Forgive me if I don't get too excited by the news that scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have come up with a "cure" for baldness. Eighteen years ago, a Swiss farmer called Gerhardt Flit claimed that rubbing bat milk on the scalp had an amazing rejuvenating effect. He even developed a "milking" technique and made a fortune by selling the resulting "cream" for £2,000 an ounce.
Over the centuries, similarly breathless claims have been made for the restorative properties of beef marrow, donkeys' teeth, spiders' webs, dogs' urine, pigeon droppings and boiled mole flesh.
Needless to say, none of them have had any discernable effect, unless you include parting fools from their money. In 2002, a magazine called Harvard Men's Health Watch estimated that Americans spend $1.5 billion a year on attempts to reverse the effects of male pattern baldness. Sy Sperling, the President of America's Hair Club For Men, has made so much money that his beachfront mansion in Florida was featured on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.
As someone who has been bald since his early 20s, I'm offended by the notion that hair loss is an affliction that men have to be "cured" of, as though it was on a par with testicular cancer. If a scientist claimed to have "cured" blackness, we would rightly condemn him or her as racist. By the same token, isn't there something equally prejudiced about stigmatizing baldness? Like many millions of men in this country, I'm proud to be bald.
This isn't mere bravado on my part. For one thing, it's a myth that women aren't interested in bald men. I'm not just talking about Yul Brynner, Sean Connery and Bruce Willis, either. I managed to persuade a woman to marry me -- and this in spite of my very strong resemblance to William Hague. Or perhaps it was because I'm a dead ringer for the shadow foreign secretary. According to a survey carried out by the Virgin Group in 2001, students between the ages of 19 and 25 thought William Hague was better looking than Tony Blair. Of the 1,650 students polled, 61 per cent said they thought Hague had more sex appeal than the Prime Minister.
Hardly a surprising result when you consider that bald men are more virile. According to scientists, hair loss is caused by the body's excessive production of Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), one of the core constituents of testosterone. DHT is produced by male infants in the womb and is responsible for the formation of male gender specific characteristics, such as the testes.
Of course, women are perfectly entitled to choose a man who prides himself on his full head of hair -- provided they don't object to fighting over the bathroom mirror every morning. A woman who wants a hardworking, Alpha male, on the other hand, should have no qualms about choosing a slap head -- particularly if she wants a lot of children.
In many cultures, a shaven head is considered an object of beauty -- and not just among the England football team's traveling army of supporters. The ancient Egyptians used to shave their heads, as do the Nubians. Richard Gere is savvy enough to recognise that, when it comes to religion, the Buddhists have got it about right. Why not follow the Dali Lama's enlightened philosophy about personal grooming as well?
One reason not to be ashamed of hair loss is that baldness is associated with high levels of intelligence. What did Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Hobbes, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill all have in common? They were eggheads. Think of a genius -- Shakespeare, Einstein, Stravinsky -- and, almost without exception, they all suffer from male pattern baldness. The Old Wives Tale about there being an inverse ratio between activity in your head and activity on your head begins to look as though it might be true.
The corollary of this is that people associate hairiness with stupidity -- quite rightly, in my view. Men with great hair are the blondes of the male population: they may get more than their fair share of attention, but no one expects them to have read Hegel's Philosophy of Right. (Think Russell Brand.) A molecular biologist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston recently discovered a gene that caused members of a Mexican family to grow thick, dark hair all over their faces. See if you can guess where members of the Mexican werewolf family found career success. Research science? Financial services? NASA? I'm sorry to say it was the circus.
Being hirsute is such a disadvantage, I would propose extending the European Union's anti-discrimination laws to protect those who suffer from "dead cells syndrome". Just because a man has a full head of hair doesn't mean he should be excluded from those professions that traditionally favour the bald, such as academia, accountancy and editing a national newspaper. Similarly, those afflicted with the condition known as "big hair" should have special areas set aside for them in cinemas so they can enjoy the film without interfering in other people's pleasure.
In fact, given how debilitating excessive hair can be in a wide variety of sports, there is even a case for organising a Special Olympics in 2012 for athletes who haven't yet gone bald. I'm sure that "normal" sportsmen, such as Andre Agassi and Sir Steven Redgrave, could be persuaded to patronise the event to lend it an air of legitimacy.
It's always been a mystery to me why some people believe baldness is a handicap. There's something pathetic about the way men with hair think they can lord it over those they patronisingly refer to as "follicly challenged". I always think, "You must have a pretty low opinion of yourself if you invest so much of your self-worth in the fact that, through an accident of birth, you happen to have more dead cells sticking out of your melon than me."
I bumped into an old school friend the other day who I hadn't seen for twenty years. His first comment was, "You've gone bald," followed by a little self-congratulatory snigger. It was as if he'd scored a point. I noticed at the time that his hair didn't look quite right and, sure enough, I later discovered he was a user of Minoxidil. This "miracle cure" costs £100 a bottle and, if applied twice daily, every day, for the rest of your life, might just, if you have the right hair type, produce ... peach fuzz!
His noggin looked like a peeled plover's egg dipped in celery salt.
So let's hear no more nonsense about "curing" baldness. Losing your hair is nothing to worry about -- in fact, it should be a cause of celebration. Next time you talk to your barber, don't tell him you've got a "receding hairline" or that you're "thinning on top". Say it loud: "I'm bald and I'm proud." As Adlai Stevenson said, "Eggheads of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your yolks."