How much is a man's hair worth?
December 14, 2005 9:11 AM   Subscribe

I'm 22 and I've been shaving my head due to the fact that I experienced some hair thinning. Honestly, does the fact that I have no hair really matter that much to women? And if so how much? And if having no hair really is a big issue, then how can I counter it besides growing my hair out? There also seems to be a cultural difference in that black woman don't care so much about my hair, whereas white women flip out. FYI I'm white.
posted by j-urb to Human Relations (66 answers total)
I know we've discussed this before..... anyone have the link handy?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:15 AM on December 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

Probably not much consolation to you, but as a gay man, I LOVE guys who shave their heads.

Maybe you can change your target audience?
posted by hummus at 9:15 AM on December 14, 2005

FYI, no. Baldness is what it is, and I think most women can deal (because, most women have to! Haha, men and their baldness). Denial about baldness- aka combovers, weird haircuts where the rest of the hair is not properly groomed- is NOT sexy.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:16 AM on December 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

I just saw Joshua Redman play the other night -- he's totally bald, and totally hot. I'm white. In my observation, it seems like guys like you who go bald young and decide to manage it well by shaving it all off end up adjusting to it and being very comfortable (and attractive) with the look.
posted by footnote at 9:16 AM on December 14, 2005

My boyfriend is self-conscious about his hair but I couldn't care less. But then again he's about 9 inches taller than me and from my angle I can't tell a thing. So maybe find some short girls? ;)
As long as he treats as wonderfully as he does, it really doesn't matter. (I'm asian btw)
posted by like_neon at 9:19 AM on December 14, 2005

White girl here; I too say that acceptance is the better part of valor. If shaving provides the best aesthetic effect, then do that.

Also, ask how many women find Jean-Luc Picard (er, Patrick Steward) sexy.
posted by tentacle at 9:23 AM on December 14, 2005

Neil Strauss, one of the best pick-up artists in the field is bald and he's laid hundreds of women. So it's all "in your head".
posted by lpctstr; at 9:24 AM on December 14, 2005

It's not unattractive, as long as they don't think you're a skinhead.
posted by leapingsheep at 9:24 AM on December 14, 2005

Maybe it's an age thing? I'm a white girl about your age and have no trouble with balding guys/shaved heads - find them rather sexy, actually. And far, far preferable to combovers or swirlies or something else heinous to cover up the baldness.
posted by kalimac at 9:29 AM on December 14, 2005

> if having no hair really is a big issue, then how can I counter it besides growing my hair out?

You'll look just as dignified with a #1 or a #2 - at least that's what I do.
posted by teleskiving at 9:32 AM on December 14, 2005

I think the shaved/bald head is hot. Thinning can also look great, just get a good stylist to work with what you have. Where it goes wrong is trying to pretend the hairline isn't really receding and going crazy with all manner of combovers and crap.

Of course, I'm pretty short so I don't spend a lot of time looking at the top of anyone's head, so YMMV. Good luck!
posted by Space Kitty at 9:35 AM on December 14, 2005

I am a lady-type and agree with all here that a shaved and/or bald head it quite attractive. I like a little stubble, but totally smooth is nice too. Really, don't worry about it. Keep shaving if that's what you like.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 9:40 AM on December 14, 2005

Previous discussion
posted by kdern at 9:44 AM on December 14, 2005

I've cut my hair very short (less than 1cm) for years for basically the same reason. It just looks more dignified. I've avoided going totally bald because of the maintenance issues. I don't even like to shave my face daily.

The funny thing is, even with my hair just SHORT, people who are my friends wonder aloud if people will think I'm a skinhead/racist/nazi/whatever. Seriously. So white people are probably a little uncomfortable with that association. Most of them are probably not going to think of a shaved bald black man as a nazi. Although, in the ska movement way back when, black men shaving their heads was something of a sign of being a skinhead in the Ska sense, sort of gangsterish.

Myself, I do tend to think that black men with shaved heads look more natural than white men with shaved heads. I don't know why although it just might be exposure, I know tons of black guys, of all ages, who have shaved heads, even kids, so I guess I'm just used to it. I'm seeing more and more white guys as I get older so I guess that's becoming more regular to me also.

