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 imagine that her experience was no longer possible, that the business of human hair had gone the way in which of your guillotine – however, it’s booming. The current industry for extensions manufactured from real human hair is increasing with an incredible rate. In 2013, £42.8 million worth of human hair was imported to the UK, padded by helping cover their a bit of animal hair. That’s thousands of metric tons and, end to finish, almost 80 million miles of hair, or maybe if you prefer, two million heads of 50cm long hair. And our hair industry pales when compared with that from america.
Two questions spring to mind: first, who may be supplying all of this hair and, secondly, who on this planet is buying it? Unsurprisingly, each side of your market are cagey. Nobody wishes to admit precisely where these are importing hair from and females with extensions like to pretend their brazilian virgin hair is the own. Websites selling human hair will occasionally explain how the locks originate from religious tonsure ceremonies in India, where women willingly swap hair in return for any blessing. At Tirumala Venkateswara Temple in southern India, tonsuring is customary and it’s just about the most-visited holy sites on earth, so there’s plenty of hair to flog.
This has been referred to as ‘happy hair’ – and it’s certainly an acceptable story to know your client as you may glue another woman’s dead hair to her scalp. But countries like Russia, China, Ukraine, Peru and Brazil also export a lot of hair, so where’s that from? The veracity behind this hair might be a grim one. You can find reports of female prisoners and girls in labour camps being required to shave their heads so those who work in charge can sell it off off. Whether or not the women aren’t coerced, no one can make sure that the hair’s original owner received a good – or any – price.
It’s a strange anomaly in a world where we’re all obsessed with fair trade and ethical sourcing: nobody seems by any means bothered regarding the origins of the extra hair. Then again, the industry is difficult to regulate and also the supply chain is convoluted. Bundles of hair can pass through a number of different countries, which makes it difficult to keep tabs on. Then the branding comes in: Chinese hair is marketed as Brazilian, Indian as European. The fact 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 number of ‘ethical’ extension companies exist, but in many instances, the individual just doesn’t would like to know in which the hair is harvested. Within the FAQ parts of human hair websites, most queries are stuff like ‘How should i care for it’ or ‘How long can it last?’ as an alternative to ‘Whose hair could it be anyway?’ One profoundly sinister website selling ‘virgin Russian hair’ boasts how the hair ‘has been grown from the cold Siberian regions and it has never been chemically treated’. Another site details the best way to distinguish human and artificial hair: ‘Human hair will consider ash. It will smell foul. When burning, the human hair can have white smoke. Synthetic hair will be a sticky ball after burning.’ As well as not melting, human hair styles better. Accept no imitations, ladies.
The costliest option is blonde European hair, a packet which can fetch more than £1,000. So who buys this? Well, Beyoncé for just one. Her hair collection was once estimated to be worth $1 million. And also the Kardashians have recently launched a range of extensions underneath the name ‘Hair Kouture’, designed to provide you with that ‘long hair don’t care attitude’.
Near where I live in London, there are numerous of shops selling all kinds of wigs, weaves and extensions. The signs outside advertise ‘virgin hair’ (that is hair that hasn’t been treated, rather than hair from virgins). Nearby, a neighborhood hairdresser does a roaring trade in stitching bundles of hair in the heads of girls looking to 33dexjpky like cast members from The Only Method Is Essex. My hairdresser tells me she has middle-aged, middle-class women asking for extensions to ensure they are look ‘more like Kate Middleton’. She even suspects Kate might have used extensions, which is a tabloid story waiting to take place: ‘Kate wears my hair!’
Human hair can be a precious commodity since it takes time to cultivate and artificial substitutes are viewed inferior. You will find women ready to buy where there are women happy to sell, but given the actual size of the current market it’s about time we found out where it’s all from and who benefits. Fantine seemed to be fictional, but her reality still exists, now over a billion-dollar global scale.