To the naked eye, LeBron James has everything in the world that a man could want: Gorgeous wife. Beautiful children. Yet another championship ring proving he’s the best in the world at his profession.
And yet, it’s not enough.
You know how we know it’s not enough? Because we see his hairline rise and fall every year like high tide, and you can see a scar in the back of his head which either came from a hair transplant or by erroneously trusting the new barber at the shop.
Think about that. If LeBron goddamn James isn’t secure with his hairline, how do us regular joes stand a chance?
It’s a sign of virility. Go three weeks without a lineup and see how fast your girl packs her bags. (Side note: Don’t actually do that. She WILL leave.) It’s roasting fodder. An easy target for any and every joke.
Lineup. Shapeup. Edgeup. Whatever you call it, don’t you dare get caught without it. A defined hairline is essential in the Black community. LeBron is paying thousands, maybe millions to keep his in his life. Steph Curry had a fresh lineup for his MVP ceremony but not his wedding ceremony. Jamie Foxx’s is creeping slowly but surely towards his eyebrows. Barack Obama fought eight years of egg avis all over the world and left office with his intact.
Before we dive deeper into the origin of the lineup, we (I) must first ask ourselves (myself): Why we (I) even care? And if we care so much, why are lineups a relatively recent discovery?
Look at our heroes from yesteryear: Muhammad, Martin, Malcolm. Three great men, zero great lineups.
Why is that? And more importantly, when did the lineup become a mandate and not just an option?
We’ve gone from an era where those without one will paint one on with shoe polish, to an era where now you might get laughed at if you don't paint one on with shoe polish. How did we get here in such a relatively short amount of time?
Malcolm’s conk in the 1960s took us to the Jackson 5 Afros of the 1970s, which gave way to Lionel Richie’s Jheri curl in the 1980s, which begat Bobby Brown’s hi-top fade of the 1990s...and still not a consistent lineup was to be found.
Let’s take a peek back at some of our icons from the days of old:
My Kings, my Kings. What the hell was going on in the 1990s?! These were some of our most prominent figures, our role models. People from across the world were looking at these people and wondering if every Black barber in America had gone on strike.
The worst part is that these aren’t random pictures that fans on the street took of them. I didn’t wake Al B. Sure up out of bed and just snap a photograph. That’s his album cover! Eddie Winslow posed for cast photos for one of the longest-running Black sitcoms of all time with taco meat on his chest and no lineup on his head.
Keenen Ivory Wayans and David Alan Grier are at an awards show, for crying out loud. Three names apiece, zero (0) lineups between them.
Thank heavens Wesley Snipes had seen enough and apparently started demanding that lineups for his characters be written into his contracts in the early 1990s.
But what changed from then until now? The 1990s weren’t THAT long ago, and today you might be locked up for treason if you walk outside with your hairline looking like David Alan Grier’s.
Whatever it is still hasn’t made its way across the pond yet, because our British brothers are still lost in the sauce. What was our cultural epiphany? Was an on-point hairline just not a barometer of masculinity back then? Did the prevalence of paparazzi make it a must to have a lineup at all times because you never knew when you might end up on the front page? Or did we all just collectively grow the fuck up?
So again I ask, why are they so important?
It almost goes without saying that a good head of hair goes a long way in attracting potential love/lust interests, unless you’re Tyson Beckford. Which you’re not.
Now, is a full mane 100% of attracting #potentials? Of course not, don’t be silly...we’re talking 80-85% tops. This isn't just about lineups; that would be ridiculous! A smooth half of that remaining 15-20% is, of course, the luxuriousness of your facial hair.
Those of us born without either (hello, ladies!) have been forced to readjust. My own weak hair genes have forced me into the gym, as I refused to be the corpulent beardless guy with zero hairline (so, Snapchat, anytime you want to add a hairline-ify option, we ready). Two out of three I could stomach. But genetics wants to have me out here looking like Carl Winslow, and I won’t stand for it. I laughed at my own father for “voluntarily” going bald when I was in high school. Now the tables are turning and I can see him looking at my hairline with a devilish grin, as if to say, “Soon.”
And it’s not just women who give us flack. I’ve seen many a man say something stupid and have his beardlessness mocked on the spot by other men. Hell, I myself don’t trust men who can’t grow a mustache, and you shouldn’t either.
Think of some of the foolish things Cam Newton has said recently about race and how Jadakiss once said his bathtub lifts up and his walls do a 360-degree turn.
Neither of these men has a mustache. Makes a lot more sense, doesn’t it?
An abundance of facial hair is associated with dominance and aggression. It’s no coincidence that Shaft wasn’t a clean-shaven man or that King Leonidas from 300 had the fullest of the beards. The University of Arizona did a study in which photographs of bearded men and non-bearded men made the same exact facial expressions, and the bearded men were consistently rated as more intimidating and dominant. Additional studies have shown that beards are associated with power and elevated social status, by both men and women.
But who needs studies when we could just ask the good people of Twitter?
One bad exchange and suddenly you’re getting roasted on “The Twitter,” and you’re getting flamed by people around the country, if not the world. It’s bad enough racing genetics in real life; now you’re at the mercy of anyone with a touchscreen phone.
There are people from Des Moines, Iowa, with 142 followers zooming in on your hairline and laughing at you. Man, you don’t even know anybody in Des Moines, but now the native Iowans are having a hearty laugh at your expense. Even worse, while they’re laughing at your lack of a hairline, somebody else is going to zoom in on your underdeveloped beard.
Whiskers like a rat, they’ll tweet. Compared to the likes of @PostBadBeards, you wack. What easier target is there?
Some of us are fortunate enough to have the self-awareness or loved ones in our lives to tell us when to call it quits on your hair dreams. Some of us (Wonder, Stevie or Major, Alan) need an intervention to receive the news. This alone should tell you how important the hairline is to the Black experience. It’s something that you don’t even know how much you need until you don’t have it anymore.
My biggest regret in life is that I didn’t take more pictures with mine intact so that one day I could look fly on my funeral bulletin. I see Kevin Durant wasting perfectly good genetics by refusing to brush his hair at all, and it makes me visibly upset. I’m shaking now just thinking about it.
One of the toughest decisions a man has to make in his life is when to go to the #1 ATG lowest-guard-on-the-clippers against-the-grain haircut— and watch all the hopes and dreams he had for his hair fall into his lap. I’ve long said that Kobe Bryant knowing when to give up the ghost on his hairline and go with the bald fade is far more impressive than him scoring 81 points in a game.
Ask LeBron James if he’d rather have championship ring number four or his hairline from when he was 18 years old. He’ll laugh for a second and look away. A single tear might roll down his cheek before he pauses and then gives some politically correct answer about how a fourth ring would mean more to him that anything outside of his family.
But deep down, I know which one is more important to him.