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Big, Bad and Bald

When it comes time to explain all the obstacles I had to surmount to achieve business success, I’m not going to mention my bad luck or my bad attitude; my laziness, sloppiness, or my inherent hostility to authority. No, sir! What makes my success so impressive is that I managed to accomplish so much despite being held back by a luxurious, full head of hair.

Yes, sir! In today’s business world, hair is out and bald is in. The Wall Street Journal told me so. The headline of a recent article by Rachel Emma Silverman said it all: “Study Shows Baldness Can Be a Business Advantage.”

That’s good news to men who have been worrying about their receding hairline. And that’s bad news to women who may not be ready to shave their heads in exchange for a quick bump up the executive ladder. But, hey, if you’re not willing to show your loyalty to the company, don’t expect to use the electric pate polisher in the executive washroom.


The study mentioned was conducted by the Wharton School of Business, a highly respected institution where the faculty may not have much hair on their heads, but clearly have a lot of time on their hands. In a series of tests, management lecturer Albert Mannes showed 244 subjects two versions of the same men, “one showing the man with hair and the other showing him with his hair digitally removed.”

We don’t know who these subjects might be, but I assume they weren’t barbers.

The results of the experiment were surprising, or should I say, hair-raising. The studies showed “the subjects finding the men with shaved heads as more dominant than their hirsute counterparts. In one test, men with shorn heads were even perceived as an inch taller and about 13 percent stronger than those with fuller manes.”

If this is true, you can hand me the razor. I’ve been trying to appear taller for some time now, and wearing these Manolo Blahnik ankle-strap pumps with 5-inch heels just isn’t doing the job.

If baldies are tall and powerful, the short and weak amongst us are men with thinning hair. Since 35 million men are estimated to suffer from this cruel trick of nature, also called male pattern baldness, this could be both a problem and an opportunity. If all it takes to turn yourself into a workplace Samson is to cut off your hair, fire your trainer and start looking for your Delilah.

One theory to explain why baldies are better rests on their willingness to confront a difficult situation — creeping baldness — rather than trying to hide it with a bad comb-over, or an even worse toupee. It also has something to do with not being perceived as being old in a young man’s world. “I don’t feel like the grandfather in the office anymore,” one recently shorn sheep admitted.

Unfortunately, for the cue ball boys, looking older is not always a career cruncher. Caroline Keating, a Colgate University social scientist, points out that the older silverback gorillas are “typically the most powerful actors in their social groups.” Unfortunately, groups of gorillas are more highly evolved than your company’s management team, and who is to say what the gorillas would do if they had access to a Gillette razor and a can of Barbasol?

Another professor, this one from Louisville, explains that a bald scalp “is nature’s way of telling the rest of the world that you are a survivor.” He also said that the deliberate clear cutting of your follicles “conveys aggressiveness, competitiveness and shows willingness to stand against social norms.”

Perhaps, but if you want to stand against social norms, I’d suggest there are better ways than cutting your hair. Cutting out wearing clothes would be one way to stand out. Way out.

Of course, the most pathetic poseurs are those men who, like me, have fabulous hair, but shave it anyway, because they want to be perceived as being tall and strong and Bruce Willis-like. Don’t be ashamed if you’ve been considering defoliation, too. Even if it didn’t result in a promotion, you would save on shampoo, though you might have to buy a tube of pate polish. Your hats wouldn’t fit any more, and you’d have to put sun tan lotion on your head.

Bottom line — keep your hair, and lose your job. Being bald isn’t bad, but you’d be much happier working for a bunch of silverback gorillas.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at


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