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It's Official—Bald Is Powerful (and Sexy)!

Vivia Chen

October 4, 2012

526px-BruceWillisLFDHpremiere07May I pat myself on the back (or should I say, "on the head")?

Just six months ago, I opined that baldness is a sign of chic. I wrote that "bald men exude a certain authority and mystique," noting that The Am Law 100 is chock full of big-name baldies (I mentioned Latham & Watkins's Robert Dell, Jones Day's Joe Sims, and Kirkland & Ellis's James Sprayregen).

For all you legal fashionistas, who insist that trends be supported by hard evidence, I can now prove my case. Reports Rachel Emma Silverman at the The Wall Street Journal:

Men with shaved heads are perceived to be more masculine, dominant, and in some cases, to have greater leadership potential than those with longer locks or with thinning hair, according to a recent study out of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

Albert Mannes, a lecturer at Wharton, researched the issue by showing students photos of men with and without hair (the hair was digitally removed). The result: Men with shaved heads were judged "more dominant than their hirsute counterparts." What's more, they "were even perceived as an inch taller and about 13 percent stronger than those with fuller manes."

Whoa—did you hear that? Being bald trumps having a full head of hair! Chop off your locks and you will look more powerful and add to your height. Talk about a quick makeover!

Now, you might ask, what's makes baldies so alluring? According to the study's author, baldness is associated with "hypermasculine images, such as the military, professional athletes, and Hollywood action heroes like Bruce Willis." It also tells "the rest of the world that you are a survivor," said Michael Cunningham, a professor at the University of Louisville, to the WSJ

On the other end of the spectrum, the study finds that "men with thinning hair were viewed as the least attractive and powerful of the bunch."

Which brings us back to the world of lawyers. I don't know if it's the long hours or the pressures of practice, but law firms always seem to be brimming with middle-aged (sometimes younger) men with thinning hair. Sadly, many seem to cling to their last remaining strands until the bitter end. And that looks just pathetic.

The smart career move for men (I don't think the study covers women) is to shave it all off—particularly if you have thinning hair. You have a choice: You can look virile or schlumpy; Bruce Willis or that tax lawyer down the hall who never sees the light of day.

Get my drift?

More on hair: Get Out of My Hair, Too Old for that Joni Mitchell Look?, Your Gray Hair.


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Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? Email The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at VChen@alm.com.



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Perceptions being what the study found, nonetheless I can't imagine that shaving one's head results in an improvement for everyone. It seems to me that tall guys look better with a shaved head, a fact which alone contains its own bias since tall guys are also perceived as more dominant and masculine in general. Did Charlotte's bald lawyer husband in Sex and the City come off as dominant and masculine? Uh, no.

See, men are judged on how they look, too.

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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