Hair is a funny thing. When I was in college a friend of mine's boyfriend was a scary looking guy. Shaved head, tatoos, piercings, what have you. Sweetest guy you ever met, really a nice guy. Softspoken, paid attention in class, etc, etc. But people were regularly scared of him or disapproving of him. Pity.
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:44 AM on December 14, 2005

Of course, some people have attractive head shapes and others less so. If you turn out to be the latter, very short but not shaved hair might be a happy medium.
posted by mendel at 9:45 AM on December 14, 2005

I would rather you shaved than left it longer and balding. I have to say that at twenty-two, longish and balding would not be okay with me. Then again, receding hairline is much better than a lot of other balding patterns.
posted by dame at 9:50 AM on December 14, 2005

Holy crap, no way. Shaving is a thousand million times better than trying to hide a bald spot or hoping nobody will notice thinning hair. I'm white and female, and I actually really like the bald look. For me, I don't think there's a difference in the attractiveness of bald guys depending on their race.

Don't go super-bald, because that makes me think of skinheads, and skinheads are bad, but a 1 or a 2 is hot. Think Rome's Titus Pullo. I can't find any good shots of him at his baldest, but try something like this (he's on the right) or a smidge longer/stubblier.
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:55 AM on December 14, 2005

in nyc, every man with a shaved head is your brother. regardless of race. this from experience. esp. in the summertime. it's really quite a trip. the only time I have ever had more brother-love was when I had pure-translucent-blue hair.

also, as a non-gay (but also non-balding) man, I think that shaving is much cooler and more attractive than trying to cover it up. for whatever that's worth.
posted by dorian at 9:55 AM on December 14, 2005

Don't keep your head cleanly shaven out of spite. You might just look better with a yet to be determined length of fuzz.

Also, you may not need to do anything drastic just yet. I've been paranoid about my hair for years now and my friends swear they don't see what I'm talking about. Talk this over with some people you can trust to give it to you straight.
posted by 4easypayments at 9:56 AM on December 14, 2005

and: skinheads are not necessarily bad. uk dockworker mod predates stupid neonazis by a fair bit.

esp. if it's people with finely-shaped skulls. like me.
posted by dorian at 9:59 AM on December 14, 2005

I shave my head. For the same reason you do. Here is a thought experiment for you: Imagine you are a girl asking you if men like big boobs. Your answer will most likely be something like "well, I like big boobs, but most guys just like boobs period. there are plenty of guys who like smaller boobs" or "nah, I like just a handful, or small boobs. but there are guys who only like big boobs, so mostly it's a personal preference thing". The same thing applies to hair/baldness. There are women who do not like it at all, and then there are women who will charge a bald headed man like Anna Nicole Smith on fertility pills.
posted by spicynuts at 10:00 AM on December 14, 2005

As a man who's been balding from my early twenties, I am absolutely certain that, as a general rule, it very much does matter to women and that it's a strike against you in terms of physical attractiveness. It just is. There's no avoiding it. It's like being short, although shortness is a bigger liability.

Women do often find total baldness attractive and thus a shaved head may be a solution to a balding problem. However, there is nevertheless a subtle bias against it in the same way that wearing shoe-lifts is an unattractive attempt at overcoming being short. That is to say, what's really attractive to women are bald men who would otherwise have a full head of hair.

But, as people will often tell you, self-confidence is the most attractive trait of all and that's why being insecure about being bald or balding is worse than merely being bald or balding. That's why combovers or toupees or other attempts to disguise it (including shaving, but less so) are seen as very unattractive. So whatever you do, don't do something that very transparently advertises that you are insecure about it.

What explains the comments that have preceded me that seem to be contradict me 100% is that, as a general rule, a woman's physical attraction to a man is very malleable. Taken in isolation, physical attributes matter probably just as much to women as they do to men. But only the very first and superficial impression is the one that has the physical attributes as the only consideration. Beyond that there's any number of things which can make baldness, shortness, fatness, hirsuteness...whatever...a relatively unimportant quality to a specific woman. Self-confidence and personal charm and a great smile can make all the difference.

