By Dr. Alan Feller– Feller and Bloxham Hair Transplantation-Philadelphia, PA
I have been performing hair transplantation for almost 25 years, but it was in my sixth year of practice (2000) when a comment by one of my oldest friends made me realize that people seeking hair transplants are not doing so out of vanity, but rather out of something much deeper and important: IDENTITY.
As a hair transplant patient myself I always thought I was just trying to stay “young looking”. Or at least not to look like I had changed too much as time marched on. I thought more hair made me more attractive to the eye. Certainly most of my patients echoed the same sentiment when they visited for consultation. I would routinely ask WHY they wanted a hair transplant and the answer was invariably the same: baldness makes them look older. Seemed logical to me, but I had to admit that this answer never seemed like enough to explain the incredible interest in hair transplantation as compared to other procedures to make a person look younger.
Then the answer came out of left field when my old friend asked about a hair transplant. I have known this particular person since I was 13 years old. We grew up together so I know him well and could say without reservation that he didn’t have a vane bone in his body. No insecurity whatsoever about his looks. So when he came up to me and said he wanted a hair transplant I almost gasped. Before I could ask the question he said ” I want a transplant but not for the reasons you think. It’s not because I have less hair in and of itself. I don’t care about that.” Totally confused I asked “then why ?” He responded “Because I looked in the mirror the other day and saw my father staring back at me. It wasn’t me and I want “me” back”.
That was the most profound reason for a hair transplant I had heard up to that point (I did have one patient top that, but that is for another article) and it made perfect sense. When I reflected on my own reasons for getting a hair transplant I realized I too did not do it for vanity, but rather identity. When I looked in the mirror the guy with the high forehead was NOT me. “Me” was slowly fading away. But after my transplant “me” was back !
So there it was: hair transplantation is about identity. It’s looking at your reflection and recognizing and accepting that it is “you”. Of course we all want to look younger and more attractive. These are powerful driving forces, but they don’t hold a candle to the NEED to know and see yourself as YOU see yourself and how you have always seen yourself.
When a man sees wrinkles or sagging eye lids or a bit of a turkey neck, that man still sees HIMSELF-just with some age induced alterations. But when a man sees his hairline disappear his entire look changes. And that change is relatively rapid. In the course of one year a mans look can totally change through hair loss. Don’t believe this ? Look at a photo of someone with and without a ski hat on. The difference to the eye is huge. Look at several men all wearing the same ski hat and it is very difficult to know who is who until they take the hats off.
In fact uniforms were designed specifically to remove individuality. When men lose their hair they begin to stop looking as they did and begin to look like other bald men. This loss of identity is disturbing to all men and even crippling for some.
When does senility and organic brain disorders become the most critical? When the victim no longer recognizes himself ! There is a very real parallel here to the feelings the balding man experiences when he begins to “lose himself”. And the compulsion to “re-find” one’s self becomes a point of necessity and NOT vanity.
So don’t think your desire for a hair transplant is some sort of symptom of selfish vanity, but rather a basic and self preserving desire to maintain, or reclaim, your identity.
As for myself, when I look in the mirror NOW I see the same guy I did in college. Just with more wrinkles and some saggy skin here and there. But before my hair transplant I saw a bald guy who had joined the “bald guy” army-and I very much wanted to go AWOL.
I did perform hair transplantation on my friend and it went great.
The photos in this article are of my actual childhood buddy who now has reclaimed himself through modern hair transplantation.