Harry's hair, Justin's dance and the truth about 'ageing' pop stars.

Harry Styles is going bald. LOL

Justin Timberlake dad-dances now. Cringe

It's how the Internet's been talking about two of the biggest names in music this past week. 

It's kind of mean. All Harry Styles did, after all, was shave his head. And in a story as old as time, this bold haircut  revealed more about him than the world was ready to know. The man is human. And he has a widow's peak. 

JT meanwhile, had it worse. He danced in public. Which, as anyone over the age of 40 knows, is a sin punishable by intense public ridicule and a little light horsewhipping. 

Of course, the Internet was primed for it, when Timberlake committed the grave sin of not being as young as he was. He was performing, last June, at a concert in Washington DC, warming up for a comeback slated for next year. New music. New videos. A new lil' boogie. 

But he wasn't ready. And an unflattering video - shot from a low angle no self-respecting Housewife Franchisee would ever have permitted - has gone viral. He's in khaki. Things are baggy. The moves not quite as sharp as the old days. Who among us is?

Watch: how to be a woman in 2023. Post continues below video.

Video via Mamamia.

But the Internet was particularly ready to raze Timberlake because of Britney's memoir. In it Spears is clear about how, when their relationship ended under a haze of squashed dreams and mutual infidelity in 2002, he profited from the narrative that he was a heartbroken SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guy, Google it) and she was the scarlet woman. Not so, Britney writes in The Woman In Me. She wanted a baby. He wanted her to have an abortion. He was cheating on her plenty. She had a misguided one-night stand. He ghosted her. She was never the same. 


Of course, this is only Spears' side of the story. But it plays. 

So when Timberlake showed his humanity on the stage in DC last week, the memes were merciless. His career, insisted one viral clip, was DONE. 

Because he had dared to get older.

It is mean. 

It's also new. At least, it feels new, this mocking of men as they age. As if they were… women. 

Styles is only 29, nowhere near his dad-dancing era. But the glee with which people have zoomed and circled and shared an image that hints at the possibility of a wig reveals a great deal about how we feel about men, youth and hair. 

Clearly, it's some sort of moral failing if Harry Styles cannot hold onto his hairline. Just as it's some sort of violation of the celebrity contract for a woman to grow a dimple on her thigh. Or a wrinkle on her face. 

Timberlake has everything. More money than God, a photogenic family, a forgiving wife (allegedly, of course), credible music that plays at every wedding you've ever attended. But even he, apparently, can't convince his knees that he isn’t now 42. 

And it didn't used to matter. 

It used to be that women needed to be ageless, or, preferably, young-young. Men could get older and more powerful. Distinguished. Worldy. A silver fox. Even when they are none of those things. 


At the risk of making a sweeping generalisation, men have internalised this. Dating apps are swollen with muddles of midlife men NOT sucking in their tummies. Not trimming their eyebrows. Not ironing out their foreheads and covering their upper arms and worrying about The Good Light. They have not been taught, over and over again, that age comes with irrelevance and invisibility, as women have. In fact, when they look around, they see that it's the midlife and up guys who have all the power around here. So hand me a fish and take the damn picture. 

But that might all be changing. Or, at least, that stereotype might be fading into irrelevance.

The state of midlife men in Australia is not great. They are less healthy than women their age. Their number of social connections are fewer. They are over-represented in suicide statistics. 

Women have been rebranding ageing for a couple of generations now. 40 is the new 30. 60 is the new 40. We're working longer, celebrating our second acts, looking younger, staying healthier for longer, staying connected. We're trying to reclaim the narrative that there is no use for a woman past her child-bearing years. No small feat in a youth-obsessed world, but progress is being made. 

And add to that imbalance in the reclaiming of age an ever-increasing obsession with our outsides. It's trite to even say so, but social media, selfies, our very phones, have made us vainer. And quite possibly, to put it crudely, hotter. Australians are spending almost $20billion a year on "anti-ageing" treatments from injectables to hair dye.

And now we demand men are right there alongside us.

It's a strange new world where Justin Timberlake has to keep dancing like he's 22 and Tom Cruise has to keep doing his own life-threatening stunts, just as Nicole Kidman needs to still look great in a cut-out red-carpet dress and Madonna is meant to be able to gyrate like it's 1989. 


Is it to be celebrated, this equal opportunity age-phobia? No. Obviously not. We're all deep-down aware that we need to unpick our repulsion at change and progress when it comes to our bodies, our faces, our… moves. We are all ultimately clear on how ageing is a privilege; the alternative is all too familiar and wasting a moment on wishing a hooded brow away is a thief of joy. 

But it's tempting, and understandable, for us, the women, to get a small charge of dopamine when we see a powerful and desirable man like Justin Timberlake getting a taste of what it's like to be held to an impossible standard. 

It feels a little like payback for the 50-year-old men who've put "fit body" in their requirements for a partner on a dating app. The ones who'll only date "down". 

But still. We're better than this, just mere mortals and their fish-toting friends.

So let Harry get balder and JT get creakier. They might be quietly signalling to those who need to hear it.

We're all allowed to get old, if we're lucky enough to get handed the chance. And personally, I would love to see a flash mob of JTs bringing 'Sexy Back' at every age.  

That sound you can hear is the great man bedazzling a walking frame for later. 

Feature image: X/Instagram @pleasing.

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