18/08/2016 12:25 BST | Updated 19/08/2017 06:12 BST

Bald And Under Thirty: Are You Gay Or Racist, Mate?

My name is Scott Manley Hadley and I am prematurely bald.

I first shaved my head at 26 when I acknowledged that my receding hairline was unstoppable and accelerating. In the year and a half since then, I've been the victim of constant discrimination.

Bald prejudice is often a subtle mask for a different snap judgement, as many people presume that a man with a shaved head is one of two things: gay or racist.

Shaved heads are a popular and stereotypical look within two UK communities. Ask a colleague to craft a mental image of the kind of man who'd sneer at an Indian doctor who'd just saved his life, object to the construction of a mosque in his home town, or kick a black youth to death, the chances are your workmate will imagine a man with a shaved head. Similarly, ask an acquaintance to draw a male homosexual and the scrawled picture you'll receive in return will likely be of a leather-draped skin-head with a moustache. How many times have you witnessed a fictional TV drag queen pull off a glorious Dolly Parton wig to reveal a pink, hairless, pate?

If I'm dressed in an even remotely flamboyantly way (i.e. a patterned shirt), strangers regularly presume I'm gay. If, however, I'm dressed in unexciting jeans and a plain T-shirt, people presume I'm some EDL-loving thug, especially when I express my politically centrist opinions and get perceived as aggressively right wing by earnest Corbynistas.

Men who shave their heads receive prejudice from both the socially liberal and the socially conservative, seeing us as a demon representative of something they abhor.

I'm neither a football-hooligan-turned-bouncer nor a gay man1, and I find it interesting how these two groups, which are in many ways ideologically opposed, share such a striking symbol. They share it because they both equate a shaved head with prominent masculinity.


There are two popular (and related) myths about male pattern baldness. You will be familiar with them both.

1) It is caused by an excess of testosterone.

2) It is a sign of virility.

Both of these are boosted by the bald action heroes of trash cinema (your Vin Diesels and your Bruce Willisi), but neither are true.

I can refute the first myth with a Wikipedia factlet: if any hormone bears responsibility for male hair loss, it would be dihydrotestosterone, not testosterone.

The second myth I can disprove with personal experience: I am no more virile now than I was at the start of my twenties. In fact, by some measures I'm considerably less virile, and that's a normal effect of age. On Facebook, I invited other baldies to comment on the firmness, regularity and length of their erections, but not one replied. I think we can safely say that there was no genuine virility to brag about.

So, if being bald is not a literal signifier of increased masculinity (i.e. tougher, stronger and harder in both body and c*ck), why has it obtained such an overwhelming association with notions of extreme masculinity?

A bald head looks like the tip of an erect penis without the external urethral meatus2, and one would be foolish to deny that there are few things more masculine than a b*ner. It makes sense for gay men to fetishise the shaven head, as the defining feature of a male homosexual is his eroticisation of the penis. For a fascistic thug, though, the deification of the c*ck makes less sense, unless one subscribes to the sneering viewpoint that every homophobe is a repressed homosexual scared of his own desires.

What we can consider, though, is the fact that male pattern baldness affects white men far more - and far earlier - than men of other races3. So are white power racists shaving their heads to draw attention to their race, specifically its physical flaws?

What else do gay men and skinhead thugs have in common? Both groups enjoy wearing leather. Both groups organise street parades where they loudly expound personal pride. The shaven head symbolises two things in this context: masculinity and whiteness - you cannot mistake ethnicity when there is so much skin on show.

Male pattern baldness is a white man's disease, and white men who identify as outside of the mainstream (be that through sexuality or extreme political beliefs) often want to draw extra attention to something that puts them at the heart of our patriarchal, white-led, society: their ethnicity and gender.

In fact, thinking about male pattern baldness in relation to race, gender and sexuality is making me wonder if I need to reassess the discrimination I've been whinging about...

Scott Manley Hadley blogs at This piece is part of a series, other pieces here.

1. However, I'm not insulted by being mistaken for this, as I've written about elsewhere.

2. Te anatomical name for peehole.

3. Data from