Update – Five Years On

Dear All

Having abandoned this little project upon completion about five years ago but not having the heart to shut it down, it is with inestimable pleasure that I note it’s still getting respectable hits every day. What can I say? Thank you all for your continued support.

Well, I’m still around, obviously, and despite what some consultants might tell you about Alopecia Universalis, my hair never did grow back. Anywhere. And all I really want to say about that is that I’m OK with it. In fact, when I come across a photograph of myself in the before-time, with my nondescript, mousey hair, I have to admit that I look a lot better now. I’ve forgotten the last time I caught site of my reflection in a mirror and saw a stranger. It’s just me. My kid doesn’t even remember me with hair… I mention this in case anyone out there has found their way to this blog because of ongoing hair loss, for whatever reason, or bloody lightening alopecia (mine all fell out in under three weeks). I know how stressful this can be, and all the anxiety about looking so different. I just hope you’ll trust and believe me when I tell you that you get used to it, while no one else around you bats an eyelid. I used to be self-conscious about having no eyebrows or lashes, but unless I mentioned it, no one had even noticed.

Back when it happened, though, I was freaking out, like you do. And I had excellent support from friends and family as well; I was very lucky. Without going into gory details, I was already fighting depression, low self-image and body dysmorphia when alopecia got me, and had been dealing with this lot for most of my life. You can imagine what an appearance-altering condition did to me. At the time, what kept me going was what always keeps me going: I had a family to get up and look after, and I had to keep working. It was pretty hellish, but I did it. I’m sure you can relate. Whoever you are, whatever you do, and whatever your age or gender, losing your hair is no bloody joke! My point is that it gets better. There are worst things than this, and in time they get better too. They have too. The alternative is to give up, and what a waste that would be. Life is always precious. You figure that out more the older you get, I can tell you.

So, what have I been up to since then? I’m happy to report I’ve got my mental health under control, with the help of an excellent GP, my lovely wife, Gracie, and a brilliant therapist called Sonja, along with the right balance of meds. No longer plagued by depression and social anxiety, I’ve got back into my first love of motorcycling again in a big way, after years of just using a bike for work and running errands. Now they’re fun again. I’ve written and published three books – a novel, a history and a biography – and am under contract for a fourth. I’m also now regularly selling articles on literature, film and history, and making it as a professional writer and editor. (When my hair fell out I’d just gone through academic redundancy and didn’t know what the hell I was doing.) I’ve also gotten into tattoos and started colouring myself in for a bit of visual excitement. And without any hair growing through, those colours surely do pop. My son is nearly ten now, and we’re thinking about having another kid. OK, the pandemic is a drag, but we’re all doing alright. At least all these lockdowns are giving me more time to write, rebuild old motorbikes and do a bit of blogging again.

Anyway, this blog was a significant part of my recovery. Stage one was finding Alopecia UK, particularly their Facebook group. I’d urge you to do the same, because early on it’s important to realise you’re not alone, and to get proper information about your condition as well as good old fashioned moral support. My experience was that the medical profession wasn’t much help. I got offered some horrendous treatments as well. I’ll warn you though, guys, expect to hear a lot of women discussing wigs and cosmetics. It’s a lot easier for us. We can just go full Jason Statham!

I’m not so involved with Alopecia UK now. I’ve just gotten on with my life. (I don’t really think of myself as ‘having’ alopecia now. This is just my face. I could do with losing a bit of weight, but I don’t really think about hair.) But I’ll be eternally grateful to them and I’ve made some good friends through the group. The next stage of recovery, or acceptance… moving on, whatever, was this project, which started out as a bit of fun on social media, a challenge to myself to find a bald icon every day. This was quite well received at the time, so I turned it into a blog. Looking back, I wish I’d tried raising a bit of money for charity, but hindsight’s a wonderful thing, innit? I found that exploring all these different (bald) looks, all people that I regarded as pretty stunning, was hugely helpful in accepting my own transition from hairy biker to Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now. And I figure if this exercise made me feel better, maybe it would help others as well, especially kids. I can only hope it has, and I do still sometimes get lovely feedback from readers, so I guess in some small way, it did.

Because of my interests, my choices were always going to tend towards actors and iconic characters, as well as musicians, artists and writers. I’m well aware that the world of sport was under-represented, for which I apologise. I’m of a certain generation too, so a bit old fashioned; I’m also acutely aware that there wasn’t nearly enough age, gender and ethnic diversity. And I’ve often kicked myself for forgetting someone obvious – Jason Statham, for example. So, with all that in mind, I though I might as well fire this thing up again. Not every day mind – more of an as and when I have time – but if it in any way raises someone’s self-esteem a touch, or just a smile, then it’ll be worth it. We are a cool bunch, us hairless heroes, craggy, exotic and full of character. Let’s keep celebrating that!

Warmest Regards

Steve

Day 73, No. 73. Jon from Watchmen

WatchmenHAIRCUT 100: Day 73, No. 73. Dr. Jonathan Osterman, the naked blue guy from the original Watchman by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1987), an academic transformed by accident into a post-Nietzschean Superman figure that explores the questions first raised by Moore in Marvelman: ‘What if there really were superheroes?’ The answer is, of course, that the politicians would try to turn them into weapons – Jon is rebranded as ‘Doctor Manhattan’ in the Cold War – while they become increasingly abstracted from ordinary humanity. Jon can manipulate matter, is effectively immortal, and can teleport anywhere. Like the Tralfamadorians in Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-5, he can see all of time at once, although he cannot change anything, becoming an increasingly passive observer until he is drawn into a vast, postmodern conspiracy. At the end of the story he decides to leave earth and create life somewhere else, effectively becoming god. Well, you would, wouldn’t you? ‘All we ever see of stars are their old photographs.’