BTW, I have never, in any way whatsoever, tried to disguise or deny my baldness. My choice to occasionally shave my head arose from me noticing that shaved heads look pretty cool.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:00 AM on December 14, 2005 the third sentence change that to "imagine there is a girl asking you if men like big boobs"
posted by spicynuts at 10:00 AM on December 14, 2005

Oh and as a note to Ethereal Bligh's post, see the Seinfeld episode in which Elaine dates the 'guy from the future' - the guy who shaves his head and then tries to grow it back for Elaine only to realize that he is 'going bald', at which point Elaine dumps him.
posted by spicynuts at 10:02 AM on December 14, 2005

Head shaving seems to be all the rage with many of the folks I work with and it invariably makes them more attractive.

Heck, I'm lesbian and think bald men are by and large sexier than the majority of men with hair.

I even went so far as to shave my own head in August. Let me go on record as saying femme lesbians dig it too. ;)

I say revel in your choice to go bald.
posted by FlamingBore at 10:12 AM on December 14, 2005

In theory, I always "prefer" lots and lots of hair, long, flowing, Fabio-esque hair. And yet, I keep dating fellows with very little hair. Obviously, what I think attracts me and what actually attracts me are two different things.
posted by JanetLand at 10:16 AM on December 14, 2005

When I started shaving my head a close female friend of mine confided in me that she thought blad guys were sexy. I asked her what specifically it was about a bald head that was sexy. She paused and thought for a while and said, "Maybe it's because bald men look like giant walking penises."

So there we have it, shaving your head subliminally sends a message to women that you are a bonafide sex machine that reminds them of a large penis.

I don't think this theory is that far-fetched.
posted by camworld at 10:19 AM on December 14, 2005

A happy day for me was when my husband finally gave up trying to keep his hair long as he lost more and more of it. I shave him weekly now and LOVE how he looks bald.

Bald men are sexy.
posted by onhazier at 10:20 AM on December 14, 2005

So there we have it, shaving your head subliminally sends a message to women that you are a bonafide sex machine that reminds them of a large penis.

Baldness can be caused by an overabundance of testosterone, so you're not too far off the mark, actually.
posted by Dean King at 10:23 AM on December 14, 2005

I'm 26 and have had my head shaved (or sometimes extremely short- think clippers with no comb, so a #0, I suppose) for 4 years now. Like you, I shaved it because my forehead was getting awfully large. In general, most people like the look and almost no one* has freaked out or found it weird. Perhaps that's because I'm a smallish guy and pretty non-threatening; I look more like Moby than a skinhead. As a piece of practical advice- my wife adores the shaved head with beard look, but women have vastly differing opinions on facial hair (like most appearance issues).

* The sole exception is a friend of mine who is in his 50s and gay, who associates long hair with liberalism/other good things and consequentially dislikes shaved heads.
posted by JMOZ at 10:27 AM on December 14, 2005

I think all the absolute answers are wrong. For some women, it matters a lot, and they won't date a bald or balding guy. For others, it's just not a big deal. For a few, it's a turn-on. The good thing is that this is a pretty obvious trait, so the women who don't like baldness will simply not respond to you (in person or online) at all -- and that's great. Move on to the ones who don't care or who like it.

I agree with everyone who has said the best thing is to accept it and live with it -- not try to cover it up, conceal it, or whatever. So, shave your head if you like the way it looks (better than your other options). Whatever will make you the most comfortable -- do that.
posted by precipice at 10:35 AM on December 14, 2005

The only thing that sucks about having a shaved head is the body heat loss in the winter and the absolute requirement of sunscreen in the summer. I'll never forget thet ime I burned my head so badly one summer afternoon that it hurt for a week.

