Many men become concerned about their on-camera appearance when they start to experience the symptoms of male pattern baldness. I wrote this article in response to questions I often receive from male clients about thinning hair, but I will also include a selection of hairstyling tips that I commonly dispense to my male clients.
Your styling choices start with clearly identifying who your target audience is, and making sure that you present an image that is congruent with their expectations.
As mentioned previously, when it comes to presenting on video every little detail counts. Yes, you do need to sweat the small stuff on video. Everything is magnified within the confines of the camera frame.
1st impressions are crucial. Within a couple of seconds, your viewers have judged your income, level of education, and even your level of success. Within 30 seconds (assuming you are interesting enough for them to be still watching) they’ve also judged your level of intelligence, honesty, competence, friendliness, and confidence. Once they have formed this 1st impression, you are stuck with it.
Superficial things like your physical appearance, how attractive you are perceived to be, your hair, teeth and skin tone are quickly evaluated.
Like it or not, we all make these snap judgments when we meet someone in the flesh for the first time. Imagine how this translates to how we appear to viewers when we present on camera? Not only that, your viewer can pause and playback the images frame by frame and really scrutinize you before deciding whether or not to trust you or buy from you.
The Emperor’s New Clothes
At the time of writing, a good portion of my client base is made up of male CEO’s and business leaders. Because they are in positions of power, they realize that they are unlikely to receive honest, objective feedback about their on-camera appearance from their staff, or the people they are paying to film them.
Let’s face it, when the person paying you asks, “Do I look OK?”, most employees (and outside filming contractors) will say something supportive, “Yes, you look great”. They won’t say what they honestly think.
Most people don’t have the expertise to know what to look for on-screen, let alone articulate the issue or troubleshoot the situation.
It’s like the wife who asks her husband, “Honey, do I look fat in this?” The husband knows there is only one right answer to this question.
My male clients often feel like the proverbial emperor not wearing any clothes. No one has the courage to tell them, “I’m sorry boss, you’re naked!” They come to me because they want my honest, objective feedback, and to offer them practical solutions on topics that may be sensitive in nature i.e. bodyweight, physical appearance, and hair loss.
A Decline in Confidence and Self-esteem
Research has shown that many men report a decline in confidence and self-esteem when they start to lose their hair. “Thick hair has always been associated with youth and masculinity,” says Albert Mannes, PhD, a University of Pennsylvania researcher who’s studied perceptions of balding. “Hair loss signals aging.”
Baldness is not an old man syndrome, however. Almost two-thirds of men will face some degree of hair loss by the age of 35, and you can blame your genetics for this. A sensitivity to dihydrotestosterone (or DHT a by-product of testosterone) promotes thinning hair, receding hairlines, and baldness.
What to do When you Start Losing your Hair
A good hairstyle choice can enhance your facial features, make you appear more attractive, and increase your authority and influence with your audience. Whereas a poor hairstyle choice can detract from your physical appearance, reduce your authority and influence, and detract from your overall message. You want your viewers to focus on your message content, not be wondering, “Who on earth cut that guy’s hair?”
If your hair is thinning, or starting to go bald, avoid trying to disguise the issue with long hair swept back over the bald spot, or worse, the dreaded “comb-over”. If you are not ready to shave your head completely, cutting your hair short is the key. Here are some options:
The Caesar Cut
Worn at times by the actor George Clooney, or singer George Michael. To minimize the appearance of a receding or thinning hairline, your hairstylist will cut your fringe forward from the crown. Your hair is styled towards your face (not away).
The Crew Cut
This is the “short back and sides” haircut, with some length left on top. It can give the illusion of having thicker, fuller hair on top.
The Buzz Cut
This is the cut they give you when you join the military, where you take an electric razor and closely crop your hair to a few millimeters in length all over. It’s actually the ideal style for men who are experiencing significant hair loss, short of shaving it all off. A good example of this style is worn by the action movie star, Jason Statham.
The Disheveled Look
Alternatively, a shaggy, textured, layered style might be an option for you. Examples of this hairstyle would be the actors Jude Law, Casey Affleck, or Hugh Grant. This is where your hairstylist will cut the top of your hair using uneven layers and blend the rest of your remaining hair into the cut. This style will give you a tousled, disheveled look and subtly minimize the appearance of thinning hair. However to make this style work well on video you will need to balance the disheveled hair with sharp grooming everywhere else. Always wear fitted or tailored clothing.
