The back-to-work look for some men is no suit, no tie—and no hair

“I’ve always had fine hair,” says Mr. Carroll, a 36-year-old father and PR manager in Los Angeles. “But there have been moments through Zoom meetings where I’ve looked at myself, like, ‘Dude, you look like'” … well, you get the idea.

For those who face male pattern baldness, both pandemic accelerated and accentuated development, say some dermatologists. The last thing men with fragile threads needed was extra anxiety and countless hours of inspecting their own pictures on video calls.

Mr. Carroll says that he sometimes fixates on what he has called the “landing strip” – a linear section in the middle of his scalp that is not as densely populated as it once was. He accepts that certain styles he had as a younger man, including dreadlocks and an afro, are excluded. But seeing gaps in his current high and tight hairstyle gets him started.

“I’ve had – God bless her – probably five Britney Spears moments in the last two years,” he says, referring to occasions when he, like the pop star, buzzed everything.

Of all the devastation caused by the Covid-19 era, hair loss is hardly the most alarming, unless you are the one who sees a favorite physical function disappear. Like the biblical Samson, who lost his strength when he was cut, many men feel tired of their mojo when their husbands fall out.

Even women can experience hair loss and its insecurity. Alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack its own hair follicles, made headlines this week when actor Will Smith beat Chris Rock at the Oscars. The comedian had done Jada Pinkett Smith, Mr. Smith’s wife who has alopecia and a shaved head, to the butt of a “GI Jane” joke.

The blow to a person’s trust can be especially painful now that the offices are reopening and personal business meetings are resumed. Seeing colleagues for the first time in months or years can mean making a debut with an enlarged forehead – cruelly set against the narrower waistlines and toned arms that some employees sculpted when working from home.

Some men have decided to call themselves out and get it done.

“Hello network,” David Ma recently wrote on LinkedIn. “I have an important professional update.”

Mr. Ma, a 31-year-old surgery specialist at a technology company in San Francisco, went on to announce that he now has “a declining hairline and an age that begins with a 3.” He also posted a new profile picture and replaced a 7-year-old photo that showed him with fuller hair.

He said he had been tinkering with various shampoos, pills and drops – pretty much everything but a tupé – in an attempt to preserve his youthful appearance. Still, he comes out of the pandemic a few follicles smaller than he had before.

His post on social media was less about anticipating someone else’s comments than about coming to terms with his own aging.

“The image I would like to have of myself is my 25-year-old self,” he told me. “That’s not true anymore.”

Baldness is not so bad. This can lead to others perceiving a man as more experienced and competent, and it does not necessarily reduce the attractiveness. Magazine People named Dwayne Johnson “the sexiest man in life” in 2016 and described Sean Connery as “older, bald and better” when he was awarded the same honor in 1989.

Again, few of us are as buff as The Rock or as responsive as James Bond. And the list of “sexiest” winners has always been dominated by hair Hall-of-Famers like Brad Pitt, Richard Gere and Matthew McConaughey.

Pandemic stress has taken a well-documented toll on human hair, including other body parts. Some Covid-19 patients experience “excretion,” and even those who have never had the virus can develop bald spots just by living through the layoffs, quarantines, and other traumas of the past two years, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Men rarely admit that they are as committed to hair as women, but Paul Webb, a 33-year-old software developer in California, explains the silly meaning of a guy ‘doing’ as openly as anyone else I’ve met.

“Hair is super important for men,” says Mr. Webb. “If you feel life sucking, you cut yourself. There’s more pepper in your step. You’re just, ‘Yeah, I’m I look good. It’s very simple. “

Simple, that is, until the hair stops growing.

Mr. Webb changed jobs immediately when the offices closed and decided to try a new look: He took a razor to his head and grew a wavy beard that competes with the whiskers of the professional NBA superstar James Harden.

Som Mr. Webb tells where to shave his dome an act of defiance of nature: “You take power into your own hands and just be, like, ‘I’ll do this before you do this to me’.”

I’m a little jealous of his boldness.

I have been thinning the corners for a few years, and family history suggests that I am more vulnerable to future erosion than coastal Florida in the face of climate change. By the summer of 2020, when it became clear that I would not be going back to an office anytime soon, I thought the time was right to find out if my head shape was cool enough to rock a Bruce Willis – and grow it back if not.

My wife vetoed that idea. So much for the chance to buzz and deal with the consequences of a pandemic seclusion.

Other men have used the pandemic to confront their hair loss in various ways.

“I can get bald in a graceful way,” said Travis Chambers, the 33-year-old founder of Chamber Media in Lehi, Utah. “I can not handle the situation on the island, where your hair becomes thin in the middle but there is a small spot in the front.”

After moving to Idaho, Mr. Chambers last year underwent a seven-hour operation in which 3,000 follicles were transplanted from the back of his head to the top of his scalp.

Back in the office recently, he says his co-workers knew something was different about his appearance. But they had been apart long enough that they could not figure out what.

“I got so many compliments, and it was mostly ‘Hey, have you put on some muscle?’ ‘Have you lost a little weight?'”

Mr. Chambers says he laughed and was upset.

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