I think the baldness stereotype is slowly going away. In the 1970s and 1980s it was deemed uncool to have a shaved head, which is preceisely one of the reasons the look was embraced by the skinhead groups. These days there are so many successful bald men that the stereotype is no longer true. It helps that the image of a bald man has been embraced by Hollywood and TV and prmoted as a positive, sexy image. People like Michael Jordan have helped our cause, as have actors like the guy who played Harry on Sex & the City.
posted by camworld at 10:39 AM on December 14, 2005

Don't cover up in an attempt to hide your baldness, but do cover up to protect against sun damage and cold winds!
posted by Dean King at 10:39 AM on December 14, 2005

Shave it by all means if your skull is amenable - some ultra-pasty guys with weird craniums, well, it just doesn't work. IF you do, be aware that you're opening yourself up to a whole new world of hurt - banging your head now involves a lot more blood and obvious wounds, not to mention a ton of sunburn if you're not careful - since the top of your head is ALWAYS in the sun whereas the rest of your body goes in and out of it when you're outside. Plus, any amount of sweat that would normally be hidden by hair on another person is now visible. You'll realize you didn't know you sweat that much, but everybody does.. just that their hair hides it until a certain point. :)
posted by kcm at 10:40 AM on December 14, 2005

An addendum as far as sunscreen goes: I used to do the #0 route but I now shave it with a razor every couple days not just because it's much easier to put a moisturizer with SPF on it that way (along with my face as before). Cetaphil in the green bottle is a good place to start, and you'll avoid burning most days - plus you need that moisturizer after you shave the noggin'.
posted by kcm at 10:41 AM on December 14, 2005

One last naote: The first time you shave your head, you should ask a couple of trusted female friends to tell you whether your head has funny shape or not. Make sure they tell you the truth. There is nothing worse that shaving your head and then finding out that you are one of those men whose weird-shaped head is hidden by hair and needs to remain hidden.
posted by camworld at 10:42 AM on December 14, 2005

My head shape is good so that isn't a problem. I get compliments from black chiqs on my head shape, but not others, hence the "cultural difference."
posted by j-urb at 10:46 AM on December 14, 2005

Teleskiving, it's possible that someone who isn't a fellow member of the hairclipper self-cut club for men might not realize that "You'll look just as dignified with a #1 or a #2 - at least that's what I do" isn't bathroom code :)

I'm a non-balding man who prefers having no or little hair, partly because I prefer the look and partly because you can't see all the grey :) In my experience the number of "eww" reactions from the ladies is more than offset by the number who have an "oh yeah" reaction to a bald head.

If you're not getting the kind of reaction you want, perhaps you should consider the rest of your grooming. When I was shaving my head and had a goatee I had a number of people claim I was intimidating and my experience working the door at a bar seemed to support that. Which is pretty laughable for a slightly doughy average height dude. Losing the goatee made an immediate difference. Perhaps a change in how you do your facial hair will make a positive difference for you.
posted by phearlez at 10:49 AM on December 14, 2005

i'm a balding machine but can't figure out if i have one of those weird-shaped heads (i probably do). any ideas on how to make an educated guess?
posted by soma lkzx at 10:51 AM on December 14, 2005

sexy is an attitude. baldness is a red herring.

Also, if when you shave your head for the first time, your skin might be different colors. This too shall pass.
posted by whatnot at 10:52 AM on December 14, 2005

oh, if you ARE all pasty and shave it, don't go with facial fair. I agree. when you have a big thick dark goatee on top of a pale white bald head, it just looks kind of all techwarrior-y. you may as well don a trenchcoat and fedora and grow a queue.

if you're REALLY badass, though, I'd go for the skullet.
posted by kcm at 10:55 AM on December 14, 2005

Keep in mind that male pattern baldness is caused by testosterone.

And for fascinating discussions of why people are attracted to things like a full head of hair, tallness, clear skin, and facial symmetry, read Survival of the Prettiest.
posted by alms at 10:59 AM on December 14, 2005

I haven't tried one of these myself (I use my Gillette Venus), but I'm quite tempted by this gizmo. Maybe a gimmick, maybe not.

