Shave Your Head

I’ve been shaving my head for over a decade now. I remember the day I took the plunge as well as I remember yesterday.

Saturday, June 7, 1997 dawned beautiful. What was to be my last haircut was only a couple of days old. I’d been getting my ‘number one’ every few weeks and frankly, I was getting a little tired of the ritual. I called my style a ‘number one’ because of the clipper attachment used – the shortest one. The only thing that would cut shorter was no attachment at all.

Today would be the day! Nothing beats a professional straight-razor shave so I thought that having a good barber do the deed would be the way to go. I chose a nice old-style barber shop in Princeton, New Jersey. You know the kind – a row of big leather chairs with the swivels and adjustments lined up in front of the mirrored wall. The barbers, each looking as old as the chairs, in animated conversation with their customers as their fingers flew with the scissors. The smell of hair care products filled my nostrils. )I’m not sure what it is, but traditional barber shops have a smell all their own.) I smiled and picked up a magazine as I slid into a chair near the door to wait my turn.

“NEXT!” That would be me. I climbed into one of those leather beauties and faced the barber. He checked out my obviously recent ‘number one’ and looked very puzzled indeed. What did I want him to do?

I told him of my decision and asked for a nice straight-razor shave. And he refused!

Huh?? He explained that they no longer do straight-razor work because of the AIDS risk. Remember, in the late 90s AIDS was big in the news and all manner of reactionary regulatory measures were in full swing. So, no more shaves or even sideburn trims with the straight-razor. I guess it had been a while since I had a good shave, I hadn’t even realized. But it made sense. We lamented the passing of the good ‘ol days for a few minutes.

We decided to use clippers and stuff to take my hair as short as it could go but the rest would be up to me. He selected his tools, removed all of the attachments and set to work. In a few minutes the job was done. I paid, tipped, thanked and stepped into the street, feeling a bit lightheaded.

I returned home to finish the job. What a hack! I discovered that my electric razor wasn’t very effective. I remembered a Gillette razor I received in a mail promotion some time back and found its box. I tried it with some shaving cream. Clearly, trying to do this standing in front of the sink was not the way to go! So I stepped into the shower and slowly went after it ‘blind’, by feel. I only drew a little bit of blood.

And that’s what I do today, albeit much faster and with no cuts. What are my preferred tools? Glad you asked. A Gillette Sensor Excel II, the silver-handled, two-bladed unit of years gone by. The blades are inexpensive in bulk packages at Costco. And Dial Gold bar soap. Gold lathers better than the white. Multi-bar bulk packages are often on sale.

So, what can you expect if you shave your head? There are a few things you probably haven’t considered.

For instance, oil production. Your head produces lots of oil. It keeps your hair nice and shiney. You wash it off regularly and now it’s got no place to go. So your scalp becomes kind of greasy especially for the first few weeks. Your body gradually reduces production over time, but you will notice increased oil on whatever touches your bare head. Dry cleaning your favorite cap every now and then becomes routine. You’ll replace your pillow more often. If you use a motorcycle helmet, choose one with a removable liner and dry clean that, too. (Note, the opposite happens when you decide to grow your hair again. Your hair will initially be too dry until your body ramps up oil production once again.)

Hair also protects you in ways we take for granted. You’ll sunburn easily, so wear a hat or use a good sun block. It really is true that you lose a lot of heat from your head so you’ll definitely be wearing hats in winter. Those knit pullover hats are great and easy to clean. And bumping your head hurts more, even a little bit of hair provides more cushion than you’d expect.

But despite the shortcomings I still recommend the style. It’s easy, quick and inexpensive to keep a clean, consistent look.

I hear you asking, “how about women? Is head shaving an option for women, too?” I guess it’s a matter of opinion. You definitely see fewer women with shaved heads than men. So it probably takes more guts, more self-confidence, maybe a bit of arrogance for a woman to take the plunge. Personally, I think it’s a pretty hot look for the woman that can pull it off, but that’s just me.

For more fun and information about shaving your head, Google is your friend.

2 thoughts on “Shave Your Head”

  1. Thanks for writing, gwood. You bring a good question. While I can’t answer for others, for me it’s a simple matter of convenience. I’ve tried just about every style and every length over the years. I’ve got a proverbial – and actual – ass, too, and my hair was once down to it a well! I’ve permed it into a ‘fro, styled it to the point of playing with sprays and blowdriers before leaving for work in the morning, and everything in between. (I should tell you about the post-party morning when I mistook the spray deodorant for hairspray – it wasn’t pretty!)

    While doing a stint in a machine shop I began regularly keeping it on the short side. Obvious reasons – long hair and machines just don’t mix. At the same time I was showing that so-called ‘male pattern baldness’ thing. Eventually I settled into getting a ‘number one’ (named after the clipper attachment used, the one that results in the shortest cut) every three weeks or so. I was still seeing Donna, my long-time stylist, for that, and she was more than happy to charge me the going rate (plus generous tips) for what had degenerated to the fastest and easiest job in the shop.

    I woke up one day, questioned the logic, and the rest is history. I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not at the time but, well, I guess it’s stood the test of time. My wife sometimes tries to convince me to grow it out. My son can’t remember me having hair. More and more, the people that know me ony know the shaved-head look.

  2. The real question about shaving your head is– Why?

    If, at age 30 or 40 or 50, you were blessed with the full head of hair that you possessed as a teenager, would you still go for the cleanhead look? My observation has been that the guys who slick it are showing some major male-pattern action. I can tell by the stubble.

    There was a time when a shaved head was a far-right political statement. It still is if one affects the proper (or improper, as it were) accessories; white laces in black military boots, etc. One must be on guard if one wishes to avoid giving the wrong impression.

    An alternative method to avoid the drudgery and expense of barber visits is to simply let it grow. I did this for over ten years. My hair was down to my proverbial and actual ass. A snip one day resulted in a long braid for Locks Of Love. I hope they could actually use some of it. It wasn’t exactly top quality wig material.

Go ahead and say it.