Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/hair_today_gone_tomorrow_homer.jpg
His hair went the way of the doh-doh.

"NNNNNNYYYYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! M-M-My HAAAAAAAAAAIIIIRRR!! IT-IT-IT'S FLYYYYYIIIIIIIING OOOOOFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF!! MY BEAUUUUUUUTIFUL HAIR!! NOOOOOOO!!! NOOOOOOOOOO! WAAAAAHAAAAWAAAAHAAAA NO-NO-NO-NO-No-No-no-no noooooooooooooooooooooo..."

In many shows, when a bald character is shown in a Flashback, they're shown as having more hair in the past than they do in the present. Quite a lot more, in fact. This guy had such flowing locks that you would have to think he was punished by the hair gods for whatever reason.

The trope thus serves a greater purpose than simply showing that the scene is set in the past. It shows how a person has changed — either he's undergone an Important Haircut to pick up a Bald of Awesome, or he's fallen from the heights of his youth to become a total loser. Maybe his old hairstyle reveals him to have been quite different when he was younger. Or maybe he just had a particularly embarrassing or dated hairstyle in the past, showing his tendency to fall victim to fad fashions. This last variant allows the trope to be used for characters who aren't even bald in the "present".

Out-of-universe, it's also a lot easier and more convincing for a bald actor to wear a long-haired wig than to make a realistic-looking shorter haircut. It also makes it clearer that this is a younger version of the character played by the same actor, avoiding the hassle and expense of finding a Time-Shifted Actor. But the strength of the trope allows it to be used even in animation.

This trope can look forward, too — a character with hair in the present might be shown to be bald in the future, either because he's really old or to hammer home the idea that he's a Future Loser.

Opposite of Rapid Hair Growth. Compare Never Trust a Hair Tonic, for when bald characters try (and fail) to recapture their once-glorious hair. Contrast Prematurely Bald, which is a common subversion of this trope — you'd expect the character to have had hair when he was younger, but he didn't.

Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Ranma ˝, Genma Saotome is shown as having had prodigious and unruly locks when he was younger — and he's not happy about being completely bald now. He's gone to crazy lengths to get his hair back, including a scheme where his son would go bald in his place. The silliest was a Shout-Out to Dragonball Z, where he uses a hair tonic that gives him immense, nearly vertical Anime Hair that stands up in spikes — but only when he's angry, and it falls off if he so much as cracks a smile.
  • From Dragonball Z, a series otherwise famous for its prodigious Anime Hair:
    • The series establishes that a full-blooded Saiyan has a distinct hairstyle from the day he is born that never changes throughout his life. But this would contradict a flashback in which the normally bald Nappa is shown to have had hair when Vegeta was a child. Fans explained this by stating that while it's possible to shave a Saiyan, his hair would quickly grow back to its original shape (dovetailing nicely with a scene in the original Dragonball where Mercenary Tao cuts off some of Goku's hair, only for it to quickly grow back to normal) — Nappa presumably is so dedicated to his Bald of Awesome that he shaves his head very regularly.
    • Master Roshi is shown to have had a full head of hair when he was a teenager — using himself as a contrast to Krillin, who regularly shaves his head because that's what all great fighters do.
    • Mr. Satan/Hercule goes the opposite direction, with his hair having fallen out between his prime in Dragonball Z and scenes twenty years later in Dragonball GT.
  • In Arcana Famiglia, Dante has hair in Liberta's flashbacks. He seems to grow it back in the sequel.
  • One-Punch Man's protagonist Saitama is totally bald but shown in flashback to have a full head of spiky hair. His explanation for his baldness is that his training regimen, which turned him into an Invincible Hero, also caused him to lose all his hair.

    Comic Books 
  • Mortadelo from the Spanish comic Mortadelo y Filemón had exceptionally great and long locks before losing all of it thank of a failed experiment by the comic's resident Mad Scientist, Profesor Bacterio.
  • Yorick fears he is going bald toward the end of Y: The Last Man and considers shaving his head if this happens. In a flashback in the Distant Finale, we see that's exactly what he's done, but his elderly self still has a good shock of white hair.
  • One issue of Twisted Toyfare Theatre takes place mostly in The '70s, and everybody has a Funny Afro. The Punisher, Daredevil, Man-Thing, everybody. The biggest, most funktastic afro of all belonged to the otherwise famously bald Chuck Xavier, the best dancer in town.
  • The National Lampoon did a fotonovela story "Too Old for Menudo", where a member of the boy band says his mandatory goodbyes on his 15th birthday. The next morning he finds he's turned middle-aged and bald, and can't land a singing job anywhere.
  • Judge Dredd: Judge Shenker, the head of Psi-Division, started out with hair, but he later lost all of it.