I did have to buy one of their "skully" things, though, to keep warm/prevent sunburn (and cuz the yin-yang baldman logo makes me feel tough).
posted by tentacle at 11:00 AM on December 14, 2005

As with pretty much everything else, it will bother some people, turn some people on, and not affect the rest of the people one way or another.
In fact, all the stuff that we worry about wrt dating/mating boils down to this: there's no one right way and there certainly aren't any rules; the trick is to find the people who like what you've got and not to sweat the ones who don't. Figure out how to do that, and you've got it made.
posted by willpie at 11:01 AM on December 14, 2005

I think it's not so much that some girls particularly don't like shaved heads, it's that some girls can have a specific idea of what image they do like especially younger women, and perhaps that is broadly different between black and white girls where you are.
posted by lunkfish at 11:05 AM on December 14, 2005

I've found that the women who like it REALLY like it, and that's very cool with me.

I've been shaving my head since I was 25 and have recently been doing a job search, so I went from bicking it every day to letting a little stubble grow out, just to not seem so extreme. I've gotten compliments on both states of being.

And I second the goatee comments. There's something overcompensating about it - it you're bald and shaving your head, then go for it, dammit. You're not trying to hide anything or draw attention from your head. It's there. Shaving actually shows that you've accepted it and are cool with it - most women I've encountered find that pretty sexy.
posted by spslsausse at 11:38 AM on December 14, 2005

Also, ask how many women find Jean-Luc Picard (er, Patrick Steward) sexy.

Patrick Stewart = hot

Bald is way better than scary comb-overs or other "pretend-I'm-not-balding" strategy.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:43 AM on December 14, 2005

tentacle, I have used the headblade and it's great unless you feel the need to shave against the grain for a closed shave, in which case the cheaper blade was definately harder on my skin than my Mach 3. However it was amazing how much more comfortable it was to hold than a regular blade.
posted by phearlez at 12:47 PM on December 14, 2005

Rule #1 of thinning hair - under NO circumstances should you grow a ponytail (Sean Connery excepted).
posted by longbaugh at 1:11 PM on December 14, 2005

Question(s) for teleskiving, RustyBrooks, and anyone else who cuts it short but not bald: do you cut it at home, and if so, what do you use? Would one of those electric beard trimmers with a clip-on adjustable guard work? I get the hair place to do mine to a #3 cut every month, but usually by week 3 afterwards I get some weird sticky-uppy bits in odd places. (Me: 43, male, no hair issues except receding a wee bit in front.)

(Sorry for the derail, but it could be another option for j-urb.)
posted by hangashore at 1:12 PM on December 14, 2005

Go for it. Especially if it makes *you* feel better, because it's the self confidence that will make you more attractive to us girls anyway.

Personally, I could care less. But I love thet stubble stage when it starts to grow back, when you can rub your hand over it one way and it's all soft and fuzzy, but the other way it's kinda prickly.
posted by cgg at 1:12 PM on December 14, 2005

hangashore, my wife does it using this. I don't know anything about hair clippers apart from our limited experience with this one but it seems to be fine.
posted by teleskiving at 1:29 PM on December 14, 2005

Any set of hair clippers should do the job fine. Some, I've found, might hurt a bit if you go guard-less, and it seems to be a function of how close the teeth are together (farther == more comfortable), but there's not a strong correlation. Just keep them oiled each time. I'd say a $20 set lasts a year or so. If you have more than a day or two of stubble, PLEASE DO a guardless trim before you razor it or else you'll be hurting. If you have to go over the same area more than once (plus a quick followup to get a few strays), you started with too much hair and you'll have bad burn.
posted by kcm at 1:35 PM on December 14, 2005

How do you wash a bald/balding head then? Shampoo, face soap or regular soap?
posted by blueyellow at 3:02 PM on December 14, 2005

You know this is just a matter of preference. Some women will freak out over a bald head. But do you really want to date someone that shallow? Honestly most women don't care what a guy looks like as long as he is well-groomed, hygienic, reasonably well dressed, and of course, pleasant to be around. As for your experience with women having a problem with it, you may unfortunately be attracted to the type of woman who's interested in purely looks and surfaces. For that reason, I agree with hummus, but in a slightly different way; change your audience.
posted by katyggls at 3:05 PM on December 14, 2005

I have a strong preference, nay fetish, for bald/balding men. My partner is balding; both a receding hairline and a spot in back.

