What it’s Like Wearing a Toupee in Your 20s

Middle age is an interesting thing. I can say that now because I officially turn 35 Tuesday, the 21st. Thirty-five. Now, if you feel that 35 isn’t officially middle-age, feel free to let me know in the comments. Much like all of you, I wrestle with the expectations I haven’t met, or in some cases, could not possibly achieve. I remember being a kid thinking how my life would look by the time I’m thirty-five. I would be married and rich and have a job as a jet-setting executive.

The one thing none of us focus on when think think about what we’ll be when we grow up, is how we’ll look. Maybe that’s a good thing. Most Americans simply grow up and get wider, not taller as they age. I’m actually in better shape today than I ever was in high school, but I fell victim to something much more sinister. In honor of keeping things fresh and not-too-grown-up, let’s take a minute to talk about something very adult: male pattern baldness.

In this episode, I want to entertain you with the grand story of my journey into and through baldness prevention, care, and acceptance. More importantly, I want to share what it’s like to be a 24 year old in a $3000 hairpiece. So have a seat, relax, and let’s “comb through” what it’s like wearing a toupee in your 20s together. [pun intended] [remember to Subscribe Here]

Show Notes:

Allow me to mention a quick disclaimer: I cannot find any pictures of when I had the toupee. I’ve searched my archives, called my old boss, my ex-girlfriend – I am coming up with nothing. If I do find anything, I will make sure to update this post immediately.

Growing up, I had a fast metabolism… for the first 4 years of my life. When I was old enough to consciously decide carbs were the best thing on Earth, I did. Because they are. Let’s put that argument to rest once and for all. You’re welcome. This gave the the high school dad bod we all dream of having. Kick it up a notch and put that sweet physique in Drama Club as a teenager.

Now, give that kid a receding hairline.

wearing a toupee in your 20s
This is The Sharp Gentleman at 19 – still has hair!

Okay, it wasn’t all bad. I had the “boat slips” my entire life. That’s what my parents called the receding pattern at the top of head – they did look like boat slips, after all. It never kept me from any experiences or relationships though. At 16, I was madly in love with my first real girlfriend. That heartbreak was the catalyst in a long line of life-changing experiences, but that’s an episode for another day.

I remember cutting my hair pretty short at 17, and my girlfriend mentioning (in that disappointed, disapproving way) that she thought it was too short. That’s because I had the hairline of a middle-aged man, and I wasn’t even old enough to vote!

I hadn’t officially started losing hair in the back yet, so all seemed pretty solid. I could make this work. When I graduated, I started a regiment of Rogaine and special shampoos to see if I could “beat the system” and stay hairy. I even grew my hair out in college with the belief that more was better. It wasn’t until I got home from school and started life in the real world that I stepped up my “hair restoration game.”

At 23 years old, I started my quest down medical avenues. Rogaine wasn’t really working so I opted for pharmaceuticals. Propecia and the like we next, but none of them agreed with my body. I happened to be one of the rare few that experienced the side-effects on the box. I made consultations with surgical centers to get options and quotes, and was blown away by the cost of it all!

Then one day, after watching one of their ridiculous commercials, I called Hair Club for Men. The very next day, twenty-four year-old me was sitting across from a formerly bald guy named Scott, who was pitching me his 1 year treatment and guarantee. His frosted tips were glorious (this was 2006 and frosted tips were all the rage). He showed me his before pictures, and I threw caution to the wind and signed up.

Over the next 6 months, I went into this office to get a professional shampoo, condition, and scalp massage with their exclusive line of products twice each week. I religiously followed their directions at home too. After six months, I was having a nice time being pampered twice a week, but my hair had not improved. After talking with “frosted-tip-Scott” again, we executed phase two.

wearing a toupee in your 20sThe Bio-Matrix Solution

This is what you see on television. It’s “your real hair” that you can take to the pool, the shower, the beach, and the boardroom! Could it be?!? Am I finally going to see what’s behind the curtain? More importantly, will they reveal to me the secret to Scott’s perfectly groomed frosted tips? I’m going to be honest with you.

I was both excited and scared.

What if I learned the secret and it wasn’t cool at all? What if it didn’t work for me and I lose my friends, my girlfriend, my job – what if it ruins my head and I’m too embarrassed to show my face ever again?!? BUT… what if it is successful? What if I too can have a perfectly groomed duckbill of frosted tips like Scott?

Here’s the big secret: It’s a damn toupee.

After sitting with a specialist for pictures and hair samples, they explain what it is and how they weave it together so it looks natural. I watched a video on how revolutionary it is, and how it’s changed the lives of men all over the country. I’m not interested in their stories, damn it. I’m interested in how it’s going to help ME. I’m about to turn 24 and it’s all about me!

I return the following week and come face to face with my commitment. I sit in the chair, my mind racing through pictures of how awesome I’m going to look when they weave this thing onto my head. Maybe I too will suddenly acquire six-pack abs and come leaping out of swimming pools like the guys on the commercial! Maybe my girlfriend will suddenly find me so irresistibly attractive she’ll get pregnant by just looking at me! What if my new hair does that to all women!! Is this dangerous for mankind?!?!

“Hairy” arrives in a hat box a moment later. I envision the lights dimming, and as I open the box, gold light rushes out and bathes the room in wonder. Unfortunately, the stylist doesn’t see the vision like I do. She opens the box, pulls out Hairy, and simply throws the box across the room into an open trash bin. I feel the lack of fanfare is a little unnecessary. I mean, c’mon Tiffany, you’re about to make a miracle happen. You could honor the build-up a little more. Sheesh.

