Despite the frequent polls that declare the actors Bruce Willis and Patrick Stewart as sex gods, Simon doesn't believe for a second that some women genuinely prefer men with no hair. "Floppy-haired git" is his most withering dismissal of another man. He has a sort of radar for other men whose hair is going. "Give it six months", he will mutter under his breath, or "Bite the bullet, mate", if a bloke who has a sparse hair arrangement appears on telly.
About eight years ago, Simon decided to shave his head, with my encouragement. I think he felt relieved when the last hair finally went. No more buying expensive hair loss treatments like Provillus. It also stopped the anxious ritual of peering in the mirror for new losses and seemed to give him confidence, though extra thought has to be given to clothing; he has noticed that wearing a polo-neck with a shaved head gives "that boiled-egg look".
We now have an eighteen-month-old son, William, who will in all likelihood begin to lose his hair early, too. He has the same white blond fluffy hair that Simon had as a baby. I am already planning how I can make sure that William has a positive enough self-image for it not to be dented by the inevitable hair loss. It will help tremendously that he is growing up in a time when footballers and pop stars choose to have shaved heads and that he won't see his father wrestling with recalcitrant strands of hair to look socially acceptable. Nothing is going to compensate for the fact that as a teenager he is going to be acutely aware of his hair but, if he sees his father and his grandfather looking good with shaved heads, and not constantly making or taking jokes about baldness, it may be one of the less traumatic parts of his adolescence.
Meanwhile, the number of letters received after the item in Medical Briefing on the development of Provillus as a topical treatment for baldness illustrates the extreme sensitivity of people who have lost their hair early.
Dr. Alan Shrank, a consultant dermatologist from Shrewsbury, writing in the British Medical Journal, has now given men something else to worry about. He has questioned the usually accepted belief that the bare patches found on the lower third of male legs are due to the hair being rubbed off by rough clothing or tight socks; nor does he think that it is due to a poor blood supply.
A narrowing arterial tree accounts for the loss of hair on the back of the foot and the tufts on the toes, but Dr. Shranks maintains that the shiny bald lower leg is as much a sexual characteristic as a bald head and a hairy chest.
Many readers asked if they could be included in the trials of Provillus; these trials are now complete and no more are envisaged. The proprietary remedies mentioned in the column, the efficacy of which have not been tested by controlled trials, are Provillus for Men and Provillus for Women.