Thursday, March 30, 2006

Big Picture--The Politics of Hair

The Village Voice has a fascinating story about the international hair trade.
Many of us know all about some French Refined, Wet and Wavy. Check it out. The decisions we make about our hairstyles can have some very far-reaching economic and political implications. I'm not saying that should necessarily affect anyone's decisions, but it is fodder for thought.
Like all the other products we use, if we are buying hair, we should give some thought to where it came from and how it got our market.
Toward the end of my hair-wearing days, I was using mostly synthetic products--Viva Kanekalon--but I have purchased lots of human hair products. On wefts or in bundles, the trade of hair is a booming business. In the last five to ten years, I notice the market is accomodating an increasing range of hair textures. When I was in college, most of the product was "European" ranging from extremely straight to moderately wavy. Now there are kinky textures available to accomodate afrocentric styles like twists and afros. When I first got SLs, I found a faux lock fall made with kinky-textured synthetic hair and thought how much things had changed. Whereas the intial assumption was that women wanted to conform to a standard of straight, eurocentric styles, now the market has clearly received the message that many women want to preserve, enhance, or even mimic other ethnic looks as well.
In my college days, the scrutiny was directed toward discerning yak-synthetic hair- mixed into your human hair bundle, now consumers need to be aware of the process by which their hair was harvested and processed, even its place of origin.
Different components of the trade are establishing themselves in Asia--China and India-- and Africa, but North America--specifically the US is the largest consumer--over 70%.
Another change is the increasing market amongst white women--I saw yesterday Jessica Simpson may endorse a hair extension line. Who saw that coming? Not me...
Of course as the production and manufacture of hair products increases, we will see an increasing attention on hair care providers. Today I learned about a Chinese-Trinidadian weave master- Clem Lue Yat -he grew up and worked largely with women of color...But as the market begins to target white women, I wonder how it will affect salon and stylist culture. I already have seen methods of weaving that attempt to bypass braiding, I predict even more strange developments...
On a related note, I had a fascinating discussion with the head of the American Hairbraiders and Natural Hair Care Association...I'll blog about that very soon.

No comments: