What It Really Feels Like To Go Bald In Your Early Twenties

One man’s hair piece


by Ryan Pugh |
Published on

I was in my final year of uni when it started. I was standing in a moodily lit corner of the Student Union, casually running a hand through my mane in an attempt to look suave and vaguely bookish. Something didn’t feel right. I looked down at my hand and noticed that I was suddenly wearing a strange brown glove. Despite being under the influence of Snakebite (how suave) I was alert enough to recognize that the glove was made from hair. My hair. I tried to deny it. But the more I touched my head, the thicker the glove became.

My hair continued to fall out with heartbreaking speed. After cold walks home from lectures I’d take off my woolly hat and see the inside of it laced with little brown strands. My pillowcase would begin each night clean, white and hair-free and, by morning, end up looking not too dissimilar to a Border collie. The water in my bath would be constantly awash with floating clumps of hair. The plughole looked like a dead hamster. Even my toothbrush had stray strands on it. My hairs were happy to attach themselves to absolutely anything except the one thing I needed them to: my poor, confused head.

I regularly stared in the mirror. In silence. For untold amounts of time. Why was this happening to me? In a sea of drunken rage I once shouted at my hairs to ‘hold on better, you pathetic wankers!’ It was truly a dark period – except on my scalp, which was experiencing a frustratingly white period.

It didn’t help matters that long hair suddenly became fashionable. Within weeks of my hair starting to fall out, the entire male population of the United Kingdom decided to grow theirs. I watched with melancholy longing as my friends grew trendy barnets and flicked their locks casually, occasionally complaining about the hair getting in their eyes. Oh, the jealousy. The only time I got hair in my eyes was when one rolled down my face.

In the months after uni, I convinced myself that I still had enough hair up top to arrange it in such a way that nobody would ever know my secret. I had a cruel abundance of hair at the sides and back, so I skillfully maneuvered it all towards the centre of my cranium. Nobody said a word. It worked.

But when it comes to revealing hideous truths about your appearance, there’s nothing quite like a photograph taken of you when you aren’t looking. That happened to be at a house party. We were doing something suitably ironic – playing Hungry Hungry Hippos. As all Hungry Hungry Hippos aficionados will appreciate, as the game drew to its mad conclusion I had my head face down on the table as my hand worked my hippo vigorously from the rear. It was then, as I was face down in the midst of Hippo mania, that the picture was taken. It was dumped onto Facebook in a matter of hours. I clicked on the picture when I got home. And for the first time I saw the full extent of the damage. I had a bald patch the size of a tea saucer. And everyone had simply been too polite to say.

Why was this happening to me? In a sea of drunken rage I once shouted at my hairs to ‘Hold on better, you pathetic wankers!’

It was strange that that nobody had pointed out to me just how bad the bald spot was – you would think that people would be desperate to highlight the problem. Yet nobody really mentioned it at any stage of the process. You'd assume that my mates would have occasionally taken the piss out of me or given me a nickname like ‘Cue Ball Head’ or ‘Gandhi’ (both perfectly valid, I might add), but they didn’t, and, in a way, that was worse. It made it seem even more embarrassing. Everyone mocks their friends about trivial things such as their dodgy choice of jumpers or the fact they once went to a Blazin’ Squad concert, but you rarely mock a friend for something serious. You’d never take the piss out of someone for being clinically depressed or requiring a bone marrow transplant. And that’s why their lack of derision pained me: my friends thought my baldness was a deadly serious issue.

At first, there was a part of me that wondered if losing my hair might actually improve my luck relationship-wise. After all, they say that girls are attracted to guys who look like their dad. Unfortunately, I soon found out that girls mainly like guys who look like their dad when their dad was 23. Not when he was 57. There’s a reason why posters of Harry Styles outsell posters of John Malkovich (actually, there are probably a few reasons).

I discovered this the hard way. I was once told by a girl that she wouldn’t go out with me because she ‘liked guys with hair.’ She said it with a devastating flippancy, as though what she was saying couldn’t possibly hurt because I was bald and, as a result, was clearly going to be up against it from now on. I couldn’t do anything about my predicament. I couldn’t make her attracted to me. Baldness isn’t an ill-fitting pair of Primark jeans that you can just hide away and pretend never happened. You’re stuck with it.

As the thinning of my hair intensified, it began to bother me more and more. I guess, deep down, hair loss feels like, on some level, I’m failing at being a man. Even though research suggests that hair loss can be triggered by poor diet, lack of exercise and a high sex drive (honestly, what could be more masculine than that combo?).

I won’t pretend that I haven’t considered that most desperate route out of the baldness cul-de-sac: hair plugs. But ask anyone who’s looked into it and they’ll tell you, it’s a rich man’s game. Even Wayne Rooney had to consolidate a few monthly bills in order to do it. Besides, I’ve never really had any faith in such things. Hair plugs, hair treatments, hair therapy; they’re all slightly dubious. The ‘before and after’ photos of previous clients always look underwhelming. And the testimonies even more so: ‘Wow! Before I tried HairGain3000 I only had eight hairs. Now I’ve got 22 and my sexy new girlfriend loves it!’

To be honest, I’ve got used to my bald patch now – the baldness is part of my identity. And, in a strange way, my lack of hair may actually preserve youthfulness. When my friends get older and their own hair starts to thin, they’ll worry at how age is creeping up on them. I, and all my fellow baldies, on the other hand, may well look much the same as we did twenty years previous. Bald people don’t seem to age. Patrick Stewart is 73 years old. Samuel L. Jackson is 65. Vin Diesel, believe it or not, is 84! OK, so I made the last one up, but you get the idea. (Vin Diesel is actually 46 – which is still older than I would have guessed.)

A recent Daily Mail article reported on a study that claimed that hair loss is still one of the biggest concerns for men. They said, seemingly without irony, that hair loss is ‘frequently at the top of men’s minds.’ (Where else?) The report also said that most men would ‘abandon beer and porn’ in order to have thick hair. I don’t know how much can be read into that. Us men are sneaky. Yes, we’d abandon beer but we’d do so knowing full well that we could freely drink other forms of alcohol. And pornography could easily be replaced with a Game Of Thrones box set (which, if you haven’t seen it, is basically porn aimed at people who like Warhammer).

Actually, the Daily Mail article has cheered me up a bit – it’s reminded me that the one thing worse than having lost all your hair is the bit before, when you’re still losing it, and you can still see the (five o’clock) shadow of what might have been. And listen, if you're in your early twenties and have just started to leave a desperate trail of useless, shedding hair in your wake, then don't panic – things do start to get better.

I eventually discovered that girls who date you because they remind you of their dad are usually ones to avoid. Things can get weird quickly. I also discovered that confidence is key. All the hair in the world can’t cover over the blemish of awkwardness. Once I’d embraced the fact that my hair wasn’t growing any more, my confidence began to grow instead. Maybe it grew in the intense light bouncing off my forehead. Whatever the reason, it happened.

Don’t think I don’t wince when I see a picture of myself from the glory years (ha). I do. But the pain, like my hairline, continues to recede. 20 years from now, when all my friends are as bald as I am, I’ll barely notice it.

Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryantpugh

Photograph: Gorsad Kiev

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us