Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow. One Man’s Brutal Confession.
The Book of Man's Co-Founder, Mark Sandford, comes clean about his diminishing hairline and the great and bizarre lengths he has gone to in an attempt to fake his own hair.
The Photo Shoot
I had just done something good at my old job so we decided to get everyone’s picture taken.
This was the first time I had had a professional photo taken for a long time. Probably since primary school. Fifteen years in media and not ONE professional photo, ever. I clearly hadn’t worked my personal PR very well. Anyway, I’m not ashamed to admit I was excited. Although I went in casual.
I was getting make-up done (on my request), just a bit of powder on the sweaty bits, when I said to Angela, who was doing my face, “any tips for covering the thin bits?” She looked me up and down, puzzled, “thin bits?” (this body anxiety is a shit show).
I pointed to my head with one of those chimpish faux glum expressions. “Ah,” she said “Those bits. Claire, could you pass me the brown eye shadow?” She then, to my surprise and horror, began colouring in my patchy bits with an eyeshadow brush. “This will sort you out,” she said. Then to my delight and amazement I was 22 again. Thick hair! And my anxiety thwarted in the flick of a Bobbi Brown pencil. I was sorted out.
I owned that shoot. I pouted hard and flicked my hair around like those lads in the shampoo ads. To make things ‘playful’ they encouraged me to hold a balloon. I played with it, I let it go, I pulled it back, I hugged it, I loved it…
I let go of that balloon when I saw the monitor, saw that the glaring studio lights had exposed me. Saw that the scalp was still shining through and there were brown trickles of sweat dripping down my forehead. Like my self-esteem, the balloon popped on one of the implicated spot lights.
‘Men have enough anxieties in their life, without worrying about losing their hair’ – said every marketing guru ever, who attempted to sell us potential pilgarlics into some sort of thinning hair retention system.
Truth is, I know people who have tried many things since they started to thin on top. Myself included. And short of having sections of our scalps sliced off and moved strategically around, or our follicles plucked from the remaining sides and moved to the top for a few thousand pounds… we are pretty much fucked.
The Hair Heritage
You see, while my father was starting to recede at 22 (he wears it well by the way and grew up in an age when vanity was a sin and baldness was a sign of intelligence), I was given some glimmer of hope as a young man by people saying that that hair lines follow the mother’s side of the family. OK, mostly it was my mother saying that, but here is a picture of my grand-father Bernard which goes some way to prove this theory.
Ok he’s wearing a hat, but underneath is a nice head of hair. I felt invincible. “Maybe I’ll grow as well,” I thought. (He was 6ft 2).
Even my dad’s dad, Clarence, was ok at 22. What could go wrong?
What Went Wrong
Let’s rewind to 2003.
I’m 22 going on 23, I’ve graduated from University and I’ve just surpassed the age my father lost his hair. I made it. I’m still 5’7 but at least I’ve got my crown… slightly fluffed up to elongate my Mr Punch profile (enough with the appearance anxieties you cry!). This is it, this is where life begins.
Soon after life began, everything I was ever told became a lie. This is how the story plays out.
I’m David McCallum in ‘The Great Escape’. I’m off the anxiety train and walking over the border of full hair smugness when – BANG – the gestapo of hair loss whispers “Good Luck” in my ear. “Thank you,” I say. Instead of being machine gunned to the floor while running to freedom, it’s a clump of hair in the shower and a slightly less impressive barnet that gets me and my self confidence in a double killing.
What can I do? I experiment with a new haircut. Looks OK… Oooh watch out for the harsh over head lights though. Look out for any flash photography… look out for the… rain, swimming pool, wind, child’s hand.
I try shampoos, eggs, sea salt, butter, beer… everything does something, but nothing brings it back. The beer tasted nice, though.
I get serums, ‘leave ins’, nets. I fall short of surgery.
No matter what I do you can see the scalp like headlights through the wispy Pampas forest on top of my head. Is this it? With a passport photo that looks like Rab C Nesbit in a t-shirt, am I going to have to rely on my insatiable wit and charisma to get ahead in life? Shit. Well, it will hardly be my imposing height. Should we really put so much pressure on our inevitable decline in appearance?
I started wearing lots of hats.
It was November 2016 when I first started experimenting with hair powder. I was 35.
The photo shoot and the endless trash emptied on my head made me realize if I can’t stop it and I can’t reverse it, I’ve got to hide it. But I’m not getting a fucking wig. I failed to Google what would do this instead. Even though I Google everything.
No way I was dipping into my wife’s Tom Ford palette, guarded in a walnut box on the dressing table. No way. She’d know. Wouldn’t she?
So here are the cover ups I tried in order.
Do not EVER, (even on Halloween), use a lump of coal to hide your baldness. 1/10
Tom Ford Eye Shadow Pallette
Sparkly. Obviously sparkly, but the Tom Ford eyeshadow stuck to the scalp and made my hair very hard and wiry. Pros: didn’t come off in the rain. My wife didn’t find out. 4/10.
Bobbi Brown Eye Shadow Pallette
This Bobbi Brown pallette is great for eyes, not so great for hair. Came out easily. Lots of mucky fingers. 3/10
Bumble and Bumble Brownish Hair Powder
Ok now we are getting somewhere. This is actually designed for hair. A fierce application for pinpoint front lobe accuracy, but good coverage and a nice tone for finer hair. Does wash out easily so one for sunny days… but avoid sweating. Clement days. Bumble & Bumble Brownish Hair Powder - a spring time choice. 6/10.
Toppiks Brown Powder
Good because again it’s an ACTUAL product for your hair. Toppik stays in despite the kids roughing up your hair and shouting “DADDY’S WEARING WIG POWDER!” to their friends in Tesco. Flakes a touch big for very fine hair, but I imagine perfect for slightly thicker, receding hairlines. 8/10.
L’Oreal Magic Re-touch
I was in New York. I’d run out of Toppiks. My wife hadn’t brought her eyeshadow. So I sneak out to Duane Ready convinced I can get myself some super-duper American shit. I settle on L’Oreal Magic Retouch medium brown. Like the Bumble, it’s a fierce application but my wife likes it and it looks natural. Also stays in all day. Got me out of a tight spot. 8/10.
Hair Fibres – Jamie Stevens
Once again I’m caught short. But this is fate. This is intervention. Its Friday morning and I’m late. “Who has hidden my wig powder?!” “Not me Daddy…” I find the Magic Touch can in my daughter’s bedroom. It’s empty. Her favourite ‘teddy dog’ Bella is covered in thick brown dust. I’ve got a BIG meeting, the biggest. Last time they saw me I had hair. They’ll know I’m up to something. Never trust me again. I get to Boots, sweating, hoping, praying they have something, anything… and there it is. Jamie Stevens MR. Hair Fibres. And not just the fibres, but A FIXING SPRAY for added thickness. I rush back to the office disabled toilet and start to apply…. “Carefully does it Mark”… it goes on well. Then I apply the spray. I look up. BANG. I’m 22 again. But this time it goes nowhere. The Balloon doesn’t pop. I own the meeting, high five the office and go home to hug my daughter.
The battle continues. Maybe I’ll sell the car and get the surgery before I start to imitate Daddy Warbucks, but for now I’ll take what I can get and that’s ok for me.
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