Ah, baldness, that great leveler, that son-of-a-bitch. A man can have money, fame, friends, family and self-respect. Yet no matter how successful he is there’s no guarantee he gets to keep his hair. LeBron James is a very powerful man who is currently grappling with this fact. As NBA fans know, LeBron’s hair has been taking its talents elsewhere for years.
Now Deadspin has kinda, sorta outed LeBron for wearing hair plugs. To summarize: last season LeBron was losing his hair, then he wore a hat all summer, and now magically LeBron has more hair. (To see what Playboy believes LeBron’s hair will look like in the future, check this out.)
Losing my own hair at age 19 was a god-awful experience. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if I also happened to be one of the most recognizable athletes on earth. So I’m sympathetic to LeBron. Going bald—watching your appearance change right before your eyes—seriously messes with your head. I count about five stages in the process.
The first stage is blindness. The balding man pretends not to notice he’s losing his hair. He plays it off like it’s an optical illusion, bad lighting or embraces the delusional notion that there is something weird with his hair that is DEFINITELY NOT BALDNESS. The balding man tells himself a story about the appearance of his head that has zero to do with reality.
The next stage is hats. The balding man wears a lot of hats. This is what LeBron did all summer, and it’s what I did in college. Baseball game—hat. Night out with friends—hat. Date night—hat. Formal occasion—formal hat. Fund-Raiser to Benefit Children Brutally Murdered by Hats—two hats, in case someone is offended and snatches your primary hat. The hat helps maintain the hair myth.
3. Even Longer Hair
Step two is often done in conjunction with step three. Along with hats comes the refusal to ever cut your hair again. There are two reasons for this. The balding man can use all of that extra hair to help maintain a semblance of hair, usually through a comb-over. Even more crucially, though, the balding man secretly fears that any hair he cuts off his head will not grow back, including that side hair men rarely lose when they bald. The fear is so overpowering.
4. Expensive Shampoos and Lotions
I’d bet money that LeBron—if he really is wearing hair plugs—tried all of the usual snake oils first. If any of these products did what bald man need them to do, which is restore our hair to its former glory, we’d know that product’s name like we know Kleenex, Google and Coke. Quick: what’s the name of the shampoo that gives bald men all their hair back? Answer: There is none. There are only half-measures, and none of them stops the gentle sobbing in the wee small hours.
5. Go Bald or Live a Damn Lie
A balding man must make a decision: Embrace the baldness or alter the appearance of his head using foreign materials. I eventually embraced my baldness. LeBron probably will, too, but he has a vast treasury at his disposal with which to pursue every possible solution on earth. I can’t say I blame him. I would do exactly the same thing. What’s that? There’s a “scientist” in Thailand who can restore my hair by rubbing yak butt all over my face? Get that yak on my plane. NOW. It looks like Deadspin caught LeBron is in his awkward yak butt phase.
Joe Donatelli is senior editor of Playboy.com. Follow him on Twitter @joedonatelli.