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Publication: British GQ, August 2004

How to Go Bald

A bedhead, mullet or fin and any kind of fringe, parting or highlight may now be totally out of the question for me and many other men, but the primary advantage of ruthlessly clippered No.1 grade on a cranium under siege by Male Pattern Baldness is that women frequently wish to touch my head. Not just to touch, in fact, but to rub, stroke, maul and generally get to grips with it, possibly more. All of which is conditional on keeping what’s left of my hair in sharp, well-groomed, and fragrant order.

Luckily for many of us, the ‘Buzz’ has undergone a significant rehabilitation in the past decade as more and more tonsorially-aware men have reclaimed the look from neo-Nazis by adopting a close No. 1, 2 or 3 grade (reflecting lengths of three, six and nine millimetres). The lead may come from Europeans such as Chelsea’s Gianluca Vialli or Big Blue-era Jean-Marc Barr, or from the directional gay community where the skinhead has been a staple for years. For the follically-challenged and hirsute alike, the Buzz is a magnetic, brutally efficient and essentially honest hairstyle in the era of male hair extremism.

It takes nerve, however. ‘You can’t hide anything with a clippered No.1,’ says Brent Pankhurst, director of the Pankhurst grooming salon at Dunhill on Jermyn Street. ‘With a scissors-and-comb you can disguise bumps and grooves, but clippers expose everything. You can go the other route and have a hot-towel wet shave, but to do that you’ve really got to have a good-shaped head.’

Additionally it’s a perversely high-maintenance style that requires far more attention that would at first appear obvious. ‘Generally, the advice for anybody who’s going bald is to keep is as short, clean, sharp and groomed as possible,’ adds Pankhurst. ‘Most men’s hair is a square shape: if it’s thinning or balding, you cut the corners off to blend it in.

The Buzz needs tending between every five to ten days, after which the cut becomes uneven and a drastic disparity between the back and sides and the tonsure emerges, as do the chances of your being likened to a Franciscan monk or Terry Nutkins. And don’t rely on your Wahl or Remington Clippers and a tricky arrangement of bathrooms mirrors to get it right. The majority of traditional barbers – and particularly Afro-Caribbean establishments such as the excellent Dad’s on Hoxton Street, London N1 - will do a reliable job. But for the optimum cut, head to a grooming salon such as Pankhurst at Dunhill or The Refinery.

Salons are to be avoided, as are tramlines and any kind of pattern unless you really know your way round a Shabba Ranks compilation. A good barber will use a puff of talc to gather clipperings that linger on the back of the neck where sweat collects. Insist also that they straighten the hairline ascending from the sideburns, past the temples and along the line your fringe, and request a tapered neck. ‘The square neck looks horrendous,’ notes Pankhurst. ‘Hair should look naturally graduated, particularly on the crown – there’s nothing worse than having a an island of hair above the forehead, so take it short.’

Mike Mason of Geo. F Trumper’s Curzon Street salon advises against washing with hard soap, and recommends Trumper’s mild Lavender or Willow shampoos. ‘And use conditioner,’ he says. ‘Don’t think just because the hair is short it doesn’t need conditioner – it nourishes roots.’ Since the head is rudely exposed to the elements, dress it regularly with moisturiser, such as Keihl’s SPF 15 Soothing Nourishing Face Cream or Zihr Protect SPF 8 Cream. ‘Most sunscreens in moisturisers are very light, so use sunblock on areas where there’s no hair,’ adds Mason. Brent Pankhurst alternatively counsels a drop of olive oil massaged over with the hands. In hot weather, avoid blizzards of unsightly peeling skin with aftersun.

Lastly, astringent alcohol-based fragrances on top of the head are to be avoided. Look instead for a scent containing oil, such as Trumper’s Eucris, and dab behind the ears and on the sides and the back of the neck, where heat from sizable veins and arteries activate the fragrance.

Now stare in the mirror and see your encroaching baldness as an opportunity instead of a curse. You’re ready to step out and allow the world a crack on your magnificent nut.

© Kevin Braddock

All content ©2004 Kevin Braddock

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