Hairy Topic

Evil Auntie Peril, who cracks me up, wrote in the following: There is the historical association: male long hair = virility. From Samson to those wacky Merovingian reges criniti (“Cut my head off, but no, don’t take the hair!!!”) to Fabio, the legend continues. Which begs the question, do flowing locks counteract the girly aspects of man-titty, or enhance it? Or are they subliminally evoking the unbridled passion one is guaranteed to find beneath these covers?

As for those of us with a fancy for the follically-challenged, I think Suzanne Brockman once wrote a hero with a receding hairline, but he never made it onto the cover (sniff). .

So true, the manly hair being a sign of virility. I agree that it is odd that the women on romance novel covers often have long, long, LONG hair and it is possible that they are subliminally echoing the virility of the man with their unbridled manes of peculiarly-colored hair.

But EAP’s comment at the bottom, about Suzanne Brockman’s hero with a receeding hairline made me ponder: how much does it matter to women today whether a man has a receeding hairline? Does it bother any of us? I think this might be the secret equal to women’s obsession with weight. We all worry (well, many of us do!) about our weight and whether the men in our lives notice our cellulite, our saddlebags, our muffin tops.

I’ve had a few conversations with male friends – who are profoundly unwilling to discuss their hairlines until prodded with the stubborn force of Sarah’s Will – wherein they’ve told me it is their biggest personal fear, that they will lose their hair. One friend of mine told me that her husband, who is a tall, muscular, kind, and incredibly talented carpenter, looked at her with a panicked expression when he realized he’d lost some hair and asked her seriously, “Are you going to leave me?”

While this has nothing to do with romance novels, it does touch on romance, attraction, and images of virility – which we here at SBTB like to skewer at least once a week! So – what’s your opinion: if a man loses his hair, is he out to pasture or is can he still be a hotty mc hot hot? Are we all holding on to the idea of a man with thick, luscious hair as the ultimate sign of handsomeness (and don’t forget those mantitties!) or is it ok for a romance hero, or a hero in our real life romances, to have a slighty-less-than-full head of hair?


Random Musings

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  1. 1
    Ellen Fisher says:

    I have to admit I am not overwhelmingly fond of bald guys (Avery Brooks and Patrick Stewart being notable exceptions).  Of course if my dh loses his hair, he’ll still be a sexy hunk, but in general… nah,I don’t go for bald guys much.

    But I really don’t know why the guys on romance novel covers would object to losing the hair on their heads… most of them seem to already have lost it from their chests.

  2. 2

    My husband went bald early, so when I started dating him I had a good mental image of what he’d look like now, 35 years later. Sometimes it’s nice not to have surprises down the road.[g]

    Seriously, I think in the real world it doesn’t make a huge difference, but on a romance cover it would be startling. I haven’t yet had occasion to write a bald hero into one of my books, but it’s worth considering.  My next guy up looks like a cross between Hagrid and Mel Gibson, so I’m going for “follically challenged” in the opposite direction.

  3. 3
    Tara Marie says:

    Honestly, I couldn’t care less how much hair or lack there of the hero has.  As long as he doesn’t look like Quasimodo or the guy with the beer belly that almost banged into me in the supermarket the other day, I’m happy.

    But, tall, broad shoulders and a handsome face doesn’t hurt.

  4. 4
    Stephen says:

    Why not combine the two – flowing locks around the edge, bald on top, and a totally convincing comb-over to marry the two into a satisfying whole.

    What is it about those hairless chests, anyway?

  5. 5
    Danielle says:

    Early baldness runs in my family (and since the gene is transmitted thru the mother, my son better watch out). My uncle and grandfather were both cueballs by forty and my younger brother has been losing hair noticeably since his early twenties.

    I have no idea how much hair he’s got left now, (he’s 31) since he deals with it by buzzing what remains really really short all over. Seems to be a good solution—I mean, he’s my brother so I don’t speculate about his sex life (ick) but it hasn’t hurt him in the girlfriend department.

    If you’re going for the bald and proud look, you need a good head shape. Michael Stipe, Patrick Stewart, and any of the other attractive bald guys I can think of all have nicely-shaped skulls.

