OPINION - Spotting early-stage baldness is a predictive power I’m proud of

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 (Natasha Pszenicki)
(Natasha Pszenicki)

In A 1966 article for Newsweek, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Samuelson remarked that the stock market had forecast “nine of the past five recessions”. I like to think my record is somewhat less patchy, but alas I’m not referring to negative growth. At least, not of the economic variety. I’m talking about hair loss.

Everywhere I go — on the Tube, in the pub, even the office — I see receding hairlines. Now, there are a great many things I fail to predict. I’m useless at guessing who the killer is in even the most basic of murder mysteries and I’ve no idea who’ll win the next election, despite reading psephological Substacks for pleasure. But I have a keen eye for spotting early-stage baldness.

I will now let you in on a foundational secret. Any man with an interesting haircut is hiding something. If hair is placed in a deliberate manner, with bits to the side unnaturally thrust forward like a thatched roof with almost enough straw, there is subterfuge at play. Other leading indicators include randomly short and long sections or where the owner appears to be suffering from permanent static shock.

I should clarify at this point — this is not about baldness, of which I take no view. In fact, I recall a former boss for whom Ross Kemp was her ideal man. Instead, much like Brexit, baldness is a process, not an event. Loss aversion has something to do with it too. As is so often the case when any sort of privilege is withdrawn, it doesn’t feel like equality. It feels like oppression.

Of course, people can hold out for decades. Tony Blair displayed clear evidence of recession from both temples while still leader of the opposition. Yet to the untrained eye, he has only recently come to mimic Mr Burns. (Although his lockdown mullet had him resembling a post-presidency Lyndon Johnson, as if former leaders with strong domestic records blighted by disastrous foreign entanglements yearn to relive their youths in retirement).

No doubt the world, being a superficial and iniquitous stage, places a greater emphasis on women’s looks. Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May would not have got away with the crumpled suits that Boris Johnson flaunts. But hair is a notable exception. Despite a surfeit of middle-aged male leaders, when was the last bald prime minister?

It is perhaps no surprise that the hair restoration industry was worth £4 billion last year and by some estimates is expected to grow to more than £10 billion by 2028. When you consider that by 35, two-thirds of men have thinning hair, and just how vain we are, the surprise is that the market isn’t several magnitudes greater.

It does not take years of therapy — though it hasn’t hurt — to understand my obsession with other men’s hairlines is in fact about me. Or rather, my fears surrounding a loss of youth, the inevitable erosion of confidence and a frisson of my own mortality.

Having said that, if you haven’t already looked at my picture on the page, I’m doing ok — for the moment. So if you catch me staring at you in public, I’m sorry. Nothing personal — I was only calculating in my head how much longer you’ll have hair on yours.

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 (AP)
(AP)

It wasn’t just me whose heart sank when I saw Son Heung-min — the Spurs striker, above, so egregiously charming and two-footed that even Arsenal fans cannot despise him — had joined Twitter, seemingly for the sole purpose of shilling for NFTs.

I’ve nothing against the blockchain — I make it a habit not to disparage things I only pretend to understand. And football has sought to squeeze every penny out of its fans long before the European Super League was a mere twinkle in Florentino Perez’s eye.

But the beautiful game’s relationship with NFTs and cryptocurrency consistently fails to pass the “ick” test. Perhaps crypto-focused betting, virtual gaming and the like are no different to having an old-fashioned bookmaker on your shirt. But it feels like it will end in tears for at least some (of your own) fans.

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