Please click here for Day 74

Day 51, No. 51. Michael Jordan

Michael JordanHAIRCUT 100: Day 51, No. 51. Michael Jordan, rated by his contemporaries as the greatest NBA player of his generation, if not ever. ‘There’s Michael Jordan,’ Magic Johnson famously said, ‘and then there is the rest of us.’ Jordan was one of the first celebrity athletes in the way we perceive sports marketing nowadays, but what underpinned his popularity was a natural talent and tremendous drive, coupled with a modest commitment to teamwork. He played fifteen seasons in the NBA, with the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards, also picking up two Olympic gold medals. His list of honours, awards and career achievements is staggering; and in 1994, a bronze statue of him entitled ‘The Spirit’ – sculptured by Omri Amrany and Julie Rotblatt-Amrany – was unveiled outside the United Center on West Madison Street, Chicago, the home of the Bulls. He also played basketball with Bugs Bunny in Ivan Reitman’s Space Jam in 1996 – what a guy! Now officially retired from the sport, he is the majority shareholder in the Charlotte Hornets, a professional basketball team based in North Carolina. Jordan has a famous brand partnership with Nike, and his net worth was recently ranked by Forbes as $1 Billion, making him the second richest African-American on the planet after Oprah Winfrey. ‘Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.’

This is the final day of Alopecia Awareness Month, but The Haircut 100 will continue. I promised a ton and I will deliver, so keep watching this space. With thanks for your continued support.

Please click here for Day 52

Day 50, No. 50. Klaus Kinski as Dracula

Klaus KinskiHAIRCUT 100: Day 50, No. 50. We’ve reach the halfway point in our Top 100 Hairless Heroes, and I hope you’ve noticed that I’ve never missed a day! As you’ll recall, this is a personal project in aid of Alopecia Awareness Month, listing people I admire – both real and imagined – who just so happen to be bald; a look, I might add, they carry off with style and aplomb. As my modest compendium began with Max Schreck’s Noferatu, it is in every way appropriate to mark the midpoint in my journey with Klaus Kinski as Dracula in Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979), a beautiful re-imagining of F.W. Murnau’s iconic Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922), a defining moment in the history of the haunted screen. Visionary director Herzog considered the original Nosferatu the greatest of all German films, and had long planned to re-make it, with friend and collaborator Kinski in the title role. As Bram Stoker’s Dracula had by this point entered the public domain, Herzog, unlike Murnau, was able to directly cite the novel, thus Kinski is ‘Dracula’ rather than ‘Count Orlok.’ In common with Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire (1976), Herzog and Kinski explore the vampire as a figure of tragic loneliness; lost in time, unloved, and doomed to immortality: ‘Death is not the worst. There are things more horrible than death. The absence of love is the most abject pain.’ The visual style is gothic at its most gorgeous, not hyper-real and gaudy but muted and painterly. Chiaroscuro light modelling adds a sense of Renaissance painting to the Expressionism of the original film, and shadowy interiors are juxtaposed with sublime, Romantic landscapes; the seamless merging of the history of European art also suggesting the antiquity of the vampire king. Roger Ebert praised Herzog’s control of the colour palette, his off-centre compositions, and his dramatic counterpoint of light and dark. ‘Here is a film that does honour to the seriousness of vampires,’ he wrote, ‘if they were real, here is how they must look.’

Please click here for Day 51

Day 49, No. 49. Irvine Welsh

Irvine WelshHAIRCUT 100: Day 49, No. 49. Irvine Welsh: Scottish novelist, playwright, screenwriter, director, and short story writer. The son of a dock worker and a waitress from Leith, Welsh rose to prominence with the publication of the edgy and iconic Trainspotting in 1993. Trainspotting introduced many of the themes common to his subsequent work, most notably: social class, council housing, drugs, sectarianism, sex, music, and Scottish identity, the novel celebrating the language and humour of the Scots through an idiomatic narrative in the tradition of A Clockwork Orange and Finnegans Wake. In a brutal and authentic landscape, Welsh’s work also seems to explore the possibility of individual redemption, leading the literary journalist Sam Leith to conclude that ‘He’s much more interested in teleology than sociology.’ Looking back, Welsh’s breakthrough was part of a renaissance in British culture in the early-90s, the fag-end of Thatcherism, that included Britpop and the so-called ‘Young British Artists,’ producing cool and confrontational art in the punk tradition, with some of its finest practitioners coming, like Welsh, from the working classes. ‘I grew up in a place where everybody was a storyteller, but nobody wrote…’

Trainspotting (1993)

The Acid House (1994)

Marabou Stork Nightmares (1995)

Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance (1996)

Filth (1998)

Glue (2001)

Porno (2002)

The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs (2006)

If You Liked School You’ll Love Work (2007)

Crime (2008)

Reheated Cabbage (2009)

Skagboys (2012)

The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins (2014)

A Decent Ride (2015)

The Blade Artist (2016)

Please click here for Day 50