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Joel & Paul: Bald and Friends

Losing his hair in his late teens was a tough blow, but Paul Inman has overcome it to live a successful life.  Newly married and happy with where life had found him, Paul Inman decided to launch a blog that would support and celebrate bald men and baldness.

The Bald Gent was born and has since gone on to attract thousands of readers globally with a mix of lifestyle and relationship content, supportive articles for men experiencing balding and much more.

Paul's long-term friend Joel also began supporting the growth of The Bald Gent brand through the launch of a new video series - Razors' Edge - in 2020.

Here they discuss their experiences of balding and being bald.

Can you describe who you are, where you are from, and a bit about your background and your early years?

Joel: We were both born and raised in Northern England near to a city called Leeds.

I started my career as a journalist, before moving into PR and social media consultancy, and finally settling in digital marketing.

Paul and I met through our girlfriends (subsequently wives) Elly and Kelly. They were colleagues and friends working in a hospital and we went on a first double date around 14 years ago. 

We’ve been friends ever since and went to each others’ weddings, plus supported each other through good and bad times alike.

Paul: Born and raised in Northern England the same as Joel.

My career has been pretty varied, from working as a photographer, a graphic designer to running a large media agency, and finally moving into the OOH advertising sector (out of home). I am currently running the UK’s largest independent roadside billboard advertising company.

When did you first realize you were losing your hair?

Joel:  For me it was when I was around 17, not long after completing my first lot of important exams. Which is really young when I think about it.

Paul: Around the age of 16/17, I began to notice a rapid loss of hair not long after turning 18 and it wasn’t long before the hair loss was noticeable to everyone!

What was your first reaction when you found out?  What did you do? 

Joel: I had reasonably long hair and I just got the sense my hairline was changing. There was also more hair coming out when I washed and brushed my hair.

I think my initial reaction, as you’d expect at that age, is that my hair became a bit of an obsession. It was a very gradual process so I just pretended it wasn’t happening for some time.

Paul: I panicked and really went to a bad place in terms of my confidence/self worth. I tried to cover up my hair loss by trying different styles that I ‘thought’ would hide the thinning hair, none of which worked!I then spiraled further by ‘not’ accepting it was happening to me as I was too young, this only fueled my paranoia that everyone was laughing at me — especially hard still being at school!

All in all, I took it quite badly looking back, there was also not much support around back in those days.

What are some coping mechanisms, mental health tips, or tricks that you are currently practicing during this journey?

Joel: I shave my head and haven’t thought about having hair in any meaningful way for a few years. Reaching this point has been much easier than the journey here though.

Along the way, it made me depressed, anxious and a bit neurotic at times. It’s a very strange thing to obsess over, as you think it’s massively important but most of the people who are closest to you don’t.

I think finding other things to focus on that give you a sense of self-worth are really important; be that starting a family, focusing on your career or getting fit.  Taking control of other aspects of your life will make you feel much better about a process you have no control of, which sadly is balding.

Paul: I think my answers on this question are pretty similar to Joel’s. For me, as a young guy, to try and get out of the rut I was in and the lack of confidence, I focused on my education and then subsequent career — this helped take my mind off the hair loss even though it was always there. I surrounded myself with good friends and stayed away from those who looked to ridicule or embarrass me. Over time and through building the confidence to buzz cut then shave my head, my confidence grew, it gave me a new sense of style which I embraced. 

One of the best coping mechanisms was to talk to people I trusted, I’d tell them how I was feeling and what people had said. If people love you, they will support you and help build your confidence back — just knowing I had someone to talk to really helped me.

Was there a breakthrough moment for you, when you decided to embrace the bald lifestyle?

Joel: I think seeing a lot more empowerment around the community and taking myself seriously, not just being the butt of every bald joke is a relatively recent thing for me. Coming to terms with being bald happened a number of years ago. 

I accepted being balding at the end of my twenties and cut my hair really short. At that point, there wasn’t a lot further to go for me. 

