prisoner sues court over toupeeToupees, or hair systems as they are commonly known now, have become less appealing for many men with the improvements in transplantion surgery and the developments of new techniques like scalp micropigmentation. The hair system can be high maintenance and there’s the ongoing risk for the wearer that at any point they might be exposed. High winds, swimming and vigorous sports are all to be avoided to maintain the secret.

"I felt belittled, degraded and humiliated"

The psychological trauma of becoming separated from your hairpiece was demonstrated in New Zealand recently when a convicted murderer and child molester, Philip John Smith sued the Corrections (the prison service) because they wouldn’t allow him to wear his toupee. He claimed that the reasons for this were spurious and they were using a sledge hammer to crack a nut, describing pictures of himself in custody without the hair system he said those days were amongst the lowest of his life, “I felt belittled, degraded and humiliated”.

Judge takes Smith's Side

The judge, Justice Wylie clearly agreed with Smith’s case, stating that “An important right has been breached and the breach may be material” and adding “I have concluded that Mr Smith’s fundamental right to freedom of expression was ignored”. Not everyone was as sympathetic to his plight as the Judge, New Zealand Labour spokesman Stuart Nash took to Facebook to express his anger at the judge’s decision and in a hasty moment suggested the prisoner should be scalped. Fortunately, although not before the press had picked up on it he removed the post on his wife’s advice. Whatever the rights or wrongs of this particular case it does serve to highlight the deep rooted anxiety that some men have about losing their hair and the lengths that they will go to tackle the problem.

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By Ian Watson

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