. Unfortunately for me, I'm not nuts. And it helps to be a big fat loony if you're going for the Buddha look.

Elton John. Now there's a guy who's taken to surgery as his personal strategy. I know he's had some sort of transplants but I'm not sure how it's done. My friend, Jim, claims that every six months Elton John buys back skin from a New Jersey teamster and has it sewn to his scalp. Me? I don't like the idea of unnecessary surgery near my brain.


A cursory glance through the bastion of bald guys, the internet, reveals no better options. From the net, I did learn that the center of the bald universe lies somewhere near Wayne, New Jersey. (Jim could be right about the Elton John thing after all.) Scattered within a 50 mile radius of Wayne seemed to be an unusually high concentration of baldie supply stores and many of these places have websites.

Online, you can order things like The Brush, a NASA developed grooming device used to give maximum volume to the time honored tradition of the comb over. (Known to us kids as the Toss Across.)

In addition to grooming kits, there are the requisite hairpieces. I can safely say that nothing is more disturbing to me than the thought that someone would order a hairpiece off the net. But still my own insecurities are strong and the urge to impulse buy is there. With just a personal computer and a credit card, I could be the proud owner of a "Howard Cosell" or a "Nero." Fear that the web site wasn't designed using the Netscape safe palette was the only thing that kept me from placing the order. Imagine what it would be like to receive your toupee in the mail to find that what you saw on the net was dithered from a nice Versace green.


My favorite of all the hair strategies available for purchase on the net is COUVRe. (Yes, the spelling is correct.) Using, I suspect, the color system developed by Seurat, COUVRe reduces the color contrast between your hair and scalp. The claim that "even from only 2 inches away nobody will be able to tell" seemed a little too much like the ads in the back of Hustler for penis enlargement. What a rip-off those ads are. TWO INCHES, MY ASS!! I barely even got a quarter of an inch. But that's another story for another day.


Back in the real world, Cy Sperling has made his fortune by celebrating his baldness with the Hair Club for Men. I believe that if you can make a profit from your own fears, you are a genius. So, I believe his is far and away the best hair plan. Although it does present a few problems for me personally. I first imagined that the Hair Club was some sort of Mason-like order with secret rituals like The Weaver's Chant and The Wearing Of The Hair Shirt.

The Hair Club experience is probably closer to buying drugs... "I just got this great batch of Antonio Banderas. This is my own personal stash. But I'm willing to part with a little bit. Naturally, it's more expensive than the Ed Begley, Jr. But, since you're a member, I'll let you have it at friend prices." But the first one here is not free and you have to keep coming back for a fix.


Still Cy was onto something with his profit motive. Since the Hair Club has been done I think I'll try making my hair loss into an art project. I love the art. I love to make the money. And very quickly, I have to find a way to say, "Look at me, I thumb my nose at my grandfather's genes." All the while secretly thinking in a Homer Simpson voice, "Oh, hair. I love you. Please stay a little longer."

I've now decided to photograph myself at the same time everyday for the next 15 years. I'll save all the hair from my haircuts and all the hair that collects in my shower drain and from it, I'll weave tapestries of historical events... Washington crossing the Delaware, Gutenberg's invention of the printing press, Jimmy Carter's malaise speech, etc. I'll call this grand project, "Jack Smith: My Life in Tresses." All the works will be available for sale, of course, and if things go as planned I'll be mentioned in the next Robert Hughes PBS special in the same breath with my favorite chromedomed artists like Picasso, Pollock, and Rosenquist.


I don't believe I'll ever fully accept that my hair that I've always heard, "is such a great color" is leaving me. I'm confident that cash money will keep my mind off it, though. For every fear there is a product and, I'll soon find out if there are any arts grants to go with them.




back to the junk drawer

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