I do think there is a difference between accepting something and celebrating your difference though. Being proud to be bald is a recent experience for me.

Paul: The choice to embrace or not embrace the bald lifestyle was taken away from me. Unlike Joel my hair loss was pretty rapid, late teens to early twenties. I think by the time I was 22, I had pretty much shaved my head! I did this to really get away from the building anxiety I was facing by not admitting there was nothing I could do. 

The big deciding factor for me was getting rid of the fake hair I stupidly paid to be added to my own hair — this was a massive mistake looking back but it was born out of desperation (full story on the TBG Blog).  The day I had this cut off and buzz cut my remaining hair was a huge moment in my journey to embracing the bald lifestyle!

Right now I couldn’t be happier and any more confident than I am!

Was there anyone in your journey that is helping you cope with hair loss or help you come to acceptance?

Joel: Paul was a big help to me. I’ve always known Paul as a bald man and he could obviously see I was balding too. He’s always been very open about it and supportive.

My dad is also bald and was balding as I grew up. But it was never something we talked about in the house, other than to make jokes about it.

Paul: My family. I am lucky to have a loving and supportive family. They looked after me when I was down, helping me on my journey until ultimately one of my sisters confronted me about my choice of ‘fake’ hair or embracing the bald look — she organised a hairdresser friend to come to our house and help rid the shameful excuse for a ‘cure’ to my hairloss and remove the fake hair. 

It was one of those life changing moments I will never forget — it made me who I am today.

Looking at your bald journey, what does empowerment and living authentically mean to you currently?

Joel: Helping other people who are going through the painful experience of balding in their twenties. No one is completely cool with it, it is crushing. But life without hair is not that bad at all. 

I often say the experience of being bald is 100% better than balding. I want to share that message with others.

Paul created https://thebaldgent.com/ a few years back with the aim of bringing together the bald community and celebrating the lifestyle of being bald.  The community he has created around the site continues to grow and we’ve launched the Razor’s Edge YouTube channel to connect with a new audience. We want to become a real focal point for the bald and balding community. We discuss everything from mental health to style, and from fitness to relationships. 

Paul: I have to really back up what Joel is saying here, “the experience of being bald is 100% better than balding”. This is one of the biggest reasons I set up The Bald Gent, to show men of all ages, all over the world, that life is better when you’re bald.

As Joel says we have now created more than just TBG to help others going through the emotional rollercoaster we did to show there is a better life if you are willing to embrace it.

Is there anything you would like to share with the MANTL audience about you, your journey, and any advice?

Joel: Don’t focus on the wrong things. Only obsess over the things that are in your control and in doing so you’ll likely be successful.

I’d like to tell a 25-year-old me to shave his head and forget about trying to preserve his hairline. There is no point and he will look much better without his remaining follicles.

It’s not taboo to be bald or talk about balding. Talking about it doesn’t make it ‘realer’ or more likely to happen — it will just mean you can share your concerns, feel better and get on with your life.

As a result I would advise my younger self, and anyone who is balding, to talk to others about it without any shame.

Paul: Again, I need to back Joel up here — talk to people you trust, don’t hold it all in, you are not alone in this. Remember this happens to 66% of men over 35, it just happens to some of us quicker than others! 

Do not let hair loss consume you. 

The quicker you embrace the look, you will embrace yourself and love yourself again. Your confidence will grow with each day, opportunities will open up, you will start to do the things you have been putting off for years because you've become paranoid about hair loss: swimming, dating, looking in the mirror or having your photograph taken, speaking in public, being the first to make a joke or be heard — everything everyone else does. 

Being bald doesn't inhibit you in any way, in fact I am the person/man I am today because of what I have been through — my determination to be better and never to be held back by something as insignificant as hair.

You are who you are so let the world see the real you - never hide!

How can people follow you or connect with you, if you are open to that?  

Support The Bald Gent blog and our Razor’s Edge YouTube channel by watching our episodes, commenting and subscribing. We want to create a great community and everyone is welcome to be a part of that.