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His hair went the way of the doh-doh.
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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.

In a broader use of the trope, the modern character may be known for a conservative business-like hairstyle only to reveal them as a shaggy punk-rocker style as a teenager. It can be an effective visual shorthand to show a scene is set in the past, but also imply Character Development in how a person has changed. Maybe he's undergone an Important Haircut to be bald by choice, or he's fallen from the heights of his youth to become a total loser. Maybe it adds to them being uncomfortable with a particularly embarrassing or dated hairstyle, showing his tendency to fall victim to fad fashions and being more mature now.

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In the strictest practical sense, 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.

Evidently this can be Truth in Television. Just because someone had thick hair when they were young does NOT mean they won't lose it all as they age. Since baldness is genetic, there is a wide amount of variation in how it happens to different people. note 

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Opposite of Rapid Hair Growth. Can overlap with, but is not to be confused with Funny Flashback Haircut, where a haircut in a flashback can take all sorts of shapes or not change at all as a joke. 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 ½, 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 Dragon Ball 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 Dragon Ball 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 Dragon Ball 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 baldness 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 Dragon Ball Super and the Distant Finale of Dragon Ball Z.
  • 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 thanks to 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 an 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.
  • Flashbacks to Lex Luthor's youth in Superman show him with a full head of red hair. In the Post-Crisis reboot, he hadn't entirely lost it by the time Superman appears on the scene, but he's fighting rapid balding by wearing what remains of it surprisingly long for a man of his position and personality.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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.
  • Foxtrot: Roger's baldness is a constant source of worry to him.
    • In one arc, Peter shaved his head for a bet, so Roger hung around with him as the no longer-baldest member of the family. Paid back with interest at the end of the arc when Peter's hair starts coming back.
      Peter: Isn't it great how hair just grows back?
    • In an arc where Roger and Andy look at old photos of their children, Andy mentions that Roger had a perm around the time Jason was a toddler.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Back to the Future:
    • Discussed when Doc in 1955 sees a video of his 1985 self, and 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.
    • Defied with Strickland, who was almost as bald in 1955 as he is in 1985.
    Marty: 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, one of the most notable Chrome Dome Psi characters, 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 long 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.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • In The Shape of Water, one of Giles' great regrets is that he no longer has the hair he had 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.
  • A variation in The Godfather – the film takes place over about a decade, during which Tom Hagen gradually loses his hair. (This was done simply by having actor Robert Duvall wear smaller and smaller toupees.) The sequel The Godfather Part II has Tom completely bald on top in the present day, but includes a flashback scene set prior to the first film where he has a full head of hair.

    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.
  • 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 The 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. Maybe he experimented with a buzz-cut but let it grow back?
  • On a related note, Ben Sisko of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine shaved his head and grew a goatee between seasons (which, incidentally, became the Trope Namer for another trope). The Doylist reason for this was that Avery Brooks had been playing another role that called for him to do so in the interim and there wasn't time for it to grow back before shooting commenced, but audience reception to the new look was enthusiastically positive and it stuck for the rest of the series. In-universe it seems he just felt like a change.
  • 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.
  • 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 after starting chemotherapy. 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. He was also seen as a graduate student with longer hair than we've ever seen on the show.
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody:
    • Carey has a pixie haircut. In a home video of when the twins were babies, she's shown with long hair.
    • A flashback to The '70s shows that Mr. Moseby, who is balding in the present day, once had a large afro.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Titus has numerous flashbacks to the characters in high school, still played by the adult actors. Everyone had slightly different hairstyles, but Titus had long '80s Hair contrasting his modern business cut. One episode had a news report of the cast being arrested, and the only photo they could find of Titus was of him in high school.
  • Norsemen: Season 3 is a prequel to the first two seasons and shows that Jarl Varg used to be very proud of his full head of hair and a pretty nice guy. Then he developed a bald spot, another jarl made fun of it, and he snapped, becoming the hairless psychopath introduced in season 1.
  • True Detective: In season 1, Hart has a full head of hair in the 1990s flashbacks. In the present day, he sports a shaved head. Inverted by Cohle, who is clean-shaven in the 1990s flashbacks, but has a Porn Stache in the present day.
  • Bob Duncan from Good Luck Charlie is a balding middle-aged man who used to have thick hair as a teenager, similar to PJ's. However, by the time he was 25, he already started to lose hair. In one episode, PJ grows paranoid about losing his hair.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
    • Also from Arkham Origins, the Joker lacks the receding hairline he had in Asylum and City.
    • 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 bald, but he managed to grow his hair back in Knight.
  • In Drakengard, prices are paid for pacts with aspects from the human body, be they literal (loss of sight, voice, etc) or metaphorical (loss of 'time', or happiness). Verdelet is a man who made a pact with a petrified dragon on a whim and lost his pretty boy hair in the deal. Comparatively speaking this is a fairly tame price with no real drawbacks considering a lot of pact prices are physically debilitating, but as they also tend to be ironic punishments, it can be inferred that Verdelet very much prized his hair.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Comics 
  • PvP: Cole Phelps has been mostly bald for the entirety of the comics run, and more than a few bald jokes have been made at his expense. One flashback storyarc to the creation of the magazine shows that Cole had a full head of brown hair in college. A photo of him alongside his wife and young son, stated to have been taken only a few years after graduation, shows him with the lack of hair he has in present day.
  • The Order of the Stick: Durkon Thundershield is a dwarf cleric who's completely bald on the top of his head, contrasting to his large beard. The Utterly Dwarfed storyarc features several flashbacks to Durkons childhood and early adulthood, showing that he had a normal head of hair as a child (along with a smaller beard, like all male dwarves), only for it to begin to receede at 15 years old, which is even worse than it sounds, because due to dwarves having a longer lifespan than humans, this would be the same age catagory as a human in kindergarten! By the time Durkon had finished his training and became a fully ordained cleric, he was completely bald. He's understandably a bit touchy about his hair loss.

