Thursday, December 15, 2016

Hair International

Heads up (pun intended). I just learned there is an International Hair and Beauty Show, which is celebrating its 25th year in 2017.

It's happening in Secaucus, New Jersey, May 20-21. More details here.

Speaking of international hair, the latest book on the subject, Entanglement: The Secret Lives of Hair sounds amazing. The author, Emma Tarlo, is an anthropologist who takes hair seriously, globe-trotting through North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia to research the history of human hair as a business.

I haven't read it myself, but according to a write-up in the New York Times Book Review, "Tarlo brings a lovely open-mindedness and a deadpan sense of humor to her writing. We meet people who import hair and people who export hair; people who collect hair from the side of the road; people who chop off their hair and post videos of it on hair-selling websites; religious leaders who issue edicts about appropriate wig hair; curators of human-hair collections in museums; workers in Chinese hairpiece factories; hair enthusiasts from the 19th century; and people who, missing all or some of their hair, yearn for that elusive thing, the perfect replacement." (Sarah Lyall, "Tress Relief," 12/4/2016).

Yup, the author braids a tail that's 416 pages long. (If you start with a bad pun, you gotta end with an even worse one.) Emma Tarlo, thank you. I'm delighted and impressed.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

He-who-must-not-be-named hair

I've had a bit of a personal crisis re: this November's hairpisode. The final months and weeks of our election were dominated by two main candidates, one of whom is distinctly orange in mien. I longed to post about his hair, but here's my problem -- the guy's gotten way too much attention as it is.

In fact, I was soooo looking forward to the end of the campaign season, to the end of the nonstop repetition of a certain name, on TV news, the Internet, radio -- just about everywhere. What's happened? The exact opposite of what I'd been hoping. So, in an effort to avoid feeding the hungry maw of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, for the purposes of this blog, I'll be referring to the president-elect (God help us) as "he-who-must-not-be-named."

At my latest hair appointment, I asked my stylist David what he thought was going on with he-who-must-not-be-named's hair.

"He colors it, of course," David said. "But it's also really long. Did you see that youtube clip where Jimmy Fallon messes up his hair?"

"No, really? Fallon did that?"

"He did, he really did. No, what I think is, the guy has serious cowlicks going on. I mean, you see how long it is in that clip. So there's hair loss, too, but he just lets it grow long, and then the cowlicks add that swoop when he combs it back."

The link to the clip linked above is from an NBC news bit, only 23 seconds. When I clicked on the full, 1 min. 14 sec. clip of the Jimmy Fallon segment, Youtube started by playing one of its ads: for Viagra. Perfect. Reality just keeps getting weirder.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Hair sculpture

When I saw this marble sculpture of Aurora (1900) by the French sculptor Denys Puech at the Musee D'Orsay, I knew I had to share it here. So cool.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Hair politics in Brazil

The other day, I was talking with a friend who'd recently spent two years in Brazil. "So tell me," I said, angling for a hairpisode. "Is there anything unique about hair in Brazil?"

"Yes, there is," Jenny replied. "There's a definite hair politics." 

"Hair politics? What do you mean?"

"Hair is a race and class issue in Brazil. A lot of people straighten their hair. In Brazilian culture, natural African hair isn't considered beautiful."

We moved on to talking about other things, but what Jenny'd said about hair politics in Brazil stuck with me. This morning on a quick Internet search of "hair politics Brazil", I came across an August 2016 article published in The Guardian.

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The article is about wearing natural hair to reclaim racial identity.

But from what, exactly? Why is hair a tool of political expression in Brazil? I found the answer in a poignant article about hair politics in Brazil, the racism against which these women are taking a stand. In the article "Look at her Hair": The Body Politics of Black Womanhood in Brazil, by Kia Lilly Caldwell, published in Transforming Anthropology, Vol. 11, Issue 2, Caldwell takes an in-depth look at hair politics in Brazil's racial democracy. She writes:
Having "good" or "bad" hair is also used as a means of assigning individuals who have questionable or ambiguous racial origins to either the "White" or "Black" racial category. Given the high degree of racial intermixture in Brazil, individuals with African ancestry may not readily appear to be "Black." As a consequence, hair texture has long been used as an indicator of racial background and a basis of racial classification. Although Brazilian notions of cabelo bom and cabelo mini resonate with ideas of "good" and "bad" hair found elsewhere in the African Diaspora, it is important to note that these notions are not confined to the Afro-Brazilian community; they permeate Brazilian society as a whole. As a result, it is not uncommon to hear White Brazilians describe someone as having "bad" hair. Widespread familiarity with the significance of hair texture amongst all racial groups further underscores the significance of hair as a marker of racial and social identity in Brazil.
The sexualization of women of different races is also described in Caldwell's article. In particular, how the sexualization of Mulata women brings out Brazil's nationalist image as a racial democracy and a racial-sexual paradise. A simple internet search of "Brazilian hair" reinforces this concept. Apparently, Brazilian hair extensions, and more precisely *virgin* Brazilian hair extensions, are all the rage. These images on Pinterest are the mildest version of what you'll find.

