There’s something about male-pattern baldness that brings out all types of strong and sometimes mystifying reactions, whether that’s dismissing an objectively hot man as a lycra-wearing middle-manager or proclaiming someone’s racist uncle to be some kind of sex icon. But men with receding hairlines can be many things, including an NBA champion, as exemplified by Lakers fan-favorite Alex Caruso.
By now the 27-year-old’s inspiring rise is well documented: he went from undrafted G Leaguer to reliable night-in, night-out contributor for the reigning champs, a crucial partner to basketball’s reigning MVP, LeBron James. (A fellow possessor of an, uh, unstable hairline.)
Caruso—also known as Bald Mamba to fans—recently partnered with men’s grooming brand Manscaped last December to raise $10,000 for testicular cancer research by completely shaving his head. Embracing the fully bald look also gave Caruso his first national endorsement, as he joined with Manscaped once again to promote their ball hair trimmer, the Lawn Mower, with plenty of double-entendres earlier this year.
As the Lakers prepare to welcome their fans back to the Staples Center, Caruso spoke to GQ about the sexiest bald men in Hollywood, his signature headband, and the importance of moisturizing.
GQ: There’s a lot of stigma still for men in talking about balding or hair loss. And that’s become part of your moniker—in a positive way, it seems—with fans calling you Bald Eagle or Bald Mama. How did it feel acquiring those nicknames?
Alex Caruso: For me, coming from being undrafted and going through the G League, the fact that I just had fans that were excited to give me a name or celebrate some success? I was all for it. I know their intentions are right and there’s never a harmful sense to it. It’s mostly Lakers fans. It’s adapted a little wider fan base now—but Lakers fans and me have a strong connection. It’s a lot of love.
Talk to me a bit about the attention you got for the Manscaped commercial. How was that concept pitched to you, and how did you feel about going for it?
So I did a little one-off post with them on my Instagram. I kind of just winged it: they gave me some general ideas of what I should say and stuff like that. And then I just came up with the idea and the camera angle and did it all by myself. And I think it was a pretty good hit on Instagram.
I think Manscaped recognized that I had the same sense of humor.
Did you have much interest or experience in manscaping before partnering with them?
A little bit, but nothing crazy. Like I have a little bit of facial hair, but it’s nothing to go home and show off to people about. But it requires maintenance—it’s that stuff, chest hair, like just normal body hair that people don’t realize guys have.
Well and now you’re a public figure, you’re going out and doing shirtless postgame interviews before millions of people.
That was impromptu. I’m not gonna lie, I’d already drank a couple Michelobs in the back and I was in party mode.
Deservedly so. Talk to me a bit about the headband. You said it gave you superpowers on the court. When did you start wearing it and what about it changes your gameplay?
My former teammate JaVale McGee, shoutout to JaVale, he hooked me up with a barber and got me a nice little cut. After that he said I had to rock the headband. I think I rocked it in practice, I played well in practice and was like, well I’ll keep it for the game. And then I had a dunk or a play or something, and they started doing the little headband celebration. And fans loved it, so it just kind of stuck.
Low key, I’ve been missing it this year because we haven’t had fans.
I’m sure it’ll be a whole stadium of people doing the gesture. It’s kind of rare to see, not just in basketball but any sport, the defense get the hype that you’ve gotten. Has that surprised you at all?
Yes and no. People love talking about the Lakers, people love just having eyes on us and anything we do. But for me, it’s just about trying to win the games. If we hadn’t gotten to the Finals and lost last year, I don’t think people would have been that interested in interviewing me about, you know, how well the headband did.
Well, you probably saw, or I don’t know if you guys pay attention to this, but the Space Jam trailer finally came out.
Oh yeah, we saw it. We saw it for sure.
What was the team’s reaction?
Of course we saw LeBron at the facility—we were gassing him up! That’s just kind of the culture we have on the team. People have been joking with me about how they love the Manscaped commercial. When it first came out, they were calling me “Hollywood”—telling me that I’ve changed.
On that topic of celebrity, I don’t know if you saw, it was very controversial, but Prince William was named the sexiest bald man according to some poll.
I did see that. I don’t know if I agree. I don’t know if I’d choose myself, but I think there’s some better candidates out there.
Who would you have named as the sexiest bald man? Or top three?
I’m very confident in my sexuality—this is strictly non-biased. The Rock’s a good looking dude. You got Jason Statham. Those two come to mind. I’ve also never seen them in person though. So maybe they look good in the movies, but you got makeup on and special effects.
What advice would you give to guys who are feeling not so confident about their hair loss? Or thinking about shaving their head?
We live in the year 2021, right. So you got social media, you got all this stuff telling you what you should be, what you should do. Whatever you want to do, do it. That’s honestly for hair, for life. So you want to go get a toupee, you want to put some plugs in, go for it. If you want to shave it all, shave it all. At the end of the day, it’s your life. You’re the one that has to answer the questions and why you did what you did. And as long as you’re happy with it, that’s all there really is to it.
In general as far as grooming in sports goes, is there anything that helps you be more comfortable out in the game?
I think it’s just having good hygiene. On game days I’ll shower anywhere from three to four times a day, because that’s how many times I workout and sweat. I’ll workout three hours before the game, sweat, lift, and then stop sweating, and I’m not gonna sit around for two hours and be nasty and then try to play a game.
That must impact your skin care, if you’re like constantly drying out your skin by showering.
Yeah, no—I definitely go through a lot of lotion. My teammates make fun of me. They say they’ve never seen a white guy put on as much lotion as I do.