Thinning, balding, and receding. Combing through the metal follicles of losing hair.
I didn’t start paying much attention to hairstyles until middle school. My friends and I from my 6th-grade class grew our curls out. We had curls on top and kept the sides clean with a bowl fade. A little pro-style gel in the morning would keep it all in place. Lunchtime usually marked when it was time to re-wet the ‘do’ in the bathroom. We’d go back into class with the brown flakes on our white uniform shirts, but our hair looked just as good as it did before we arrived at school.
The barbershop was a weekly destination for my mom and I. I never lined up the front of my hairline since it shoddy at best. There was always a comment about my large forehead, but the tight spiral curls were always a conversation amongst the girls at school. There was always someone who wanted to braid it, pull it all back into a ponytail or pigtails. I rarely replied adversely.
I grew out the entire crop and kept the sideburns lined up with a little taper on the back of the neck. Naturally, the cornrows showed up in my bohemian phase. After that came an ever-changing colored mohawk. My hair became an extension of my style and personality. It was how I set myself apart from my friends.
I was modeling in a runway show for a budding clothing line sporting a bright red mohawk with some newly etched designs on the sides. As I was sitting in hair and makeup, the hair stylist began to flat iron my hair straight up with a bit of hairspray.
“You’re looking a little thin in here.” He was so casual about it and continued styling (or salvaging) my hair.
I later saw a family photo where my hair was looking lifeless from monthly bleachings over the course of at least 2 years. Along with my receding hairline, it was time for something new. Something less. My next couple of barber trips felt like therapy sessions. I lost the damaged hair and cut it lower and lower. I remembered fading my hair down so low, only a shadow of a hairstyle remained. Never had I been so thankful for having such an aerodynamically shaped head.
Luckily, the heads up I got from the fashion show hairstylist happened quietly. I transitioned smoothly into the bald head without the comb-over or Phillip Banks. My father, grandfather, older brother and uncle were all pretty much bald since I was in high school so the concept of being bald wasn’t foreign to me. I felt right at home.
Original UNDO Mag Issue 6 Title: Going Bald
Written by Brook D’Leau
Photography by Nai Vasha