I maybe wrong, but I doubt that I am alone in recalling an awkward incident in my school days where my underwear became “soiled” and alternative accommodation of my undercarriage needed to be sought. As was traditional (at my school, at least), such situations required a visit to the school secretary who would rummage around in the lost property bin. As if the humiliation of not timing my trip to the toilet correctly wasn’t enough, my replacement underwear was a pair of Y-fronts. It could be worse I hear you say. The only way these undies could have been worse was if they bore the (skid) mark of their rightful owner, but alas, I couldn’t tell you if they did, as these pants came in the worst colour scheme possible: brown with cream piping.
This reminds me of another incident involving lost clothes. When I was (briefly (no pun intended)) a member of the Cubs, it was mandatory to wear full uniform to every meeting. I once forgot to wear my garters, but our pack leader; Akela didn’t see as he was shrouded in an almost permanent haze of cigarette smoke. Oh those were the days. Another member of our pack (who, in the interests of anonymity will remain nameless) once forgot his cap. He too, had to go through the lost property to find a replacement. Much to my Dad and his friend’s amusement, the only one to be found, was approximately 14 sizes too small, and apparently looked more like a pimple perched on his noddle, than any form of conventional head wear. His embarrassment wouldn’t have lasted long, as once we’d completed the Cub’s honour, dib, dib, dibbed and dob, dob dobbed, we could practice knot tying and evading the leader’s “busy” hands, which were such an essential part of an 80’s childhood, without wearing hat, scarf or woggle.
I was recently reminded of Shaun, when I recently went hat shopping. A younger version of me would no doubt snigger, if not guffaw, if they were to hear me say those words, but here’s the problem. Recently, I have noticed a decreasing amount of hair on the top of my head. It isn’t that my hair has disappeared, it’s started growing in different places, like my ears, or my nose, or my back.
When faced with this sort of situation, men (and a very few, but very unfortunate number of women), have six choices.
- Hope that no one notices.
- Style your hair to make it appear that you have more hair than you actually do.
- Get a wig.
- Seek medical help.
- Shave it all off.
- Pray for more hair.
I have laughed with considerable glee at men sporting the second most cursed of all hairstyles; the combover*,and I have yet to see a toupee which looks even close to natural. For a great many years I have subscribed to the same view as the often over looked roman poet Marcus Valerius Martial “There is nothing more contemptible than a bald man who pretends to have hair.”
This is all well and good when you have a luxuriant mane, but I am without question, receding. This may, in fact be a tremendous understatement, as I can’t see the top of my head, but given that my barber has said to me that my visits to him are becoming something of an embarrassment to us both, I suspect this is the case. I therefore, decided to shave my hair off and I have to say, this has been quite a liberating experience. Despite having to regularly reassure people that I haven’t joined a white supremacists group, I actually quite enjoy the cool caress of a summer breeze on my naked noggin. This is all well and good, but we live in New Zealand, where we are pretty much free of the protective ozone, which almost all other countries in the world enjoy. This poses a bit of a problem as, in the short term I don’t want to look especially like a blistered beetroot, and in the long term, have no desire to have a melanoma.
And so I’ve been looking for a hat. For most people this is a simple task, but my head is, it would seem quite considerably larger than most. Not only that but in recent years I have realised that baseball caps just aren’t me.
A reasonable place to begin my quest was the local mall, yet despite a plethora of shops I was unable to find any head wear which fitted me, much less any which I liked. So I expanded my search slightly further afield. Still nothing.
Eventually, after several fruitless hours, and wasted trips, I visited an outlet mall, where, to my great surprise and relief, there was a specialist hat shop. I sauntered in and asked whether they had anything for people with big heads. The lady looked at me and said that she could see how that would be a problem, but yes she had one which would probably fit. She disappeared into the store room for a few minutes, during which time I attempted to squeeze my head into a variety of hats, utilising a shoe horn which someone had helpfully discarded. When she returned she was wearing a rather smug smile, and was holding a red felt trilby. I could be wrong, but judging by the amount of dust she had failed to brush off, I imagine that this particular specimen, had been out the back for at quite some time. If the dust wasn’t a big enough give away, piece of old newspaper fell out of it as the lady brought it to me, announcing the new president of the USA: George Bush (note the missing “W”).
Whilst this would not have been my first choice (in fact it probably wouldn’t have featured in my top 100), “beggars can’t be choosers”, I said to myself, and put on the most grateful expression I could muster in the face of such overwhelming revulsion.
I gamely placed the hat on my head, and attempted to pull it down, but it stubbornly refused to budge. It clearly didn’t fit but the assistant, either desperate to shift her stock or to please the customer, happily told me that it was like it was made for me and really matched my eyes (remember this is a red hat, I wasn’t hung over, nor had I recently been to an overly chlorinated pool, and I had been taking my hay fever medication). Whilst I am usually something of a pushover for sales assistants, on this occasion I politely declined, and my quest began anew.
For the next few months, I became a regular visitor to the local shop’s hat stands with a few of the assistants getting to know my face (and predicament). Some of them would offer me a mournful look and a shake of the head, signalling that there was no new giant head wear in stock. On one particularly desperate occasion, I almost bought a baseball cap but realising that I didn’t want to be an even bigger embarrassment to my kids, common sense eventually prevailed.
Ultimately, I found one; a real Dad’s hat. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of men of a certain age wearing one. As I understand it, those in the know call it a “bucket hat”. What is particularly brilliant about this one is that it has a sort of floral print on it, designed, I’m sure, so that the wearer happily thinks that he’s still pretty rad, but every other adult in the vicinity looks at them with pity (or suspicion). My kids love it; they think it’s really cool, but then I suspect they’d think that brown Y-fronts with cream piping look amazing. Especially if Daddy is wearing them, and to be honest, I couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks. These three little people are really the only ones I have to impress (although, if Mrs L. approves too that’s an added bonus).
To be honest though, a lot of this agonising could have been avoided. In shaving my hair off, I feel I may have acted a little rashly. Given the thickness of my eyebrows, I’m sure I could, with a little time and enough styling products, have trained them into some sort of comb back to cover those missing bits of foliage.
*Without doubt the most revolting way to wear your hair is in a mullet, a fashion crime which is seen with horrifying regularity in my adopted home: West Auckland. Most heinous of all is a variant of the mullet, the rat’s tail, and anyone who is caught with one should be required to attend “re-education program”, with re-offenders joining a chain gang!