Feel the buzz

Many men handle the pain of losing their hair by deciding to shave it all off

Craig Singer Craig Singer began buzzing off his thinning hair about a year ago. (David L Ryan / Globe staff)
By Beth Teitell
Globe Staff / January 6, 2011

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On the surface, it’s a trend in men’s grooming, nothing more. Athletes, rappers, movie stars, and a lot of regular guys, both straight and gay, are striding around with shaved and almost-shaved heads. But listen to those who are buzzing their hair — or, more precisely, what’s left of their hair — and the fad goes deeper.

Let’s start with Craig Singer of Sharon. He’s 44 — and feeling it. “When your hair is thinning, you don’t want to notice it,’’ he said as he sat for his weekly buzz at the Barbershop Lounge on Newbury Street. “But you do notice it. It’s always there.’’

Singer, the owner of Auto Shine Detailing, at the Ritz-Carlton Boston Common, has such a big personality you’d think nothing would shake him. Ask for his phone number, for example, he’ll rattle it off, then add: “Sounds like a porn number, right?’’

But the hair thing, well, that got to him. “The first time you overhear someone say, ‘That bald guy over there,’ it [stinks].’’

About a year ago, inspired by Vin Diesel’s look, Singer decided to take control. He buzzed off his spiky, longer style. “Who was I kidding, anyway?’’ he asked. “Who did I think I was fooling?’’

Now, let people call him bald. “It has a different connotation, because it’s by choice.’’

Well, it’s partially by choice, but even so, the shaved head makes a statement that the comb-over doesn’t. It says: I’m losing my hair, I’m OK with it, and I’m the boss.

And, Singer added, “Chicks love it.’’

A few chairs away at the Barbershop Lounge, Jean Paulynice, 26, of Boston, an IT analyst, was also getting a buzz cut, trying to beat his thinning hair to the punch. “I thought I’d start now, before it got drastic.’’

Sure, a buzzed or shaved head can look austere, and there are the Mr. Clean references to deal with. But the really mean jokes target other solutions to thinning hair: hair plugs, comb-overs, and toupees. The buzzed head — it gets respect. Think Bruce Willis, Dustin Pedroia, Andre Agassi, David Beckham (sometimes), and virtually the entire NBA. Are they losing their hair, or do they simply like the look? Only their stylists know for sure.

And yet, even as it solves one problem, the shaved head creates new issues. Having little or no hair is not the maintenance-free ride you’d expect. Some guys go to the salon twice weekly, no doubt outpacing a few of the lesser Kardashians.

But who can blame them? If you let a buzz cut grow too long, warned local hair guru Mario Russo, a slight shadow emerges, revealing the receding hairline for what it is. “An eighth of an inch can make a huge difference.’’

The buzzed or shaved head means obligations outside the hair salon, too: “You have to dress well, be more fashionable, or you’re going to look like you don’t care,’’ said Sandy Poirier, the owner of Shag in South Boston. He shaved his head about five years ago, “when no one else was doing it,’’ and is ready to offer some wisdom: add some facial hair — a goatee, perhaps — or at least a five o’clock shadow. “Otherwise, it looks too hard.’’

Meanwhile, even though the bald fashion statement is in, Poirier rails against the very word. “There should be a moratorium on the word ‘bald.’ Everything else is politically correct, why not this?’’

Beth Teitell can be reached at