Prince William divided opinion with his buzz cut: Here two follically-challenged writers describe their experience with thinning locks
Prince William divided opinion this week with a controversial £180 buzz cut designed to camouflage his thinning locks. Here, two follically-challenged Belfast Telegraph writers describe the parting of the ways with their own mane attraction, while celebrity hairdresser Paul Stafford shares his tips for coping with a receding hairline.
Alex Kane: 'Looking in the mirror, I had a small, pale pancake on the back of my head'
As soon as I left school - in the era when short-back-and-sides was compulsory - I grew my hair and kept on growing it. I looked like a cross between Byron and Samson, my majestic mane flowing down like a "cascade of loveliness" - to quote one of those shampoo ads from the mid-1970s.
Then, one day in the summer of 1979, standing at the lights in Shaftesbury Square, I heard someone shouting - loudly and persistently - "Yo baldy, hang on". I laughed, thinking that there was probably some poor sucker standing behind me, wishing he had hair like mine.
But as soon as I felt the hand on my shoulder and heard a familiar voice, I realised that I must be the poor sucker.
I said nothing at the time, but I couldn't wait to get back to my flat. The bathroom had one of those cupboards with a mirror on both doors and with a bit of contortion I managed to get myself and the doors into alignment.
I had a small, pale pancake on the back of my head; a circle of skin without a single hair on it. Bryon had been replaced with a slimmed-down Friar Tuck look.
I tried pulling some hair over the spot, hoping to fix it into place with a few blasts of hairspray.
Sadly, the confusion of the mirrors made me misjudge my aim and I blasted my eyes with the stuff. I was red-eyed and tearful for the rest of the day.
The next day was a Saturday and I thought I would go to a barber. I hadn't been to one for years, so I didn't have a regular one. The walk into the centre of town was like a walk of shame. I imagined the derisive laughs as I passed by fellow pedestrians. All of the men, apart from the very old, appeared to have full heads of hair. I was a freak.
The barber, a middle-aged man, wasn't all that helpful. For a start, he had too much hair. He explained that losing hair at my age (I was about 25) was hereditary: adding, unhelpfully, "hair ready to fall out". He roared, as did the room full of hairy simians occupying the other chairs.
He tried to reassure me that lots of people my age had very little hair and that I shouldn't worry about it: "Sure, your girlfriend won't fancy you any less." I didn't have a girlfriend at the time, but I wasn't going to tell him that. I feared another look of pity.
Anyway, he cut my hair quite short, arguing that the neatness would distract from the bald spot. But when he held the mirror behind me afterwards, it became clear that I had taken advice from a loon. My bald spot now resembled a full moon. Worse, there wasn't even enough hair left around it to try some sort of rescue operation.
Over the next few years, I tried a number of ways of disguising my nakedness - most of them culled from the back pages of Exchange and Mart. I've no idea how much money I wasted on "straight to your door" bottles which guaranteed to return my hair to its voluminous glory.
I tried cow manure and rabbit urine. I massaged milk of magnesia into my scalp for a month. I did handstands while rubbing my head in nettles and brown rice. In the end, I settled for a comb-over of such epic proportions that it looked like a hairy Tower of Babel on my head.
Twenty years later, I met Kerri. About three months afterwards, she said: "Get rid of the comb-over (which wasn't as dramatic in scale as it had been), it looks ridiculous."
I did. And as soon as I did, I wondered why I had been fooling myself for so long. I am bald. I am "Yo baldy" from almost 40 years ago. And I'm happy and unconcerned.
But, dear me, how many behind-the-hand laughs did I provide for friends and colleagues over the years?
Alex Kane is a writer and commentator
Jim McDowell: 'I've never pulled my hair out over it ... because there's none to pull out!'
The bald truth is, I reckon it was Rab Maguire wot dunnit. See, Rab used to run a famous barber's shop at the bottom of the Falls Road. It was the haircutter's version of the Ballroom of Romance. This was the Barber's of Romance.
All around the walls were pictures and posters of famous fighters, world champion boxers and bullfighters. To us, as kids, this emporium of hair-snipping - and, it must be said, hairier stories from some of the punters who populated the place - was another world. A wonder world.
We used to hop on the number 77 double-decker bus from the Gasworks, where we lived (the other terminus was the Waterworks in those days) and jump off at the lights at the top of Albert Street and dander, clutching our one shilling and thruppence - for that was the cost of a haircut back then, not the 180 nicker Prince William has just forked out.
We'd puff out our pigeon chests and strut into this big man's world of Rab the Barber's and get perched up on the big leather chair and let Rab do the business.
Give us a beebop. A buzz cut, that is, just like His Royal Hairless, William, the Prince of Pates, has now.
Except ours wasn't only shaved down the sides, American GI-style. Because, unlike William, as youngsters, we still had hair on top.
Rab would leave us about an inch-high plateau of hair up there, cut flat, like a cornfield just after harvesting.
And then - and this is, I still believe, the folic-buster - the white-coated Barber of the Falls would light a paper straw. And he would then run the lighted straw across the top layer of the bebop, singeing (as they called it) the ends and leaving the finished product as flat as the deck of an aircraft carrier.
You could even SMELL your own hair frying, folks. Honest.
