Once again, I saw an interesting article in the London Evening Standard newspaper. For those of you who don’t know, this is a free regional newspaper. The Evening Standard newspaper brand fell into financial problems and was then bought in January 2009 for £1 by a former Russian KGB agent (the equivalent of a UK secret service agent…. like James Bond lol). In October 2009 it became a free paper in London and sold for 20p in suburban areas.
The 15th January edition had an interesting article in the ‘London Life’ section; interesting not because it was about hair weave but because it was from a white lady’s perspective. In the black community, hair can be a contentious issue for various reasons, but I don’t really know how hair weaves / extensions are perceived in the white community, I know among many celebrities weaves are cherished; Cheryl Cole, Tulisa, Eva Longoria have professed to loving hair weaves and I am sure they are not the only ones. The article intrigued me because it was a white lady who was not a celebrity – Jasmine Gardner spoke about her quest for long hair. I have seen many women of different races, white, black and Asian etc. wearing weaves in London, so I am interested to know how it is perceived among other races.
I’ve had braided extensions since I was a teenager (I don’t wear braids as much as I used to, but I still wear them) and have worn a weave three times in my life, always using synthetic hair, never human hair – that stuff cost’s a bomb and the thought of having someone’s hair on my head does freak me out a bit. When I got my first weave, I compared it to wearing clothes made of synthetic fibres, like a jumper, so didn’t think it was a big deal lol. I don’t think I would wear a weave again because it’s not that comfortable so for now I am happy to alternate between my braids and natural afro hair:-).
In the article Jasmine says that she has tried to grow her hair long for several years but failed. I must admit, until 2008 when a white friend admitted the same thing to me, I did not think that other races found it difficult to grow their hair long. I thought it was just black people (forgive my ignorance up until that point); but according to black hair blogs like ‘Black Girl with Long Hair’, it’s not that afro hair doesn’t grow; it just breaks easily if not taken care of and left dry.
OK, so back to Jasmine….According to the article, after America and China the UK is the largest buyer of human hair extensions, and the industry is worth £65 million here (there are many things people cut back on in a recession, but human hair is obviously not one of them!). Jasmine goes to a hair salon in central London, where the hairdresser declares that she does two sets of hair extensions every day. For Jasmine’s hair, the hairdresser heated keratin bonds to which she stuck 125 bunches of 40cm long hair. All this human hair cost Jasmine £400 plus £500 for the hair dresser to attach them. The whole process took three hours and should last 6 months. The hairdresser, who claims to have several celebrity clients, confesses that many famous people have hair weaves (or hair transplants, in Wayne Rooney’s case); the main reason is for added thickness. Celebrities suspected of having hair extensions include Kate Middleton (Duchess of Cambridge). The hairdresser also claims that hair extensions are an ‘addiction, and once you have them; you’ll never want to go back to your old hair because it just won’t look as good’.
The hair of choice is Indian hair which is said to be the best because it’s not treated with chemicals or hair dyes (but if it is not dyed, how do they get hair weaves in different colours? – genuine question). Apparently Jasmine’s extensions are considered ‘ethical hair’, but the truth is as you imagine. Also confirmed in Chris Rock’s Good Hair documentary, a lot of this Indian hair comes from temples, where women shave off their hair as part of a religious ritual. Apparently some temples in India welcome pilgrims who offer their hair daily and staff collect up to a tonne of hair. Selling the hair to the highest bidder contributes around £4million to the annual budget of some temples. Jasmine does question whether this is right but in the same breath like many women, any guilt quickly fades as she recollects the compliments she received from friends, men and women when she had her weave in. It was not all glitz and glamour as Jasmine did say that her scalp felt a bit sore and itched more after her first encounter with hair extensions, but she thinks that is a small price to pay!
Team hair weave: It’s my hair, and I’ve got the receipt!
It seems a large proportion of women regardless of race like wearing hair weaves, cheap weaves and expensive ones. Another trend I noticed while walking through the streets of Woolwich, South London, was that white women are getting sew-in weaves from black hair salons. This did surprise me….
Some people of the black community, who are against weaves claim that they just look too fake and I agree some do. One comment I remember hearing is that the texture of hair that many black women use is not similar to their natural afro hair, whereas for other races it is. Whatever your opinion, hair extensions are here to stay and I don’t think that black women should be persecuted because they wear a weave, especially when other women of different races do the same.
Christina Aguilera likes an afro too, even if she can’t grow her own!
I also agree that variety is the spice of life and if you want to change your look, do it! Have fun. However, I do have a problem with black women who think that their natural hair is ‘ugly’, ‘tough’, ‘too African’ etc…and without a weave they are unattractive. This is a tricky subject because the majority of black women who are ‘celebrated’ in the media do wear weaves and have a certain look, so it’s difficult to convince some black females that their natural beauty is acceptable when there are no points of reference of this in the media (we are ALL influenced by what we see). I personally am embracing my natural hair but I will use braided extensions now and then :-). Either way is hair important? Is it just a form of personal expression? Does it define who you are and your self-esteem level? Is it all just harmless fun?………
You can read the rest of Jasmine’s article here.
Doubleaad / AdelinA