Breaking Bald

10474410383_7ae2dedb1a_cBy Joseph Barker

If there was, is, or ever will be a debate about the struggle with body image affecting women more than men, the “comb-over” is the secret to ending it once and for all.

Is there a more ridiculous phenomenon on the planet than a human being using the hair on the side of his head to cover up the missing hair on top of his head? If so, I have yet to discover it. I’m convinced that at some point, every man on the planet has ridiculed the comb-over while simultaneously swearing to never have one himself. In spite of this, the hairstyle has not only flourished, but evolved over time.

Here are few of the recent trends in comb-overy:


Untitled3Rat Tail: The rat tail works exactly like your standard military issued infrared decoy flare. F-16 pilots release a couple of these when a heatseeking missile has a lock on them. Their heat signal jams the oncoming missile and it redirects toward one of the flares. The rat tail accomplishes this same task by being so unbelievably ugly that the eye locks onto that part of the head, making it impossible to notice the massive bald spot just a couple inches above.


Untitled2Sweep-Over – The “hipster sweep-over” is a hijacked version of the very traditional “side-part” haircut. Travel to Brooklyn, Portland, Nashville or any other hipster capital and you will be sure to see part lines starting just slightly above the ear. The crest behind these comb-over waves makes spotting their receding hairline like finding a needle in a haystack.



UntitledButt Cut – Parting your hair straight down the middle is an effective way to cover a receding hairline around the temples. However, this is not a socially acceptable hairstyle unless you’re a time traveler from the early ’90s or an original cast member of Home Improvement. As is often the case, when the choice is being culturally relevant or more effectively covering your baldness, the comb-over usually wins.



Those are just a few modern day comb-overs. I personally applied the “front spike” technique made famous by the fine gentlemen on MTV’s Jersey Shore. I found that it was the most effective method to cover my thinning and receding hairline. I want to be clear about this: I hated wearing my hair that way. I found it pretentious and juvenile, yet for almost a decade, I wouldn’t leave the house until my despised haircut was styled perfectly.

In an effort to aid the effectiveness of my “front spike,” I went “Ryan’s-all-you-can-eat-buffet-bar” on the hair care aisle at Walgreens in my search for the products that would provide me with the most “volume.” Yes, you did read that correctly, I said “volume.” Most balding guys do the same thing (even though they will never admit it).

Alas, no matter how great the product was, it could never keep pace with the rate my hair was disappearing. In my last year of holding onto my “hair-facade,” you had a better chance of spotting Bigfoot in the wild than catching me without a hat on in public.

Then one day, I had this epiphany.

“I have absolutely lost my mind in my attempt to run from the inevitability of baldness.”

I knew this fleeting moment of clarity wouldn’t last long and my new found bravery would soon abandon me. So, I took a straight razor to my scalp and bid farewell to my struggle with baldness forever.

And that is the end of this story. I shaved my head and lived happily ever after.

Well, at least, that is how I expected it to play out. Why can’t things be black and white like they are in the movies? Why can’t our enemies and battles be against tangible things like dragons, and tyrants, and baldness? It would be so much easier that way.

You see, what I discovered after I came off my high from “defeating” baldness is that I had replaced my comb-over with loose fitting clothing and complete avoidance of swimming pools in an attempt to cover the extra weight around my midsection. Losing the extra 15 or 20 pounds I was hiding wouldn’t have solved it either, as there was a queue of perceived flaws a mile long that would have simply moved up one spot.

I fell into the trap that so many people get caught in: I treated the symptom, not the problem. Ditching the comb-over for a shaved head was like putting a Band-Aid on an infected wound. It helped stop the momentary bleeding, but the infection was much deeper than baldness. I was forced to realize that body image was a large portion of the foundation I was building my self-worth on. To borrow a well-known analogy, that is like building a house on the sand. At the first sign of a storm, the structure crumbles to pieces.

So what is the secret? If I had it, I would be a millionaire for sure. What I try to do is share my story. Why? Because it still hurts on the inside every time I do, but a little less each time. Openness helps remove the shame and allows me the clarity to see more and more the beauty with which all human beings are made. I’ll be the first to admit it’s not a perfect answer, and I still get caught up in my old way of thinking from time to time. But I am one step closer, and I believe (at least for me) it is in the right direction.

Joe Barker is a proud husband, father, and blogger of all things baldness. With humor and satire, he tries to address the underlying issues of hair loss. Connect with him at

Header image by Christoph Aigner via Flickr. Content images property of Landis Blair and Joe Barker.

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