This article originally appeared on VICE Netherlands.
People of all ages and genders go bald, but it’s mainly something we associate with older men. By age 50, between 40 and 50 percent of men will have lost at least some of their hair. Often, that moment comes even earlier – 16 to 30 percent of men experience severe hair loss before reaching their 30s. For some, balding starts as early as high school, a pretty early age to be confronted with the inevitability of ageing.
I spoke to three young men who’ve partially or completely lost their hair, about how they feel about their balding and what it’s meant for their social and romantic relationships.
Jeroen van Nieuwpoort Photo: Chris and Marjan
“The quality of my hair has never been any good, really. When I was 17, my hairline began receding around my temples and by 18, I was clearly going bald sooner rather than later. I’m sure it was genetics – my uncle has the same hair – but it was also just a bit of bad luck.
In the beginning, I really hated it: Friends would go to the barbers and get stylish haircuts while I couldn't. I'm lucky I have good friends who never bullied me – though, they’d make jokes occasionally. I was fine with that mostly, but once it happened several times in a day and it really hurt me.
I felt a bit helpless when I lost my hair: I lost a piece of myself against my own will, basically. At 18, I cared a lot about how women saw me and thought I’d be seen as less attractive. Back then, I’d almost always wear a hat.
Luckily, I was able to talk about it with my parents. They even offered to pay towards a hair transplant, but I didn’t end up taking that step. I couldn’t help but think, ‘Was this procedure really the solution?’ and ‘How long would it even look good for?’.
A few years ago, I started going really bald at the back of my head and decided to shave it all off completely. The moment that hair clipper went across my head, I thought, ‘Shit, I should’ve done this a lot sooner!’ It suited me well and I got nothing but compliments – my friends were supportive, too.
Now, I just shave once a week so it looks fresh. I still wear hats regularly, but just because I like them. I don’t think my shaved head has ever got in my way of dating, either – every pot has a lid and there are plenty of lids.” – Jeroen van Nieuwpoort, 28, a supervisor at a group home for people with mental disabilities
Vinoud Douglas. Photo: Chris and Marjan
“When I was 20, my brother went bald and my family said it’d happen to me, too. Baldness runs in the family and my brother even went to Turkey for a hair transplant. Personally, I don't want that – my hair loss hasn’t had a huge impact on my self-image anyway.
Up until I was 23, though, I had very thick hair – then it began thinning. In the beginning, it wasn’t very noticeable, but a bald spot started forming in the middle of my head, at some point. Consciously or unconsciously, I started adjusting my haircut.
For years, I went to the barbers every month to keep my haircut neat: Where my hair grows – on the sides – it grows fast. The barber gave me tips on how to hide my bald spot with cover spray. I tried it once, but I didn't think it was cool to pretend I had hair there.
Six months ago, I bought a hair clipper and trimmed my hair to just a few millimetres in length. A split second before I did it, I thought: ‘I don't think I'm cool with this.’ But now I’m happy with it and it saves me money, too, now I don’t have to pay for a haircut every month.
I'm very open about balding, I'm not ashamed. I want to show society that it's OK for men to talk about their looks.” – Vinoud Douglas, 26, a project manager and industrial designer
Rens Peters. Photo: Chris and Marjan
“When I see men wearing a hat and I notice they’re partially bald, I feel a bit sorry for them. I totally get it, everyone goes through their own process, but I think it’s a relief to shave your hair off and just rock the look.
At 19, the hair on the crown of my head began to fall out, which was very intense – I became insecure about it. I found comfort in the fact that I had a friend who was already bald, so I knew I wasn't alone. I looked around to see what my options were, and learnt there was basically nothing I could do – except a hair transplant.
When you go bald, your hair follicles die: You can slow down the process with drugs, but there’s a lot of nasty side effects. For a while, I sprinkled some sort of powder on my hair to make it look thicker – a kind of miracle solution – but I knew I was just postponing the inevitable.
When friends joked about my hair, it was OK, but if a stranger said something I’d be furious. Once, I was flirting with a girl all night at a party: Then a guy came over, stood next to us and – in a deliberately belittling tone – started talking about the bald spot on the back of my head. The girl and I were stunned.
I did everything I could to disguise the bald spot – I’d wear my hair to the back even though I didn't like it on me. At 23, I was on holiday with friends and decided to spontaneously shave it all off. It was shocking at first, I really had to get used to it. I got good responses, but just couldn't see it for myself. Over the next few months, I let it grow back, but I knew there was a limit – my hair was no longer looking good.
At some point, my girlfriend said, ‘Let's shave it off,’ so we did: I felt liberated. During the process of going bald I felt so insecure, but now I see it as something unique – my girlfriend actually thinks it's sexy.
I don’t even think about it now, apart from when remembering to put sunscreen on my entire head in the summer.” – Rens Peters, 26, MA student and teacher