    …wow, even for me that was a pointless ramble. Heh.

  6. 6
    Sandy says:

    I think that covers are going to be more resistant to baldness than stories.  So even if there is a hotter than hot Patrick Stewartesque hero in your absolutely wonderful book, I’ll bet he won’t be shown on the cover.

    But mainly I’m commenting so I can tell Tara Marie that the first time I read her comment above I saw “the guy with the beer belly that banged me in the supermarket”….rofl.  Had to do a re-read fast.

  7. 7
    Karen Scott says:

    In real life I’m most attracted to men who have number one haircuts, my own hubby never grows his hair longer than that, yet in romance books, I wouldn’t want the hero to be bald, because it just conjures up images of Dr Evil in the tragic Austin Powers movies. Close- shaven maybe, but bald is definitely a no-no.

  8. 8
    lene says:

    I had to re-read Tara Marie’s comment, too. Sometimes I wish I didn’t catch those slips, because everything is most exciting when I’m oblivious to my mistakes.

    As for the lack of hair on the hero’s pate, it wouldn’t be a problem for me (but then, hubby and I are in a race to see which of us goes totally bald first.) In the story itself, I’d probably even find it endearing, but I doubt the cover art would look anything like the guy in the book.

  9. 9
    Sandy says:

    Maybe the industry needs some “touch and feel” covers? Like those children’s books with lamb fleece & dog fur. :-) There could be a hank of fiery red coming off the Gabaldonic hero’s head, for instance. 

    Or scratch and sniff covers….oooh, maybe we don’t want to go there.  The possibilities are just so appalling.

  10. 10
    Michelle K says:

    Long hair: Nice
    Bald: Nice (Avery Brooks = gorgeous)
    Going Bald and Admitting It: Fine Also
    Combovers: Bad and Deserving of Mocking

  11. 11
    Hornblower says:

    Hair or no hair – it’s a non-issue. Plenty of sexy guys with no hair. It’s not what’s on their head that matters; it’s what’s in their head (well, and one other thing ….)

    I really like Sandy’s idea of the touch & feel covers. And I think the scratch & sniff concept also has merit. If Evanovich’s books had that Ranger Bulgari smell, they would be jumping off the shelves even faster than they are now.

  12. 12
    Gari says:

    I think it all depends on how they carry it off.  I hate the whole comb over look – HELLO!  We can tell you’re balding, so who are you trying to kid? (Uh…. Mr. Trump?  Please, for the love of GOD stop!) Then there are the guys who go with it, either by just letting it be, cutting it short, or shaving it off.  Frankly I personally know 3 men who decided to shave it all off and I think they’re gorgeous (and if they weren’t married, I’d do something about it ;-) ).  One of my favorites is Arnold Vosloo from “The Mummy”.  Umm umm umm, DE-licious!

    I don’t know how well a romance would sell if the guy was bald or balding – especially if he was on the cover.  Part of romance is the whole fantasy aspect and I think that may pose a problem for some people.  Heck, even Vicki Lewis Thompson’s Nerds are pretty good looking and I don’t know any real life hot looking nerds.

    It’s all about the fantasy for books, but in real life?  In real life it’s the guy who makes you laugh, the guy that sees past your thunder thighs, the guy that can see you on your worst day and still think you’re beautiful, the man you want to see holding your children.  Bald or balding?  Don’t worry about it.


  13. 13
    Vicki says:

    Funny, but I think I recently heard that the more testosterone a guy has, the more likely he is to lose his hair. So maybe these guys are testosterone challenged.

    I also think guys who shave their heads are sexy. (That much confidence equals big dick?) Oh, and I recently read an erotica with a bald guy. He was a big Native American who shaved his head. Mmm. But I think you chicas are right. The cover would be totally screwed. The headless torso might work.

  14. 14
    Jenx10 says:

    I think you have to be bald, closely shaved or full head of hair.  No inbetweens, no fake hair and no comb overs.  who are really trying to kid???

  15. 15
    Jenny says:

    I actually don’t like long hair on guys. I like short, all-american short of hair. One of the only romance cover heros that I’ve found remotely hot is “Lord of Fire/Lord of Ice” by Galean Foley. Nice short hair. No semi-mullet.

