Digital Slob

Curt Brandao

Are baldness ‘cures’
fiction, fact or follicle?

There are many classifications of Digital Slobs waiting to be officially recognized by the American Slob Society (its bureaucracy is understandably bogged down by the fact that it doesn't exist), but certainly one of our more distinctive breeds is the North American Hairless (Homo Slabis Chrome-domeius).

But the days of this Slob pedigree, of which I'm a prime specimen, may be numbered. What Vidal Sassoon calls our genetic defect and we call never having to unclog the shower drain is being eradicated by science.

Male-pattern baldness has always preyed upon many, some more quickly than others. I showed my genetic cards early. Uncle Richard was teaching me the art of the comb-over when I was in third grade.

In my late teens, Mother Nature granted me a full half hour when I had no acne and an actual hairline. Unfortunately, I was watching "Gilligan's Island" at the time and missed my rescue from social isolation (much as the Castaways still do at least four times a day in syndication).

When hairlines finally die, it's a dramatic loss that fully follicled outsiders can't fathom (imagine the end of "Titanic" -- you're Kate Winslet and your hair is Leonardo Di Caprio, slowing receding into the cold abyss, urging, "You're gonna go on. ... Promise me you will survive!").

But poke around on Google and you'll find there's a good evolutionary reason men go bald.

Back in the prehistoric era, when boys and girls hooked up by hitting each other with blunt clubs (civilization had not progressed to the point where they could force jungle juice down each others' throats at college frat parties), male-pattern baldness was a big turn-on.

It told females a fella had been around the block. It meant he was mature enough to teach kids how to duck from swooping pterodactyls. And if he turned out to be a real Neanderthal (in a bad way), his hairline assured females he was so old he couldn't try to catch them without starting to wheeze 50 feet outside the cave. Bald, bald, bald. Win, win, win.

Sadly, our DNA is now about 1 million years out of style. So most bald men will now clean the nation's store shelves of anything that vows to jumpstart follicles. If tomorrow some infomercial said we could grow hair by pouring a gallon of brake fluid on our head four times a day, by May the Indy 500 would have to be raced on Segway scooters.

Up to now, the best balding "cures" have been transplants, but it's hard to harvest enough spare hair from other parts of the head to do the job right (nose hair is too unwieldy). However, reports that Bosley International in Beverly Hills is trying to replicate follicles in a petri dish, which once perfected, could turn even Charles Barkley into a Chia Pet.

The early estimate for a full mane: $10,000. But the bill shouldn't give you as much pause as the social implications. Right now being bald just means you don't have hair. But soon it could mean you don't have hair AND you don't have $10,000. That'll put a dent in anyone's dating portfolio, even during Happy Hour.

Once this breakthrough is realized, any bald guy who approaches a lady and says, "can I buy you a drink?" will get this response: "I dunno, can you?"

Maybe I'll be among those with enough charm to continue the thrifty, hairless life. Or maybe I'll hit up my uncle for a loan. Surely, he'd understand.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Curt Brandao is the Star-Bulletin's production editor. Reach him at:


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