I've been losing my hair since my teens. Trust me, Gary Lineker – baldness is not a joke

For each guy happy to just shave to the skull and go on their merry way, there is another that mourns the loss of their hair. The impact on self esteem is immeasurable

Lee Williscroft-Ferris
Thursday 22 August 2019 10:34 BST
Gary Lineker makes bald joke about Alan Shearer and Danny Murphy on Match of the Day

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Baldness has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. The warning signs were always there. Having inherited almost all of my physical characteristics from my mother’s side, I spent my entire childhood being cautioned by various relatives that I was likely to follow the same follicular trajectory as my grandfather and uncles, and lose my hair prematurely.

As predicted, my hairline began to recede at 16 but, thanks largely to an injection of olive-skinned, thick-haired DNA from my father, I didn’t experience significant balding until my early thirties

Some men react to their baldness more positively than others. But for each guy happy to just shave to the skull and go on their merry way, there is another that mourns the loss of their hair on a daily basis. Many will tell you that the impact on their self esteem is immeasurable, their self image indelibly altered.

Whatever your reaction to this substantial change to your appearance, however, there can be no doubting that male baldness remains susceptible to the mockery of others. Society at large has, thankfully, largely evolved to reject the exploitation of female appearance for cheap laughs (although admittedly, it still occurs with appalling regularity), yet bald men are apparently still fair game.

The most recent example of this, were one needed, was came via the footballer and sports pundit Gary Lineker. On last Saturday’s edition of Match of the Day, the presenter said: “It’s a strong start to the Premier League season. Real hair-raising stuff at times… unless you’re Alan Shearer and Danny Murphy.” The camera then panned to the two bald panellists, looking at one another, shaking their heads and laughing slightly awkwardly. This is not the first time Lineker has taken aim at Shearer’s baldness to elicit viewers’ giggles.

Now I’m sure there will be cries of "snowflake" at the mere notion of not wielding male baldness as a vehicle for comedy, but my point is this: I’m at ease with my baldness – in fact I think it looks good on me, as does my partner – but that in itself does not dispose of the issue. Certain members of my family, however, regularly take the opportunity to openly grieve for my hair loss on my behalf, passing comment on what a "shame" it is that I’ve lost my hair, reminiscing about the lustrous golden locks of my childhood, and enquiring as to whether or not I’ve considered a hair transplant. One relative has even offered to donate their hair to me, such was the extent of their unsolicited and unfounded pity for my hairlessness.

I can handle all of this, usually by reminding them repeatedly that they’re more bothered about it than I am, but not all bald men are at this stage in their journey. For many the loss of their hair is a traumatic event, often preceded by a long period of creeping inevitability and a photographic record of surreptitious but ultimately futile hair styling to avoid reality. It is not the stuff of jokes.

So if it is no longer acceptable to identify an aspect of a woman’s appearance and use it as the foundation for a cheap gag, then male baldness should be afforded precisely the same courtesy. Replace a bald Alan Shearer with a female presenter returning to the screen shortly after childbirth and a cheap gag from the host about her struggling to lose the baby weight and the central point could not be clearer – personal appearance should be out of bounds for jokes at the expense of those, like Shearer and Murphy, booked for their expertise.

While I am personally fine with the lack of hair on my head, many men aren’t. Making light of male baldness is highly reductive to the experience of countless men, some of whom will be feeling entirely different on the inside to the image they’re working hard to portray on the outside.

When it comes to football, keep the comments to headers and leave the heads out of it.

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