    Web Original 

    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, implying it fell out the first time due to the stress of raising them.
    • 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.
      • "Simpson And Delilah" reveals that Mr. Burns used to have a full head of red, curly hair in college, only for it to receede almost completely by his senior year.
    • 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.
    • Every episode set in the future has adult Milhouse sharing his father's baldness.
  • 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.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM): When Sonic and Sally go back in time, the in-the-present nearly hairless henchman 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 it all.
  • 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. 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. Amy questions this impossibility, to which Farnsworth claims he never mentioned that Zoidberg had hair; that's just how the others were imagining him.
    • Bender's Big Score has a rare example that isn't down to the natural aging process. "Lars," Leela's boyfriend and eventual fiancé who is bald, turns out to be the Temporal Duplicate that Fry left behind after briefly traveling back to his old era, who resumed Fry's life for twelve years before freezing himself again to find Leela, physically aging around 17 years in total. His baldness, though, is due to a time-traveling Bender blowing up his apartment and singing his hair off, and is actually a key part of the Stable Time Loop; recognizing himself as Lars after that incident was what spurred him to become Lars in the first place.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants, Squidward is shown with hair in a flashback that he constantly fawns over during the episode where the Krusty Krab's old fry cook comes to visit. In the flashback, Jim tells Squidward they should open their own restaurant together. Squidward declines, saying he's just working at the Krusty Krab until his clarinet career takes off. When Jim then says he should have something to fall back on, Squidward scoffs and remarks that his clarinet career failing is just as likely as him losing his hair. Cue all of Squidward's hair immediately falling out.
  • 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".
  • In the Teen Titans (2003) 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 the Lilo & Stitch: The Series episode "Clip", Dr. Jumba Jookiba is shown to have had long, luxurious black hair before Experiment 177 (a.k.a. Clip) almost completely devoured it immediately after her creation. A destressing sees him immediately sprouting a big, poofy afro (even though it was straight in the flashback), but he decides to go back to being bald since he became used to not having to maintain so much hair.
  • Rugrats:
    • Lou Pickles is shown to have a hairstyle similar to Drew's in flashbacks. Tommy's other grandfather Boris also had hair as a young man.
    • Inverted in an episode where Lou 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.
  • All Grown Up! depicts the adult fathers with varying receding hairlines. Drew and Randy seem to have gotten it the worst.
  • Steven Universe:
    • Greg Universe plays with this 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).
      • In Steven Universe Future,Greg loses his signature long mane due to cutting himself free from Bluebird, who was threatening to kill him. He now only has two tufts of hair on either side of his head.
    • Marty already had a receded hairline when introduced in a flashback, and reappeared in a later episode in the present day, mostly bald save around his ears and the very top of his head.
  • 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.
  • Wallace of Wallace & Gromit is shown in a montage of photos at the beginning of The Curse of the Were-Rabbit to have had a bushy head of curly hair, sideburns, and a mustache back when Gromit was a puppy.
  • KaBlam!: Bob of Prometheus and Bob used to have a full head of hair. He singed it all off with a laser in the first tape Prometheus took of him.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: A flashback shows that Kevin (who has three strands of hair poking out of his hat) used to have a thick mullet.
  • American Dad!: One episode reveals that Stan has actually been bald since college due to taking an experimental anti-acne medication to fix his severe acne problem. It worked, but also had the side-effect of permanent baldness, which he's been hiding for decades with a wig. Thanks to the shows Negative Continuity, this is never brought up again.
  • F is for Family: Frank has a receeding hairline along with a bald spot at the top of his head by the time the show takes place. Flashbacks, home movies and photos show him with a full head of black hair in his younger days, often in a crew cut due to his time in the military. Humorously, he's apparently not aware of the bald spot, as Vic mentions in season 5 that the whole neighborhood has an unspoken agreement to never mention it to him.
  • T.U.F.F. Puppy: The Chief of T.U.F.F. is currently bald, but is shown in "Internal Affairs" to have had a full head of hair during his days as a T.U.F.F. agent.

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