True to form, she wastes no time and avoids any flare of drama, placing Hairy on the counter in front of me and grabbing her clippers. Hairy sits there, his tangles laid across each other in all direction. The hair looks so real, and it’s peppered with different strands of brown to look more natural. There’s even a few gray hairs in there. Gray hairs denote wisdom, right? I’m going to be wiser in just a few minutes. I look up in the mirror and Tiffany is shaving a perfect bowl off the top of my head.

What the hell am I doing?

wearing a toupee in your 20sWhen it’s all over, I look like George Costanza, except worse. She then explains the glue strip and shows me how to apply it. A million thoughts rush through me. I though we were weaving this thing in? What do you mean, glue strip? I’m just muttering indiscernible single-syllable words now. Tiffany presses on. Literally. She presses Hairy onto my scalp and suddenly Blake and Hairy are one. Blake IS Hairy.

I look ridiculous.

She then kicks into a different gear. Perhaps the sensation of my wanting to run out screaming has reached critical mass for us both and she’s noticed. She pauses and tells me it’s going to be okay. I can’t take my eyes off of my reflection. “Once I get you styled and trimmed up, you’ll feel more like you,” she affirms. I vote yes, and the scissors come out.

After styling and trimming, something magical happens. Through the flurry of falling strands, small talk, and emotional turmoil, a man emerges in the mirror. He is a man with a secret. He knows things only a select few can know. His hair is perfect. His random strands of gray show his wisdom. This man has seen the mountaintop… and it is hairy. Things are different now.

I left the office salon and headed to my girlfriend’s work to bring her lunch. On the way, I call into my office and tell them I have the flu. I’m too embarrassed to show my face because it’s too new to me. My girlfriend knows I’m going to try some hair restoration stuff, but she’s not exactly sure what it is. This should be interesting.

The initial shock wears off quickly and we’re back to being a regular couple in no time. At my office, people would ask if something was different about me, but wouldn’t mention anything they noticed. This is the great agreement in society today. We won’t tell anyone when they have something in their teeth, or when they have bad breath, or when they’re clearly wearing a toupee. God Bless America.

Life is pretty good for a while. I return to the office salon every three weeks for a professional appointment in which they remove Hairy, shave my head where he adheres, and then I get new glue strips applied. At home, I grow used to re-applying glue myself in-between appointments. Nothing is out of place, and my hair is always the same. Perfect all the time. Then one day, reality sets in: life is full of surprises.

One day about 5 months after Hairy and I “joined forces,” I bumped my head on something sharp enough to snag him. The back of my “hair” pulled up just enough to reveal a gap in the glue strip. In one ridiculously simple, life-altering moment, I am now a 24 year old kid in a noticeably detached toupee. This is an emergency. I need to put on a hat, get in the car, and rush to the salon.

wearing a toupee in your 20sBut I can’t. It’s Sunday morning.

It is July 30th, 2006 – a day that started like any other. This day, however, will not end like those that have come before it. There’s a storm brewing this day.

Throughout the day, I contemplate my commitment to Hairy, what we’ve been through together, and the path that lay ahead. I wear a baseball cap most of the day, and Abby clearly knows something is not right. I can’t stop thinking about the hole in the back of my head. It feels a mile wide – like an unsecured table cloth at a picnic during a tornado. I am certain without the hat on, a light breeze will infiltrate the gap and inflate the space between Hairy and me like a hot air balloon.

Something must be done. The time is now.

As the sun sets that evening, I come to the realization that everything has a shelf life and this relationship is complete. Hairy and I must go our separate ways. And because there wasn’t an ounce of drama when we were introduced to each other, I’m going to give him the dramatic send off we both deserve as I introduce him to Abby.

“Okay, I need to show you something. We’ve reached a point where I am ready to embrace nature and stop fighting. I’m about to show you the inner-workings of my hair.”

She tells me she knows it’s something like a toupee, but it never comes off and it always looks good, so it’s confusing. Well, Hairy and I are going to smack her in the face with some truth that night.

We walk to the bathroom and I tell her to hold her applause until I’m finished. I am kidding and trying to keep it light-hearted. I then remove my baseball cap, reach up and begin pulling Hairy off my scalp. With each revealed inch, her eyes grow until the point I cross the crown and pull the last strip of Hairy off. She is grimacing as she looks at Hairy and I becoming two for the final time.

Standing before her in the bathroom, again with a George Costanza haircut, I am revealed. Without skipping a beat, she mutters “gross” and hands me my beard trimmer. I shave my head completely clean and shower. Hairy sat on the coffee table as Abby and I traded stories later that night. In the end, Hairy and I had a good run together, but I was destined to be bald. I’ve been bald ever since, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There are, however, three things I learned after coming clean and shaving clean:

  1.  I have a great shaped head, which makes being bald work
  2.  I had to self-tan my head and neck because my scalp was blindingly, uncomfortably white
  3.  I got a LOT more attention as a bald guy

So while Hair Club for Men isn’t for everyone, it is a viable option for a lot of guys. I didn’t like the upkeep, and having to live a lie. In life, it’s all about confidence and how you present yourself. Once I “took it off” I was able to radiate a lot more natural confidence because I wasn’t worried about my hair.

The next time you think about how embarrassing it would be if someone knew your “hairy” secret, let this episode remind you that life is all a game anyway. You will be amazed how much better it is when you play the game for yourself and not what other people think. Let my shameless authenticity be an example of how you too can reveal whatever you like. Everything has a shelf life, my friend. When secret reaches its end, don’t be worried about the reveal. You only live once. Get on with it!

What do you think of my hairy experience? Have one of your own?
Leave a comment below so we can connect!

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The Author

Blake Hammerton

Blake Hammerton

Blake Hammerton is the founder and coach at The Sharp Gentleman, and helps men earn more respect while gaining confidence in who they are. He is a certified relationship coach and loves writing about men's fashion, style, character-building, relationships, travel, adventure, and more.