Hair hacks of the follicly-challenged

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‘Male creativity reaches the top. Of their heads’

Last week I wondered about why men never ask for directions. (See “Okay. You know where the jail is, right?” for anecdotal proof.)

This week I’m wondering about the hair-raising (they wish) contortions men put themselves through when they become follicly-challenged. (Incidentally, I thought I made up this term. Nope. It’s in the Wiktionary, right here.)

As for what men cook up topside when their locks get, well, meager, I’ve got a lot of experience here. I come from a long line of follicly-challenged men. Both my Grampas, Henry and Peterson, were thin — one on top and one all over.

My thin-all-over grampa, demonstrating a hair hack — and sporting a pretty spiffy suit to go with it

And then there was my Dad.

Dad was the first man I knew with a comb-over. Both my Grampas were unabashedly baldish. Never tried to disguise it, as I recall. Perhaps they were too busy milking cows (Peterson) and making plum wine and playing poker (Henry) to care much about hair — theirs or anyone else’s.

But my Dad was a principal in an engineering firm — Henry, Meisenheimer & Gende, which exists to this very day — and he was what you might call the “rainmaker.” He travelled all over the State of Illinois securing contracts. So he dressed nattily (See “The Days of Double-Knit Dad” for deets on his sartorial splendor) and cared a lot about grooming.

My very well-groomed Dad in (probably) an HMG company portrait

Dad wore after-shave. And lots of it. If ever I get a whiff of Old Spice (which doesn’t happen very frequently these days) it takes me back like Proust’s madeleine. And he cared about his hair. When it started to thin, he carefully combed what was left across the offending bare spots and sprayed the heck out of it. (Though the stuff he used wasn’t “hair spray;” it was called “grooming spray or something equally non-girly.)

He performed this hair trick — not fooling anyone, mind you — until one day he was zipping around on the water-skiing boat on Lake Carlyle and the breeze flipped his comb-over up like the hatch on a Delorean. One of my brothers took his picture, showed him the result — and bye-bye comb-over.

Dad on the houseboat with his comb-over — and Mom. Since this was a slow-moving boat, there was no danger of his hair doing a Delorean

Delorean-like as my Dad’s comb-over was, it couldn’t compete with one grown and maintained by a former boss of mine in Kansas City, MO. This guy, Bud Bouton, had the most elaborate comb-over ever. (I’m breaking my rule here and using his name A) because it’s “Bud Bouton,” and B) because good ole Bud is surely gone from the Advertising Arena by now — and even if he’s still with us I doubt he’s doing much blog-reading.) Bud grew his hair from the nape of his neck, swooped it up and over the top of his head and arranged it so that it looked (sort of) like he had a full head of hair, part and all. It was like he was wearing a hoodie, but made of hair.

Ah. Those KC Ad Days. There was another person there named Cleota Dack (who has also no doubt gone to Ad Person Heaven by now). When I was introduced, I had never heard the name “Cleota” before, so I kept calling her “Miss Tadack,” as in “Cleo Tadack.” She didn’t become one of my Work Friends.

But back to men and hair. The Dude is also somewhat follicly-challenged, but he has never attempted a comb-over. And he’s certainly never attempted that dreaded male hair hack, the (ugh) ponytail. (I honestly don’t get the male ponytail, not on balding men anyway. Is the theory that a ponytail is so distracting that we won’t notice the baldness?) Anyway. Count me grateful that Dude Man has not attempted this.

He has, however, tried this distracting ploy: the unfortunate mustache. And he had hair at the time (!)

Maybe The Dude leaves his poor head alone because he’s not vain. (See “Clothes Don’t Make the Dude” for hilarious proof.) Or maybe it’s because he knows I like him the way he is — hair or no hair.

Actually, I wouldn’t mind if he would just go for it and shave off what vestigial hair remains. But, as one of my brothers put it the other day, “White men with shaved heads look like thumbs.”

And we wouldn’t want that, now would we?

Dude Man at a party — decidedly not looking like a thumb

Amagansett, New York. May 2022

6 thoughts on “Hair hacks of the follicly-challenged

  1. I applaud the Dude for just letting it happen as it happens. Men are prone to look varying degrees of ridiculous trying to compensate for the loss of hair. Of all those celebrity men that have gone bald in the public eye, I think Bruce Willis has handled it the best. Naturally he had the ring of hair (much like the Dude). He just shaves it all very close. Cool look. Of course, one must have a well shaped cranium to pull it off.

    The worst choice in my view (even worse than a hair piece plugs) is the perpetually wearing of a ball cap. Everyone knows you’ve gone bald and now you look like a dope.

    • Hi Mykal! Thank you for weighing in on the Hair Piece (hah!) Absolutely agree with you about Bruce Willis’ shapely noggin. One of my Ogilvy colleagues flirted with Bruce bigtime on a Seagram’s Wine Coolers TV shoot. The shoot went well; the flirting not so much. Pet that lovely St. Thomas cat for me xoxo

  2. Binx

    Ha! You brought back a delightful memory (not.) While my dad was not particularly “follicly challenged’, he had well groomed, thinning very salt and peppered hair, but on him it looked good. What brought back the not so delightful memory was his use of Old Spice in the morning before I had my breakfast, which was not an agreeable aroma accompanied with eggs or Cocoa Pops or whatever breakfast I was eating. And may be why, when I was old enough (high school couldn’t come soon enough) I refused to eat breakfast.

    Sorry for the interruption, there’s
    a pop-up sitting right in the middle
    of this response!

    And my theory has always been that the ponytails or mustaches or whichever inordinately long ZZTop arrangement a guy might make aren’t to distract from the baldness, but to show, with pride, that YES! I CAN grown hair! Just not on the TOP of my head!

    • Fantastic comment, Binx! Glad to hear I am not the only person with an Old Spice-infused childhood. Oh, and your remark about growing hair—just not on one’s head? How about (ugh) shoulders!?!

  3. Roy Edroso

    A moment of ridicule can make a man change his hair. Years ago, but still far from an age when it would have been appropriate, I came out of my building in a leather jacket and long hair. “Yo,” someone yelled, “Alice Cooper!” I cut it that week.

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