Tackle a Receding Hairline and Baldy Go No Longer

Our style columnist, Christopher Riley, weighs in on the conversation men are afraid to have.

Article by Christopher Riley

Photography by Amir Esrafili.

I have a confession to make: despite my best efforts, I have not been entirely honest with you. In one of my recent columns, I told you that despite the current fallout between me and my hairline I would not be taking preventative action. I believe my exact words were that such measures would constitute “too much effort and money to reverse a train that seems very intent on reaching its destination”.

And I really believed myself. The truth is, I’ve known for a few years now that my hair and I were on borrowed time. While I’m not entirely thrilled at the prospect, I’ve had time to come to terms with it and always thought I would take it like a man; a stoic, hairless man. There was even a part of me that relished the thought. While I have always prided myself on my appearance – after all, I am a style columnist, right? – I looked forward to a time in which I might shed my narcissistic tendencies and become a more enlightened man. And if not enlightened, then at the very least more streamlined.

My mind was made up. Embrace the bald, become wiser and perhaps enter a few amateur swim meets. Simple. But recently, I’ve felt my opinion start to change. Because, as I wrote those words, a quiet voice within me asked, What if you… didn’t?

“I’m listening…,” I responded.

Bear with me here, it said (my internal dialogues are civilised affairs). What if, instead, you used modern science to combat your hair loss? What if you actually did something about it, rather than sitting back and letting it happen? I mean, we can literally put a man on the moon, regrowing a few hairs can’t be that hard, can it?

Of course, I was already aware of such remedies, but always figured them a bit… lame? As if going that route would somehow be either a sign of weakness, or me being ungrateful; I should handle my dissatisfaction like a man, I thought. You see, this is another affliction that seems to predominantly affect men: to feel aggrieved by a situation while simultaneously doing nothing about it. Unmanaged dissatisfaction is about as inherently male as the Y chromosome. When faced with a physical trait women are unsatisfied with, most take action. This might mean a surgical procedure or just investing in a good routine. It takes vulnerability to accept that “fault”, and bravery to do something about it. Us men on the other hand, we sit back and let life smack us in the face. Because we are men!

It’s for this reason that when we see a man as free and uninhibited as Lil Nas X, we feel threatened. He is unapologetically himself, wearing what he wants, acting the way he wants and making the type of music he wants, regardless of what society expects of him. And, most importantly, he seems pretty darn happy doing so. We see this type of freedom and become indignant. You can’t do that! We cry. You can’t wear that! Go back inside your cage like the rest of us.

But it doesn’t have to be like this.

Photography by Amir Esrafili.

I wasn’t surprised to see a recent study that said a whopping 81 per cent of men feel insecure and self conscious about their skin. But what I’d be even more curious to know is how many of those dissatisfied men were doing something about it? I’d bet my disappearing hairline very few indeed. Because we are men!

So, after I had made my decision, a simple google search confirmed there are a number of reputable companies engaging in hair regrowth. Once I found the one for me, there was a brief back and forth with a doctor to assess my needs, before we settled on a treatment plan that involved a daily pill as well as a mouth spray aimed at promoting a certain hormone. The shampoo didn’t come as part of the treatment plan but was suggested as an additional bonus. Using the unbeatable logic of “Go Hard or Go Home”, I told them to add the shampoo to my order and let’s get this show on the road.

After week one of my treatment plan, things took a turn. I found myself talking to my hair like a gardener talks to their plants. You got this big guy; I’d offer as words of encouragement. Keep pushing! Now, the medical community appears to be on the fence about this method but speaking for myself, it is recommended. As for the progress, I literally started taking the meds a few weeks ago so it’s hard to tell. It’s also, frankly, besides the point. Maybe my locks will grow back. Maybe they won’t. But, whatever happens, I’m not going down without a fight.

I didn’t actually intend to tell anyone I was undergoing treatment. I figured I had never discussed my anxieties with my mates before, so why start now? Keep it to yourself, I told myself. That’s when I heard it, that voice again: What if you… didn’t? What if you took this moment to put your column where your supposedly woke mouth is and write about it instead? Why don’t you share your experience and your vulnerability with other men in the hope of shedding some of these absurd stigmas that we wear around our necks like badges of honour? Well, there’s a thought.

Now, I told myself I would make this column a Covid-free place but I can’t help but leave you with some pandemic ponderings. These past few years it has felt at times like we are living on pause mode; like we’re sat outside the amusement park waiting for the rides to come back on. The longer we sit here, the more we long to jump on that merry go round. I don’t know about you guys, but when the show does eventually resume, I’m no longer settling for mediocrity. I’m heading straight for the tallest, scariest, rollercoaster going. With a full head of hair.