    So I don’t mind balding either, because balding men look better with short hair.

  16. 16
    Doug Hoffman says:

    Muscular bald guy on romance cover: I’d think, “Mr. Clean.”

    I have dreams about my teeth falling out and my dick falling off. Losing my hair (which is mostly lost anyway) is the least of my worries. Got over it years ago.

    Now let’s talk about covers where the guy is a head shorter than his gal!

  17. 17
    Nicole says:

    “I don’t know any real life hot looking nerds.”

    Poor Gari!!!!!  You need to come here, I know several. 

    “I think you have to be bald, closely shaved or full head of hair.” – I agree with this.  Actually, even with the full head of hair, I want it cut fairly short.  I HATE long hair on men.  hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate it.  All those cover models that I saw photos of from the rom conventions?  Ick ick ick ick and double triple ick.  All I wanted to do was give them a good haircut.  And check the mental status of the women who thought they were hot.

  18. 18
    Robyn says:

    “Long hair: Nice
    Bald: Nice (Avery Brooks = gorgeous)
    Going Bald and Admitting It: Fine Also
    Combovers: Bad and Deserving of Mocking”

    Michelle, you have put it perfectly.

  19. 19
    Sonja says:

    Yep, I agree that Patrick Stewart is one sexu bald man. But bald fat men (like George on Seinfeld) really REALLY scare me. Like run-away-screaming scare me.

    Fuck, now I’m going to have nightmares.

  20. 20
    emdee says:

    I gotta go with the hate the combover crowd.  My BIL is almost bald and he cuts what he has left down to a longish stubble.  Much better than the combover.  I like long hair too, but hey, if a guy has a great personality and is a caring person that stuff means nothing.  The longer you are with someone the better looking they get, at least that’s been my experience…

  21. 21
    Jennifer says:

    Stephen, you mock the combover/long hair combination, but I had a prof in law school who did just that.  Picture shoulder-length, salt & pepper gray hair, with a combover of corresponding length.  Now imagine hands running through hair and hair flopping back and forth once he got passionate about the Equal Protection Clause.  There was always a huge hank of combover hair straggling down his shoulder.  Thing is, he always had gorgeous women on his arm when I saw him at school or bar functions, I mean gorgeous as in could be a model.  So it apparently didn’t creep everyone out.

    Re: Brockmann’s balding hero, this was the first of her Troubleshooter series.  The military man with the head cut off (I don’t think there was any chest hair or man-titty) was on the step back for this book, and a similar one was done on the second book.  They’re being reissued, I wonder what those covers look like.  I think Brockmann had a bald (shaved) black hero in one of her categories, too.  Aside from Brockmann, the only other author I can think of who mentions a receding hairline is Carla Kelly in one of her trads, Mr. Butterworth in Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind, I think.

    My personal opinion seems to pretty much match the rest of the board—go short or shave it all you’re balding.  Patrick Stewart.  Avery Brooks.  Bruce Willis with the receding hairline (although I’m not a fan generally). 


  22. 22
    Candy says:

    Two words—no, make it three:

    Jason. Fucking. Statham.

    I just about wet my pants every time I see ads for The Transporter 2. I don’t care if the movie’s any good. I don’t. Why? ‘Cause he’s so fucking hot. Bald + sardonic + killer body = HOTTT.

    And I second Michael Stipe. Is he gay? ‘Cause dude, he’s hot.

    I also had a thing for John Malkovich. He’s started to sag and bag a lot in recent years, but in Dangerous Liaisons and assorted movies in the early 90s? RRROWR.

    There are also many, many beyooootiful bald black men. Tyrese and Taye Diggs immediately come to mind, also Michael Jordan.

    Outright bald or balding with really, really close-cropped hair (Jason Statham falls into the latter category, actually) can be hot. Combover? Never hot. Never. Neither is the Michael Bolton balding-but-growing-everything-out-freakishly-long look.

  23. 23
    Karen Scott says:

    Candy, Michael Stipe? Say it aint so!!!!

  24. 24
    Candy says:

    Heh heh. Apparently Danielle thinks Michael Stipe is pretty attractive, too. Anyway, hell yeah Michael Stipe. Skinny, bald, dorky, and the dude is a pretty damn decent musician. HOT!