    Film 
  • Back to the Future is about Time Travel, but it plays around with the trope despite having ample opportunity to use it:
    • When Doc in 1955 sees a video of his 1985 self, his first reaction is "Thank God I've still got my hair!" Granted, 1985 Doc's hair had turned white, stringy, and even more unkempt, but it was still there.
    • Strickland, the bald school disciplinarian, would be a prime candidate for this trope — except he's almost just as bald in 1955 as he is in 1985. Marty is clearly expecting this trope to be in play:
    That's Strickland! Jesus, didn't that guy ever have hair?
  • In G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, the Doctor is shown to have short hair in flashbacks. He is bald in the present, but tries to hide it with a wig.
  • Lou in Hot Tub Time Machine is as bald as the actor who plays him, Rob Corddry. But in the past, he's got a full head of hair. He first notices this in the mirror — while taking a leak, not caring about his degraded aim while he admires his former glory.
  • The Friday the 13th series has an unintentional and amusingly extreme example: In Friday the 13th Part 2, Jason has an impressive mane of hair, but in Part III, he's completely bald — even though it takes place only a day after Part 2.
  • In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Charles Xavier, normally the owner of a Bald of Awesome, is shown as having long hair in 1973. X-Men: Apocalypse, the next film, shows the unusual circumstances in which he lost that hair.
  • A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints:
    • Monti has a full head of hair in the 1980s portions, but is balding in the 2006 ones.
    • Laurie's teenage self had Rapunzel Hair, but in the present day it's just above her shoulders.
    • Inverted with Nerf and Antonio, who had short hair as teenagers but grew it out as adults.
  • Jenko in 21 Jump Street isn't bald but has a very short haircut. A flashback to his teen years shows him with much longer hair.
  • Carolyn in American Beauty is codified with Power Hair to project her image as a successful businesswoman. Flashbacks to her youth, where Lester describes her as happier, show her hair long.
  • Inverted in The Age of Adaline: The eponymous character has long hair in the present, but short hair in the past, reflecting a period when short hair was the height of fashion.
  • In Spice World, the girls' friend Nicola has short hair in the present. In a flashback to when the girls were a struggling group, she's shown with long hair down to her waist.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy first shows Meredith as bald from chemotherapy as she's dying of cancer. The second film shows her from before she got sick, when she has long blonde hair.
  • In The Shape of Water, one of Giles' great regrets is that he no longer has the hair he had in in his youth. He resorts to wearing a toupee when he wants to impress people, such as the diner owner. He is overjoyed when the Asset uses his Healing Touch to cause his hair to regrow.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Saved by the Bell, Balding Mr. Belding is shown to have a hippie-esque head of hair in a Flash Back to his student radio days.
  • On Seinfeld:
    • George Costanza, the series' resident expert on baldness, is shown in flashback to have had much more hair when he was younger. But he was no less of a loser in the past than he is in the present.
    • Elaine dates a man who shaves his head, but discovers an old ID of his showing him with long, flowing locks. She's totally enamored with that hair, so she asks him to grow it back — only for him to discover that it's not growing back evenly, and he's "going bald" (even though he's already bald). In keeping with this trope, he sinks into a depression at becoming a loser; he even goes to George for advice on what to do, and they both treat it as if going bald is a fatal diagnosis.
  • Subverted in the Lost episode "Deus Ex Machina", which shows a flashback of Locke that appears to show him with hair, only for it to turn out to be a very Dodgy Toupee.
  • On Scrubs:
    • Turk shaves his head in the present, but is shown with hair in flashbacks. It has degraded, though, as it grows back in awkward patches when he tries to grow it back. One silly flashback, though, shows that he lost his hair by tearing it out in frustration after JD's scatter-brain costs him a chance to see Michael Jordan play live.
    • Resident Butt-Monkey Ted is shown as balding, but is occasionally shown in flashback with more hair, showing a time before it all fell apart for him.
    • Short-haired Dr. Cox is shown in a flashback (or rather, one of JD's Imagine Spots) as having a blond Mohawk in The '80s, and an attitude to match:
    Shut up jackass, I rock!
