Inspired by the England football captain – and a portentous trip to the

Sandown Racecourse, 2004. The 14-to-1 shot races home first in the 3.20, I throw my full plastic pint glass high in the air and what happens next is a wonder of science. Its ascent is perfectly vertical, its contents entirely contained, until at its apex it rotates on an impossibly acute angle and descends to complete a tweezer-shaped parabola, depositing every last milli-drop of lager directly on the top of my head.

Wet but otherwise euphoric, I hurry to the gents for some emergency ablutions, and it’s there that I spot it. A solitary hair, high on my forehead, set about a quarter of a centimetre further forward than the rest. It is the denial, not the panic reflex, that fires first: “How’s that grown all the way out there?” is my first thought, before very quickly realising it isn’t the first daffodil of an unlikely spring, but rather the last green blade of grass still standing in the scorched earth.

Fast-forward nine years and I am sitting in The Private Clinic on London’s Harley Street, where a Greek doctor is running her fingers through my emaciated locks and showing me traumatising photographs of the top of my head. I had known it was bad, but not that bad. At the front, a long spit of land jets out into a wide fleshy sea. The back and middle are a pale planet, with only the gentlest wisps of light brown cloud circling its barren pole. Why hadn’t anyone told me?

We’re friends now, Dr Kouremada-Zioga and I, so I’m sure she won’t be upset if I spell out her blunt diagnosis to me that day in a pseudo-phonetic way that still rings in my ears: “In the back, it’s a theeenin’. In the meedle, it’s a theeenin’. In the front, there is a naaathing.”

The solution she was offering is a pioneering one. Yes, it is a hair transplant, but with a difference. Dr Kouremada-Zioga is one of the few surgeons to offer the procedure ‘unshaven’. No need to razor-blade off what little you’ve still got. No need to wait months for it to grow back. Just five days off work. No one ever need know.

For an industry substantially driven by vanity, insecurity and degrees of body dysmorphia, this is revolutionary. “Many people want the procedure,” she says. “But they do not want to shave their heads. They are businessmen, or politicians, or people from TV. They cannot have no hair for many months.”

So minimally invasive is it, and so quick, she says, “many people do not even tell their wife”. (That last claim, by the way, I was certain was a fib. I turned out to be wrong.)

It took me four months to decide. Among the forms you have to sign is one that requires you to essentially confirm that going bald has destroyed your confidence, that you are psychologically affected.

I had thick hair, and lots of it, for years after the Sandown races incident, when I was 22 years old. I was probably 29 before I was in possession of what I now know to be called a Stage 3 on the Norwood Scale of male pattern baldness, aka ‘the Phil Collins’: a long narrow headland of hair, set between two wide bald bays.

Baldness was just something you had to accept, and I accepted it. But then, three years ago, the facts seemed suddenly rewritten, at least in popular culture, in 140 characters and a little photo, courtesy of Wayne Rooney.

When he emerged on the first day of the football season looking like a > man with six or seven years suddenly lifted off his shoulders, it rather laid bare the full cruelty that baldness inflicts on a young man.

Cosmetic surgery – and a hair transplant is cosmetic surgery – is a curious thing, arguably the defining insanity of our era. Father Time will come for us all. It is life’s only certainty.

Baldness, I might venture, is a different matter. It is a random, terroristic attack on the power and beauty of youth. It is Mother Nature throwing a bucket of acid in your young face. Yes, there are ‘sexy bald men’ like Bruce Willis, but he is also a handsome man, who would be more handsome unbald. And then there are unsexy bald men, like the philosopher Alain de Botton, who quite rightly describes it as “almost analogous to disability”.

These were the thoughts I was mulling over when I returned to Harley Street four months later. Some more photographing of my head revealed that during my lengthy deliberations my hair loss had been, in Dr Kouremada-Zioga’s forthright words, “very aggressive”.

I signed the forms and was back in two weeks, this time being eased into a surgical gown and having a blue line drawn far down on my forehead. That there had once been hair all the way down here seemed preposterous, like those natural history time-lapse reconstructions that show the Sahara was once a mighty ocean.

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