I shave his head, but I actually have a bit of a preference for when it's grown back out some and that he is balding is made more obvious. He, however, does not, so we keep a good schedule on shaving maintenance.
posted by birdie birdington at 3:49 PM on December 14, 2005

I've heard that JFK killed hat-wearing for men. And it is true that in the past, it was much more common for white men to wear hats in public. Classy hats. Hats with style. The baseball cap is ubiquitous these days, but I hardly call that an improvement. My roommate is completely bald/shaved and occasionally dons a classy felt hat kinda like one of these. It looks good. It's probably not something you want to wear at all times, but once in a while to interrupt the baldness it works well.
posted by scarabic at 4:02 PM on December 14, 2005

My roommate is completely bald/shaved and occasionally dons a classy felt hat kinda like one of these. It looks good. It's probably not something you want to wear at all times, but once in a while to interrupt the baldness it works well.

Ah, yes, the debonair sysadmin. The stereotype is absolutely true, although most of the people I know who wear it are programmers and not sysadmins.
posted by breath at 4:50 PM on December 14, 2005

"Maybe it's because bald men look like giant walking penises."

An ex-girlfriend said this exact thing to me several years ago, just before she left me for Jean-Luc Picard.
posted by sneebler at 5:26 PM on December 14, 2005

I think it's highly personal/variable. There are lots of guys with shaved heads (or who are balding) that I'd say are very good-looking. Still, I'm not attracted drawn to them, because for me hair is a big part of superficial attraction to male-type people.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:48 PM on December 14, 2005

I don't use shampoo at all anymore. Just regular soap works very well. I also don't use shaving cream except on my face. I lather up soap in the shower and shave my head using that soap lather. It works pretty well.

Whatever you do, under no circumstances -- and I mean never -- should you ever consider using Nair or any kind of chemical-based hair remover on your head. You are in for a world of pain if you do.
posted by camworld at 6:14 PM on December 14, 2005

I have occasionally shaved my head. I began to wonder, however, how the shaved head look plays with those who have alopecia?
posted by Xurando at 6:21 PM on December 14, 2005

dude, I used Nair on my chest a long time ago and I went into shock from the chemical burns. i followed directions properly. all i can figure out is that shit is satanic. i swear there should be international law prohibiting the sale of that stuff.
posted by j-urb at 8:34 PM on December 14, 2005

Make sure you have a way to check the back of your head, I used to use two mirrors to check, now I've trained my fingers to detect the tufty bits you can leave. Nothing as sad as seeing a guy who obviously shaved his own head and has a patch on the back he doesn't know about.

Get used to bashing your head into things. Hair gives you an early warning you're about to hit something. Get used to ducking lower than you need to when you get into cars, bashing your head on the extractor hood in your kitchen, and so on.

Keep your head clean, I use normal body soap, and a flannel. You'll find you can clean off a bunch of dead skin you might not even have noticed when you had longer hair. Get rid of it.

And more on the dead skin tip, sunscreen. Really. Or get ready for the worst dandruff in your life.

Shave your head in the shower, and do it last. You want everything to be nice and softened. Until I grew a beard, I did my head after my face.

Clippers are fine, I think a #0 or #1 are alright. But nothing beats a razor. It feels so good. It feels so clean. Everyone else will start to look like dirty scruffy hippies.

Learn where the ouchie bits happen. I've got a spot at the top of the back of my head where, if I shave over it too quickly, it'll cut. This really fucking sucks. It stings. So when I'm in that area, I find the spot with my finger first, that allows me to shave around it, then I can shave over that area very slowly and carefully.

And, dude, you've got to shave your head. A guy in denial is the only thing even more tragic than a guy with a patch he doesn't know he missed.
posted by The Monkey at 9:03 PM on December 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

I'll just add this (if you're still reading): the Bald R Us links page. Check out the rest of the site, too.

Also, the HeadBlade rules. Ditto their HeadSlick shave cream.
posted by attercoppe at 11:01 PM on December 14, 2005

I wonder what headblade Michael Jordan used...
posted by j-urb at 9:50 AM on December 15, 2005

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