Maybe you recall as soon as in Les Misérables when Fantine chops off all her hair? The destitute young mother sells her long locks, then her teeth (a detail often excluded from child-friendly adaptations) before she actually is eventually forced into prostitution. It might be nice to think that her experience was no longer a reality, that this business of human hair had gone just how of the guillotine – however, it’s booming. The present day niche for extensions manufactured from real human hair is growing with an incredible rate. In 2013, £42.8 million worth of human hair was imported in to the UK, padded by helping cover their a bit of animal hair. That’s a thousand metric tons and, end to end, almost 80 million miles of hair, or maybe you favor, two million heads of 50cm long hair. And our hair industry pales in comparison with that of the usa.
Two questions spring to mind: first, who seems to be supplying all of this hair and, secondly, who on the planet is buying it? Unsurprisingly, each side of your market are cagey. Nobody would like to admit precisely where they can be importing hair from and girls with extensions prefer to pretend their brazilian virgin hair is own. Websites selling human hair will occasionally explain that this locks originate from religious tonsure ceremonies in India, where women willingly swap hair in return to get a blessing. At Tirumala Venkateswara Temple in southern India, tonsuring is customary and it’s one of the most-visited holy sites worldwide, so there’s plenty of hair to flog.
This has been identified as ‘happy hair’ – and it’s certainly a sufficient story to share with your client while you glue another woman’s dead hair to her scalp. But countries like Russia, China, Ukraine, Peru and Brazil also export considerable amounts of hair, so where’s that from? The veracity behind this hair may well be a grim one. There are reports of female prisoners and females in labour camps being compelled to shave their heads so those who work in charge can sell it off. Even if the women aren’t coerced, no one can make certain that the hair’s original owner received a good – or any – price.
It’s an unusual anomaly within a world through which we’re all obsessive about fair trade and ethical sourcing: nobody seems whatsoever bothered regarding the origins with their extra hair. But then, the industry is challenging to control along with the supply chain is convoluted. Bundles of hair can move through several different countries, which makes it difficult to keep tabs on. Then this branding will come in: Chinese hair is marketed as Brazilian, Indian as European. The point that some websites won’t disclose where their hair comes from is significant. Hair is sourced ‘all over eastern Europe’, says Kelly Reynolds, from Lush Hair Extensions, but ‘we would not know specifically’. A couple of ‘ethical’ extension companies exist, but generally, the client just doesn’t would like to know where the hair is harvested. Inside the FAQ sections of human hair websites, most queries are things like ‘How will i maintain it’ or ‘How long could it last?’ as opposed to ‘Whose hair could it be anyway?’ One profoundly sinister website selling ‘virgin Russian hair’ boasts that this hair ‘has been grown within the cold Siberian regions and possesses never been chemically treated’. Another site details how to distinguish human and artificial hair: ‘Human hair will use ash. It will smell foul. When burning, the human hair shows white smoke. Synthetic hair is a sticky ball after burning.’ As well as not melting, human hair styles better. Accept no imitations, ladies.
The most costly choice is blonde European hair, a packet of which can fetch over £1,000. So who buys this? Well, Beyoncé for one. Her hair collection used to be estimated being worth $1 million. And the Kardashians have recently launched a variety of extensions beneath the name ‘Hair Kouture’, designed to provide that ‘long hair don’t care attitude’.
Near where I reside in London, there are a number of shops selling all kinds of wigs, weaves and extensions. The signs outside advertise ‘virgin hair’ (which happens to be hair that hasn’t been treated, rather than hair from virgins). Nearby, a local hairdresser does a roaring trade in stitching bundles of hair in to the heads of ladies seeking to 33dexjpky like cast members from The Only Way Is Essex. My hairdresser tells me she has middle-aged, middle-class women requesting extensions to ensure they are look ‘more like Kate Middleton’. She even suspects Kate probably have used extensions, which is actually a tabloid story waiting to occur: ‘Kate wears my hair!’
Human hair is actually a precious commodity because it needs time to grow and artificial substitutes are viewed inferior. You can find women willing to buy where there are women prepared to sell, but given the actual size of the market it’s about time we discovered where it’s all from and who benefits. Fantine could have been fictional, but her reality still exists, now on the billion-dollar global scale.