  • Lampshaded in Psych, as Corbin Bernsen plays Shawn's father in the series and wears a wig in nearly all the flashbacks (at least those set when Shawn was a preteen).
    Shawn: Slap a wig on you, you're a dead ringer for when I was a kid.
  • A 30 Rock episode had Pete explain that he almost got into the Olympics in 1980, but that year the Olympics were in Moscow and the U.S. boycotted them. The accompanying flashback shows Pete, who is bald in The Present Day, having a full head of hair (and an impressive moustache) back in 1980.
  • One Lucy Desi Comedy Hour was about how Lucy and Ricky met. Young Fred has a full head of hair that he is very proud of, causing Ethel to comment that one day he's going to lose it all.
  • Almost everyone in My Name Is Earl, when shown in flashback to 25 years in the past, will have more or different hair. The most subtle example is Joy, who is shown wearing her hair down in scenes before she had kids but nearly always wears hair bands in the present day.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, several flashbacks and one comment by Starfleet Academy's groundkeeper reveal that Picard once had hair. Curiously, there is also a photograph of a bald Cadet Picard in Star Trek: Nemesis.
  • The Big Bang Theory had a flashback to the time when Leonard and Sheldon first became roommates in 2002. Leonard had long, wavy locks, Raj had a mullet, and Howard had a Jewish Afro. A brief cut to Penny at the same time had her with borderline '80s Hair. Sheldon was the only one who remained almost the same.
  • Home Improvement used a version of this trope in its flashback to the pilot episode of Tool Time: Tim, usually clean-shaven, is shown with a beard, while Al, who usually has a beard, is clean-shaven.
  • On Friends, this happens with a lot of the flashbacks throughout the series. In "The One with the Prom Video", for example, Rachel and Monica both have '80s Hair, and Ross has what appears to be a perm and a mustache. In "The One With The Thanksgiving Flashbacks", Ross and Chandler are shown to have A Flock of Seagulls haircuts. In another episode which flashed back to 1992, Chandler is shown with a beard.
  • One game of "Weird Newscasters" on Whose Line Is It Anyway? had Ryan acting out the entire life of Colin, and made sure to have him losing his hair in one part.
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • Flashbacks to Wilson Fisk's childhood show him with a full head of hair.
    • Inverted with Matt, who is pointedly shown without his Perma-Stubble in flashbacks to when he and Elektra were in college.
  • In the Mr. Show sketch, the host of the "Pre-Taped Call-In Radio Show"note  is shown to have had a full head of hair when the show first went on the air. By a month into the show, his exasperation with oblivious callers who are unaware of the pre-taped nature of the show has caused him to lose most of his hair.
  • In Breaking Bad, Walter White shaved his head and adapted his iconic bald look a few episodes into season 1. Thus, the trope is in effect for flashbacks of Walt working at Gray Matter in season 2, or Walt house-shopping with Skyler in season 3.
  • In The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Carey has a pixie haircut. In a home video of when the twins were babies, she's shown with long hair.
  • Charmed's Penny was depicted with short hair in the 90s up until she died. Flashbacks to her younger self in the 60s — when she was a hippie — show that her hair was quite long. And in another flashback to after Patty's death when Piper was still a child, she's shown to have long hair again (when it was short in "That 70s Episode", which chronologically takes place before the latter flashback).
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • Ted has relatively short Spiky Hair in the present. In his flashbacks to being a teenager and college student, he has a curly afro.
    • Inverted with Lily, who had short hair in college, but has consistently had long hair in the present.
  • MacGyver (1985): In "Hell Week" a picture is shown of Mac as a physics grad student. He still had the mullet, but also had a nifty Porn Stache.
  • Reba has the title character having short hair in the early seasons, but most flashbacks showed her with lots of '80s Hair similar to the real life Reba McEntire.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Dilbert is known to play with its characters in this way. In one strip, showing the office in 1985, 1990, and 1995, Wally is shown progressively going from a full head of hair to bald (and he's shown to have had a Funny Afro in The '70s). The Pointy-Haired Boss' hairstyle also changes when he's shown in the past, as a Mythology Gag to his previous character designs. Only Dilbert never changes.
  • Walt from Zits had bushy, curly hair as a teenager. Jeremy's dismissive attitude towards hair is a constant source of pain to him.