A disheveled haircut matched with a sloppy wardrobe will just make you look unkempt. Sharp tailored or fitted clothing helps to pull the look together.
Note: If your hair has thinned to the extent where you can see the scalp showing through, then longer length hairstyles won’t look good on video, especially if you are back-lit or are using a hair light. My recommendation with thinning hair is to use frontal lighting only, positioned slightly above or at eye level, no higher.
Pay Attention to Your “Other Hair” as well
If you sport a beard or mustache it needs to be well-manicured. No facial hair? Ensure a clean, close shave. I recommend that you avoid appearing on camera with a 5 o’clock shadow. It can play havoc with skin texture on video.
Make sure the sides and back of your neck are shaved so there are no wispy, woolly bits that show around your neckline under studio lighting. These little things are not always visible in person, but they can be really noticeable on-screen!
The same goes for nose and ear hair. No one wants to see “spider legs” dangling out from your nostrils or sprouting from your ears in a close-up shot.
If your eyebrows look like giant caterpillars, you may wish to give them a trim up too. Eyebrow bars and beauty salons are accustomed to providing eyebrow grooming services for male clients. If you’ve never tried it, give it a go. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes to your face. The eyebrows frame the eyes, so you want to make sure that your most expressive features look sharp.
If you have a lot of chest hair, unless you deliberately want to emphasize this feature, I suggest you trim it so that it does not pop out of the front of your shirt collar.
Make Gradual Transitions
If you have the advanced stages of male pattern baldness (a receding hairline with a monk’s cap bald spot on top) or thinning then I recommend a close-cropped buzz cut or to completely shave it all off.
Men with shaved heads are viewed as taller, more masculine, more dominant, and people estimated that they could bench-press about 13 percent more weight.
If you are obviously losing your hair, here’s an incentive for you to go full shaven. Research by Albert Mannes, PhD from the University of Pennsylvania found that men with shaved heads are viewed as taller, more masculine, more dominant, and people estimated that they could bench-press about 13 percent more weight.
Mannes also found that men with shaved heads were deemed more attractive than those who sported obviously thinning hair.
If shaving your head and going completely bald is something you aren’t quite ready for yet, use an electric shaver and try a close crop “buzz cut” that leaves a few millimeters of hair all over. Try that style for a while. From there, it is an easy transition if you later decide to shave it all off and go completely bald.
This gradual transition will also be less noticeable to others if that is a concern for you. If you are looking for some bald role models, think of actors like Vin Diesel, Patrick Stewart, Billy Zane, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Samuel L Jackson, and Bruce Willis.
Think Like a Leading Man (because you are)
As you can see, a lot of leading men known for their action hero movies are opting for short crew cuts, buzz cuts, or going for the full head shave. They make their living based on their appearance. They don’t try to hide their hair loss. They are typically in great physical shape. They look healthy, with good skin and teeth.
They are well dressed and well-groomed. They do this for vanity reasons for sure, but also for keeping themselves gainfully employed and marketable as an actor. Think of yourself in the same way. You are the leading man!
What NOT to do When you Start Losing your Hair
The comb-over is an elaborate style that uses long strands of hair strategically combed, glued or sprayed into place to cover a bald spot on the top of the head. An extreme example of this was the hairstyle of the character played by Christian Bale in the 2013 film American Hustle. Property billionaire Donald Trump is another example. Trump’s comb-over hairdo is the subject of much ridicule, although he seems to thrive on attention, no matter how he gets it.
If your hair is thinning, I strongly urge you to avoid using the comb-over. It doesn’t look good in real life and looks even worse on video. Guys, I’ll let you in on a secret. Most women cringe at the sight of a comb-over and will often “rate the man as being less attractive, insecure and looking older than they actually are.” – (Albert Mannes PhD )
The baseball cap
Some men who start thinning on top will resort to wearing a hat or baseball cap. There is nothing wrong with wearing a hat, but wearing one on camera usually looks odd.
Baseball caps are designed to shade our eyes from the sun. Wearing a baseball cap on camera can obscure or shadow your eyes, reducing your ability to make warm, friendly eye contact with your viewers. It’s like wearing sunglasses inside. What are you trying to hide? Shading your eyes makes it harder for your viewers to trust you, and detracts from your ability to influence your viewers.
