For some men, it comes as early as 16. By age 50, roughly half of guys have done battle with it. Either way, it arrives slowly and invisibly at first — six or seven hairs on their pillow, five or six hairs caught against their towel. When they attempt to gather clues as to whether or not it’s real, WebMD will briefly dissuade them of their paranoia with handy facts like, “The average person loses between 50 and 100 hairs per day.”
But deep down they know something is different. That their hair just doesn’t feel the way it used to, which is when the Norwood Reaper finally rears its faceless head. “You can never escape the Norwood Reaper,” a redditor recently wrote on the balding subreddit r/tressless, including a photo of a freeway sign that reads “Norwood Ave.” Others note that not even monstrous fictional characters like Chucky or the orcs from Lord of the Rings are safe from the Norwood Reaper’s wrath.
For the uninitiated, the Norwood Reaper gets its name from the Hamilton-Norwood scale that’s used to classify the seven stages of male-pattern baldness — from a slight recession around the temples, all the way to an entirely smooth and hairless cranium with a bit of fluff on the sides à la Larry David. (As for who first coined the term, redditor Current-Bank-3532 points to Derek from the popular podcast and YouTube channel More Plates More Dates, for at least popularizing it, which makes sense since part of Derek’s shtick is talking about men who are losing their hair.)
First introduced by James Hamilton in the 1950s and later revised and updated by O’Tar Norwood in the 1970s, the Norwood scale is regularly used to assess how concerned a guy who’s losing his hair should be. But since it’s mostly an eye test, it’s considered fairly unreliable. Nonetheless, it’s given men online, who are desperate to find ways to battle it out with this demon with an unquenchable thirst for hair follicles, a common enemy to put up an impassioned defense against. “The Norwood Reaper can suck my dick,” thebaldingteen posted on r/tressless last year with a photo of his receding hairline and an explanation of his current hair loss treatment regimen.
“Daily reminder to start popping fin [finasteride] early and not let the Norwood Reaper collect his dues,” ViscountOfLemongrab offered in a different thread. To that end, there are some tried-and-true ways to keep the Norwood Reaper at bay. They typically include what’s known as the big three — Finasteride, Minoxidil and microneedling — along with a handful of other slightly less proven hair-loss antidotes.
Some on r/tressless seem to believe that the Norwood Reaper also feeds on karmic energy. If, for example, you dare to mock someone who’s bald or balding, you could very well tip off the reaper to come after you next. “Just like Justin Bieber mocked the English prince for going bald & then started aggressively balding years later, Jake Paul just thought that it was a good idea to piss off one of the scariest and most dangerous entities in the history of mankind, General Norwood Reaper himself,” writes IisNobody209.
Others like WilliamH123456 have even gone as far as turning the Norwood Reaper into a sort of deity with an altar of medications and treatments they can pray to in order to curry favor with it.
Whatever their relationship to this brutal part of the aging process may be, the guys who are losing their hair have at least have found kinship with each other. And so, while Father Time is undefeated, the anti-Norwood Reaper army is growing stronger by the day, with only their heads of hair thinning out.