    Video Games 
  • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials & Tribulations, we see balding prosecutor Winston Payne in flashback with a pompadour. We also see how he loses it: he's so shocked at losing a case that his hair explodes.
  • In Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, flashbacks show that the super-gentlemanly and businesslike professor, of all people, had a giant Funny Afro in his school days.
  • The Pond Owner in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has a full head of hair when Link is a child. When seeing him again as Adult Link, he wears a hat. If you catch his hat with your fishing rod, it reveals that he's balding.
  • Batman: Arkham Series
    • The Penguin, who is bald on top with a ring of hair on the sides and back in Batman: Arkham City, is shown to have more hair in the prequel game Batman: Arkham Origins. This is a downplayed example, however, since it's still pretty short and his hairline had already begun to recede at that point. In the sequel, Batman: Arkham Knight, Penguin is completely bald, apparently having shaven the rest of his hair off.
    • The Mad Hatter is like this as well, Having a full head of medium-length hair in Origins, a bald spot in City and completely bald on top in Knight.
    • Mr. Freeze is an inversion, as the accident that transformed him left him was bald, but he managed to grow his hair back in Knight.

    Western Animation 
  • Dr. Thaddeus Venture of The Venture Bros. is bald in the present and shown with more hair in the past, but he starts rapidly balding when he's still a teenager. This may or may not have been a result of his deformed twin brother residing in his abdomen and thus ruining his hormone balance. Or perhaps he was just taxing it too much by trying to grow it out.
  • Pickles of Metalocalypse is a direct parody of Axl Rose. He tries to cover his receding hairline with a dreadlock comb-over.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Homer Simpson is the epitome of the bald loser, and he's always shown as having had much more hair when he was younger. However, given the show's Negative Continuity, there are multiple conflicting accounts of how he lost his hair:
      • One episode shows him tearing his hair out while freaking out on being informed by Marge that she's pregnant, all three times it happens — by the time she gets pregnant with Maggie, he's torn his hair out to the point that he's as bald as he is today.
      • Another episode shows that he lost it while participating in an Army medical research project (which he signed up for to avoid having dinner with Patty and Selma).
      • "Kamp Krusty" shows Homer's hair beginning to grow back when the kids are out of the house. The second he sees on TV that Bart has commandeered the camp, all his newfound hair falls out.
    • A flashback to Mr. Burns' childhood shows him with enormous golden curls, a visual reference to a stereotypical image of a wealthy boy in The Gay '90s.
    • While Dr. Hibbert still has hair in the present, flashbacks of him show him wearing a ridiculous hairstyle emblematic of the time period.
    • Inverted in "Lisa's First Word", which shows Marge's famous beehive hairdo as being much shorter when she was younger.
    • Played with in an episode where a flashback to a young Kirk van Houten shows him with really long hair — only for him to shake it out and reveal that he's already bald on the very top of his head.
  • In the first "flashback" episode of Animaniacs, Dr. Otto Scratchansniff is depicted with a full head of gray, Einstein-esque hair. By the time his first meeting with the Warners is over, he's pulled out every follicle on his head in frustration and remains bald for the rest of the series.
  • When the characters of Sonic SatAM go back in time, the villain minion Snively is shown with a full head of hair that he's quite proud of. An encounter with Sonic's super speed causes him to lose all of his hair, however.
  • In his youth, Mr. Lancer in Danny Phantom used to have a full set of hair. He still grows his hair, all over his body — except on his head.
  • Futurama:
    • Professor Farnsworth is almost always shown with hair in flashback, even when he's as old as 130 years old. In "Teenage Mutant Leela's Hurdles", where the entire cast starts to age backwards, Farnsworth is shown with a bodacious Funny Afro.
    • Spoofed in "Möbius Dick": a flashback to Planet Express' first delivery fifty years earlier shows Zoidberg with hair, even though Zoidberg is an alien lobster-thing. Leela lampshades this impossibility, to which Farnsworth claims he never mentioned that Zoidberg had hair; that's just how the others were imagining him.
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants, Squidward is shown with hair in a flashback during the episode where the Krusty Krab crew meets their old fry cook.
  • In Trollz, Jasper is seen with an afro at first. Then Amethyst's spell makes him lose his hair permanently. He gets over it pretty quickly.
  • On South Park, Mr. Garrison had hair in a flashback in "Cartman's Mom is a Dirty Slut", but he's shown as a child with the same baldness that would plague him later in life in "Weight Gain 4000". His hair in the former episode might just be a wig.
  • In the Teen Titans episode "How Long Is Forever?", a Flash Forward shows Beast Boy as a demoralized, balding, paunchy sideshow exhibit. Upon hearing of this back in the present, he yanks out a double handful of his own hair.
  • In Lilo & Stitch: The Series, Dr. Jumba Jookiba is shown with long, luxurious black hair before he had it almost completely devoured in his 177th experiment.
  • Inverted in Rugrats, where Lou Pickles meets an old navy buddy who has a full head of hair — but is bald in the past. He's wearing a wig in the future.
  • Steven Universe's Greg Universe plays with it a bit; he's only gotten hairier as he's grown older, but he is now bald on top of his head (excluding the waist length hair he still has on the sides). It's implied that he lost his scalp hair in some Gem-related accident. Marty is a variation, as he was first introduced with a full head of hair in a flashback, and reappeared in a later episode in the present day with male-pattern baldness.
  • In Pepper Ann, Jamie has a short bob, but is shown to have been a hippie with Rapunzel Hair when Pepper Ann was a toddler.
  • During flashbacks seen in Gravity Falls episodes "Blendin's Game" and "A Tale of Two Stans", minor characters have more hair than they do in the present.
  • Bill Dauterive of King of the Hill is shown to have had a head full of '80s Hair in high school. Then he got it buzzed short when he joined the army. Then he started balding around the time that Hank and Peggy got married.

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