As a rule, I advise my clients to avoid wearing a cap or hat on video. Exceptions to this rule would be if they were shooting outdoors in bright sunlight, or if they were a race car driver promoting a sponsor’s logo in post-race interviews, or if the headgear is part of their personal brand like a skateboard manufacturer, and it is something their audience normally associates with them. In this instance, to overcome facial shadows, either tilt the brim up or make sure frontal lighting is strong enough so that the audience can still see your eyes clearly.
However, if none of these scenarios apply to you, it will quickly become obvious to your viewers that you are just insecure about your thinning hair and are covering it up by using your hat as a “prop”.
No! Just don’t. Do not use any type of colored spray or hair dye to cover up or disguise your thinning hair (see avoid image). These products are often advertised in late-night infomercials and are a big no-no for on-camera work. This stuff looks terrible on camera under studio lights.
If you do want to use color and you are thinning on top, having your hair professionally highlighted can create the illusion of thicker, fuller hair, but it’s a delicate balancing act and requires a hair colorist skilled in this area.
Hairstyle Tips for Face Shapes
The best way to identify your face shape with a minimal amount of fuss is to look directly into your bathroom mirror and with a whiteboard marker draw around the outline of your face in the reflection.
If you are not experiencing the hair loss symptoms of male pattern baldness, here are some recommendations for the types of hairstyles that will best compliment your face shape:
Oval face shape: People with oval faces are fortunate that their facial symmetry allows them to pull off pretty much any type of hairstyle
Square face shape: This is where your forehead, cheekbones, and jaw are similar in width. It’s a look characterized in cartoon superheroes or seen in hyper-masculine men like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Most hairstyles will suit this face shape. However be cautious with a flat top, unless you want to make your square facial structure appear more extreme.
Round face shape: When it comes to faces, the camera loves sharp angles and chiseled facial features i.e. Johnny Depp. If you have a round face, your best bet is to choose a hairstyle that has lift or height at the crown to help elongate your face. Avoid any styles that sit close to the scalp (e.g, the Caesar cut) as this will only enhance the roundness of your face
Pear-shaped face: This is where the forehead and hairline are narrow but the jawline is broad. Choose hairstyles that are round in shape, where the top and the sides of the hair appear equal in thickness to help balance out your facial proportions
Triangular shaped face: This is where you have a wide forehead tapering down to a narrow chin. Choose shorter, narrower haircuts. This will prevent the width of the head from becoming a focal point
Long, rectangular-shaped face: Avoid hairstyles that add height to the top of the head or long hairstyles that part in the center as this will make your face appear longer. Instead, a swept over fringe that cuts the forehead in half may help to shorten the face and offer better proportions on camera.
Filming tips for Bald Guys
Don’t use a plain background that is similar to your skin tone if you are bald or thinning noticeably on top.
For example, if you were a bald guy with a pale complexion, avoid filming against a white background. When you have no hair to provide a border around your head, the lack of contrast can make it appear as though you are blending into the wall. Even worse, if your hair is thinning, the wispy bits of thin hair can become visibly distracting.
Choose a background that offers a subtle pattern or texture
Make sure the background won’t interfere with your camera’s focus and is not overly distracting. A textured background will create a little edge around the outline of your head and offer more dimension (depth) than a plain background. The texture will subtly distract the eye as well as add visual interest.
Remember, when people see you in the flesh, the outline of your head will be contrasted with the background environment, and minor details like tufts of hair won’t be as obvious as they are on-screen. On the video screen, your viewers only see what’s positioned inside the frame. They will be observing you in closer detail than if they were meeting you in the flesh. That’s why it is important that you do sweat the small stuff with your on-camera appearance.
These are just some examples of the tips and techniques that I share in my forthcoming book “How to Present on Video“. If you like what you have read, then jump on my early notification book launch list here.
Need a quick troubleshoot? Book a 30-minute consult with me.
Established in 2006 Bianca Te Rito, founder of STEBIAN.com provides an exclusive, consulting service helping business thought leaders, speakers, award-winning authors & VIPs productize their thought leadership and present themselves, their products, services, or brand message to their target audience in the most effective way possible on video. Get the tailored expertise from a real-world operator with over 20 years of TV/Film industry experience working in front of and behind the camera. Learn more about our custom offers here.