Anthony Pignataro reaches under his hair and - pop! pop! pop! pop! - in a matter of seconds, holds most of his thick, brown locks in the palm of his hand.
All that remains atop his scalp are four gold snaps embedded deep in the bone of his skull. They keep what he calls his "prosthetic hair" in place.A cosmetic surgeon, Pignataro has been selling his extreme method of hair replacement since he became his own test case four years ago. About 100 other men, from as far away as Seattle, have undergone the procedure since in his suburban Buffalo operating room.
Pignataro claims it's as reversible as getting an ear pierced - the snaps can just be unscrewed.
Pignataro, 38, had been trying to find a substitute since he began losing his own hair around age 23. He tried traditional attachment methods: glues, clips, tie-downs, weaves.
"Nothing was good," he says.
The answer came from his own expertise. He had worked as an intern with a technique called implantology, using snaps in patients' bones to anchor artificial eyes, noses and ears. The same technique could be used for hair, he realized.
"For me, it's commonplace," Pignataro says. "But to talk to somebody who's never heard of snapping on an eye, an ear, a nose, hair or a fingertip, it's too science fiction."
Pignataro's father, also a surgeon, did the honors for his son's implantation.
The first step is to imbed titanium sockets in the top of the skull. After they fuse with the bone, usually within 12 weeks, gold snaps are screwed into the sockets.
For the hairpiece, Pignataro takes a plastic mold of the client's head and sends it off to have human hair sewn on. A stylist can cut the hair in any manner, blending it in with the client's own remaining hair.
The snaps, Pignataro said, should never need maintenance; the hairpiece stands up to regular shampooing and lasts about four years.
Each snap-on hairpiece and implantation costs about $4,000.
Ever the salesman, Pignataro gladly demonstrates how the piece works to those who will watch - and take part in - its demonstration.
"Hear them snap?" he asks as he pops the prosthesis back in place.
He leans his pate over, saying, "Give it a tug."
The plastic gives but the hairpiece stays put.
"You can't pull it. You've got to get under it," he says.
While the idea of bald men going through life with snaps in their heads might seem a little strange, or even silly, Pignataro believes his procedure is a legitimate solution for the estimated 40 million men who suffer baldness.
"Baldness, for the man who is bothered by it, can be a very emotional, psychological and traumatic issue," he says.
About 50 percent of all men have noticeable hair loss by age 50, said Mark Avram, director of cosmetic surgery at New York Hospital. Ten percent to 20 percent of women also experience hair loss.Comment on this story
Men inherit baldness genes from either mother or father, and the effects can be seen in men as young as their 20s.
One 30-year-old man from Buffalo, who did not want to be identified by name, said he started going thin when he was 20 and donned a hairpiece soon after.
His hair stylist told him about Pignataro's procedure, and he now owns two of the snap-on hair-pieces.
"I'd do it again even if the cost was 10 times what it was," he said. "I like to date younger women. A lot of times it feels like they like guys with a full head of hair."