  25. 25
    AngieW says:

    I can’t believe no one mentioned Vin Diesel. Who I’m not that crazy about but usually incites lustful comments. I can’t even imagine him with hair!

    Ed Harris… yum, sexy bald guy.

    And since Nicole brought up the male models at the conventions, I’d take any of the bald men mentioned over the male model (CJ?) with the long blonde hair that looks as though he stuck his finger in one too many sockets. Fried. Many a woman had fantasties about him but they involved mayonnaise and hot oil.

    Bald can be sexy too, but I guess it’s harder to describe the heroine running her fingers through the hero’s thick, wavy hair if he’s bald. And then, there goes the word count!

  26. 26
    Arethusa says:

    I’d prefer balding to the shoulder-length hair hero I’m always seeing romances. I go to a geeky school so I always think of those CS geeks in superman socks. Some of them can carry the look off, but more often than not…

  27. 27
    Nicole says:

    Angie, that is exactly who I was thinking of!  *shudder*

  28. 28
    Jennifer says:

    Doh!  The instant I clicked “Submit”, I thought of other bald guys.  Candy’s already mentioned Jason Statham.  Ben Kingsley. Henry Simmons, who played Detective Jones on NYPD Blue.  He’s not balding, but I think he shaved his head or kept it clipped short. 


  29. 29
    fiveandfour says:

    a totally convincing comb-over to marry the two into a satisfying whole

    Stephen (and all you other men out there): there is no such animal as a “convincing comb-over”.  I’m actually surprised your keyboard didn’t burst into spontaneous flames as you wrote out that sentence (even if it was done with irony) – it’s so completely the reverse of the laws of truth in the universe.  Like everyone else here, I much prefer a man to just go with nature and either clip it short or shave it off.  That seems to display a greater sense of confidence, and hence manliness, for a guy to be up front about his hairline and not make a poor attempt to hide its deficiency. 

    And Candy, I so totally agree with you about Jason Statham.  All I can say is Grrr and owlll about that man – he is yummilicious.

    I had never really thought about this whole hair issue before…when I was younger I used to think if I could travel back in time, I would only do it if I could take with me a lifetime supply of modern toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss and pain medications (I always figured it would be the worse thing ever to have tooth problems due to cavities, etc).  Now I’m going to have to amend my list and add decent shampoos and conditioners, ‘cause apparently it would be expected that me and my mate would have some long-ass hair.

  30. 30

    Blimey, you go away and do a bit of work, and look what happens. Thank you for the compliment, Sarah.

    Anyway, by the grace of a good-hair gene (mysteriously symbiotic with the big-a(r)se gene) my family all rejoice in the sort of lushly flowing locks that would make a viking hero gnash his manly teeth in envy. And probably burn our longship. Or his if he were dumb enough. So I never really saw the appeal of bald men myself until meeting last BF, whose crowning glory had migrated south. And then weirdly, I began to find other bald guys attractive, as if I’d suddenly made a connection between this and sexual possibility.

    But keeping it all shaved off or buzzed v. short is critical, and shoulders, headshape and cheekbones make all the difference. Perhaps because this keeps guys looking masculine*? Babies are bald too, so other physical traits associated with masculine maturity (but not seniority) might become more important in this case. 

    The combover consensus has my vote – having one screams denial. More frightening still is the “Aging-roadie-with-seriously-receding-hairline-grown-into-scraggy-ponytail” effect, which is more of a tortured whine. Yes, my man, the chicks really do dig your wild man of rock look. Honest. Now go very far away.

    Off to resign myself to a succession of hat-wearing headless heroes, but for Doug I fear the only hope is one standing on a box.

    *The theorist in me insists on covering my own bottom by noting that the term “masculine” here refers to the general stereotype of what constitutes masculine appearance in modern western society and not an absolute notion of what constitutes manliness. It’s shallow, but until gentlemen of my acquaintance encourage me in my ongoing quest to grow a handlebar moustache on the grounds that it’ll make me sexier, I ain’t gonna apologise. But I will apologise for this being a tad long.

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