You’ve seen them, to be sure, in Europe and the Americas, but never in the proliferation that they turn up in Asia: follically-challenged men who opt to comb their hair over from the sides, the back, or any place else from which it might reach (and more or less cover) the top of the head. Judging by the lengths to which they go to perpetrate this trifling fraud, they clearly seem convinced (albeit erroneously) that: a) nobody realizes that they don’t have a full head of hair (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), and b) this look is somehow preferable to the cue ball dome with which nature endowed them. They are the object of particular derision in Japan, especially among the younger crowd, who refer to them as “barcode dudes”, in reference to the marked similarities between an obvious comb-over and the ubiquitous black and white product identification coding that has become such a fixture in modern-day life. The degree of comb-over is the subject of animated and amused discourse as well: if you notice a man who parts his hair, say, an inch lower than normal, he might be a 70/30 barcode dude, whereas somebody who combs his hair up from the collar line in back or from just above the ears might be the dreaded 90/10, each set of numbers referring to the percentage of comb-over needed to achieve the dubious coverage. I have actually seen 100/0 barcode dudes on a couple of occasions, with hair on the left side doing a cotton-candy swirl across the forehead, heading rearward over the right ear toward the collar, then spiraling ever northward to the crown. The overall effect is not unlike that of a soft ice cream cone. Most strange.
The hairs on top of my own head began their southward migration when I was in my late twenties or early thirties, relocating in neighborhoods hitherto unoccupied by their brethren: my ears, my nose, my back, my knuckles, and my bathtub drain. A handful of hardy souls took up residence on the tops of my feet, the Tierra del Fuego of the human body, well below the ever-expanding equator, perhaps protected by its shadow. A few have remained behind on their home turf, to all indications planning to hang on until the bitter end, but clearly they are in the minority, and the chances of the ‘hood gentrifying and repopulating are exceptionally slim, I would think. Still, I am certain the survivors would be up-in-arms, and rightly so, if a comb-over, a transplant or a toupee were to threaten their resilient lifestyle. A comb-over, after all, is something of a fair-weather friend, ready to bolt at the first gust of wind or splash of rain. And who needs that?