For some reason that only nature can fathom, I have a full head of ginger hair – which just goes to show, you can’t have everything. However as a more-mature man, I am increasingly aware of just how many of my fellow sexagenarians appear to be completely bald. I say ‘appear to be’ because left to nature most would actually sport the ubiquitous glabrous sheen of the ‘chrome-dome’, whence a small bald patch at the crown of the head spreads unremittingly across the skull over time like treacle on a shag-pile, and nobody, it would seem, wants that. At the first sign of male pattern baldness the average middle-aged man troops himself off to his nearest Italian barber and gets a Number One, which, developing quickly as these things do, soon becomes a light polish to the main pate and a good buff behind the ears.
It didn’t used to be this way: when I was a young man it was very different. Most accepted this creeping baldness with the assurance that ‘only real men go bald’ and, perhaps, left the back and sides to grow a little longer by way of compensation. Some grew a beard or allowed their sideburns to flourish like some kind of physiognomous rain-forest. Some, however, reacted in a completely different manner. At the first signs of a developing tonsure; a thinning of previously luxuriantly Brycreemed locks; an ever-increasing dislocation between eyebrow and fringe, some decided that the time was right to employ the thick, tufted comfort of a layer of finest nylon weave. Toupee time was upon them.
Now, I have seen the adverts aimed at the follically-challenged male and almost universally they extol the capability to match almost any hair colour with one of the thousands of available shades at their disposal. I presume that you just send away a clipping of one of your own ever-diminishing tresses and await delivery of a perfectly matching demi-wig. The shiny dome is encased within a matt of artificial thatch that is indistinguishable from you own natural mane and, with the application of something that I presume is along the lines of a cranial Fixo-dent, you are free to leave the house with confidence in rain, wind or sunshine, having lost twenty years along the way.
So why is it that almost everybody I spy wearing such a designer postiche appears to have had something that resembles a patch of astro-turf crudely affixed to the top of their head? I cannot believe that anyone, conscious enough of their own appearance to consider donning a hairpiece, would not consider the look of the thing. Nor can I believe that budget is totally to blame – I can but imagine that even the more affordable wiglet comes in at least a rudimentary range of colours more appropriate to the natural barnet. And I can’t believe that anyone who would choose any toupee above incipient baldness or the sudden gloss of a shaven head would do so without access to a mirror. They have to know. And this, I have decided, has to be the point. They do know. They do not choose a rug that camouflages itself into their own locks in case they should be inadvertently de-wigged and exposed by a young child or a bird searching for nesting material and seen as vain. Instead they choose a switch that declares itself present with a yell. A toupee that leaves no doubt that the owner is wearing it and thus that nobody can ever mention it. Rolling back the years. Hidden in full sight.