And, you see, that's one of the reasons I believe my hair, like dear oul' Rab himself, has now gone, passed on.
No longer Resting In Peace, back where it belongs, on my now-baldy pate.
Okay, as the school uniform picture with this piece shows, I once had a Mod-like mop of a mane.
I was 18 at the time, a denizen of the old Marquee and Maritime and Pound and Sammy Houston's jazz clubs in Belfast, with bands like The Who and The Small Faces, Mod icons, playing live there.
None of them - Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, whoever - ever lost their hair, as far as I'm aware.
I did. Fast. Faster than you can say Peter Robinson (I was at school with him. He, too, has still got his).
And I also reckon I set some kind of record on the way. I think I was the first slaphead in Belfast. Even before Johnny 'Mad Dog' Adair. Or even Billy Molloy, that most colourful character and coalman from Donegall Pass.
Mind you, both would probably hit me a slap for that. But going, or being, baldy has never bothered me.
And, unlike William getting a bit of banter from hedgehog-haired Harry, my brother, Tom, has never bantered me about having no hair.
A simple reason: he's baldy, too.
So, no, I've never pulled my hair out over being bald. Because, fair to say, there's none to pull out.
There was a wee monk's ring running above my ears and looping round the back of my head at one stage.
But that looked ridiculous. I looked like a Weight Watcher version of Friar Tuck. So, I got Lindy to shave it off. Again, honest!
I shave my own shiny Dome-of-Delight myself now: all of it. Using a Gillette razor. Cost? A couple of coppers a crop. NOT Prince William's £180 cut. Buzz cut? Buzz off ...
And if someone queries my own cut, I simply say: "I was born baldy, I'm going to die baldy - and there's no going back to the back-and-sides."
But to go back to where I started, I still say that perhaps, just perhaps, barber Rab Maguire's lighted straw was the last straw for McDowell's once Mod-like mop.
Suffice to say, it's no longer a burning issue with me. Just like being baldy ...
Jim McDowell's autobiography, The Good Fight: From Bullets to By-lines: 45 Years Face-to-Face with Terror, is published by Gill Books, priced £14.99
Paul Stafford: 'It will have a positive effect'
This week Prince William did what many men do every week in every corner of the globe when he admitted defeat in his losing battle with his barnet.
Did he give up too easily? Should he have given the hair-saving drug Propecia a go? A drug that designer Tom Ford once admitted was responsible for a newly thick thatch which was once barren.
Or should he have followed in the footsteps of Robbie Williams or our own Jimmy Nesbitt with a full-on transplant, which would be confidence-building and upfront, a true "crowning glory" of a mane. And, of course, if that was an all too public intervention he could always have fallen back on the classic Elton John wig.
There are many options available and as money is no obstacle, what was to stop the second-in-line to the throne having the hair he wanted or deserved?
Well, there are a number of reasons but let's start with the most likely. Perhaps he just wasn't that bothered. William may not care enough to consider anything other than the easy option. I mean, he's obviously aware of the interest in his hair given the constant media scrutiny (and even some of the unkinder comments about the royal bonce) but he's also smart enough to know that any attempt to try to salvage his hair cosmetically would have resulted in a reaction that would most likely be negative - especially if it looked like Wayne Rooney's disastrous transplant.
Instead William has taken the definitive step by reaching for the clippers - a very expensive £180 buzz cut, according to newspaper reports. It's a brave decision, strong and decisive, and it speaks volumes about the man, a no-nonsense approach that shows that his image is not that important, that he accepts the cards he's been dealt and like his grandfather and father before him, he's genetically predisposed to male pattern baldness prematurely.
In a lot of ways William is very lucky - we already know that being bald will not affect his life, his career, his relationship; all of these concerns are already set in place. But the same cannot be said for every man who loses his hair. Many suffer from anxiety/confidence issues and it can stop them from forming a relationship or socialising.
The good news is that help is out there, from energising shampoos and lotions that can be bought in any good salon, like Alfaparf energising shampoo for hair loss, which when used alongside their energising lotion has amazing results.
There is also the aforementioned oral drug Propecia, a controversial choice since it has some side-effects but also delivers incredible restorative results. And then there is the organic hair growth miracle drug Viviscal which has become a big hit with celebrities.
All of that is the easy stuff. The journey down the transplant route is as varied and wide-ranging as hair itself but you only have to look at the success of hair transplant devotees like Robbie and Jimmy to see how far they've come on - and they are the ones we know about. There are many celebs who we will never be sure as to whether they've had something done but who suddenly look like they have a lot more hair than they used to.
There is a cure for baldness, of that there is no doubt. For many it's a lifeline, a chance to hold on to that one thing that can define age and status but for others the option is much more simple: just take it all off.
Do I think William suits this haircut? Or is it too severe? And why so short? In truth over time I think we will get used to William's skinhead, just like we got used to the Queen having grey hair or Prince Philip making inappropriate remarks. Ultimately, I think it will have a positive effect on many other men who may decide that William's ballsy attitude to what is a major cause of concern may just inspire them to do likewise, and that can only be a good thing.
Paul Stafford, 671 Lisburn Road, Belfast, tel: 028 9066 2554