Whoa. This whole business screams subtext, one that, at first glance, appears threatening and unjust to women of color.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Hair snaps

My urge to snap photos of random hair -- on the streets, in a restaurant, while waiting in line -- may seem voyeuristic. I mean, we're not just talking hair here, we're talking the people styling it. Usually, I haven't asked their permission. Often, the photos turn out poorly because by the time I finally grapple to get my phone in place, the subject is blocked from view by another head or walking briskly away. If I chase after, which I'm ashamed to admit I've done once or twice, well, that just feels awkward and wrong.

Even so, I've been collecting hair snaps. Below are a few from the past year, offered here for reasons it might take me years of psychoanalysis to unravel. Then again, it's hair, which in a weird way speaks for itself.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The manbun

You'd think I would notice a new hair trend, but it slipped right past me.

"You post about hair?" Mary asked me at a recent gathering. "Have you talked about the manbun?"

I hadn't. I actually hadn't even known it existed. A quick browser search of the manbun sent me down a rabbit hole of terminology: hipster, bro bun, vertex, mun.

Seattle is mentioned as one of the "hipster" venues where the manbun is more common. After Mary told me about it, I began noticing it all around me. The manbun on the custodian at church, the manbun on the waiter in Issaquah.

Really, there's not a lot to say, except that this common hairstyle worn by women for ages now has caught on with men. In a lengthy definition of "hipster" at the Urban Dictionary, I read that the androgynous quality of the manbun gets under the skin of some men, those who see it as a challenge to their masculinity.

Perhaps I'm being willfully obtuse, but the manbun does not strike me as effeminate or somehow not masculine. For men it's as practical as it is for women.

Not only that, I like it. I think it looks good.

According to "the official site for manbuns and long hair," the manbun style has only been around since 2013. Recently, I heard myself declaring, somewhat loudly, "I love manbuns!" then remembered how I had learned the term myself only recently. Such a statement could easily be misunderstood.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Hair nits

To the uninitiated, the shame of head lice cannot be fully appreciated. Until my daughter contracted lice, I was glib. Certainly, it wouldn't happen to our family.

"There's been an outbreak of head lice in the Sunday School," the Church Education Director told me, her forehead creased with concern. My daughter was three years old at the time. "We've removed all play hats from the costume bin. Hopefully that will help."

I nodded with empathy. Must be tough for her, dealing with unhappy parents, I thought. Judy assured me the teachers had checked all the kids' heads, and my daughter's hair seemed to be lice free.

Shortly afterward, I flew to Florida to see my parent, and brother and sister-in-law and toddler nieces for a sunny, seaside vacation.

On our return, my daughter went for a play date down the street, and I received a phone call almost immediately after I dropped her off.

"The play date's off," Tami said.

"What happened?" I'm thinking biting, scratching, an injury of some kind.

"Please just come get your daughter."

I walked down the street to my neighbor's house, and Tami was standing with my three-year-old in the driveway, keeping a firm grip on her hand.

"Your daughter has lice," Tami said, brushing the blond hair off her neck and showing me red itching scabs along her hair line, itching irritation I'd attributed to playing in sand. "Don't you know what it looks like? I don't want her anywhere near my house."

I took my daughter's hand and drew her close. "I'm so sorry. I didn't realize. But, what do I do? How do I get rid of it?"

Tami rolled her eyes. She had two older boys in addition to Brynne. Apparently she'd been through this. "You go to the pharmacy and buy RID or some other product. You have to comb out all the nits with a special comb."

On the short walk home, I began to review in my mind all the place we'd been, the many ways my daughter could have passed lice to others. On the airplane to Florida, while playing with her cousins, on the airplane back from Florida. It dawned on me that, in my ignorance, I'd spread lice from one corner of the country to the other. Then I felt a creepy-crawly feeling on the back of my neck. Did I have lice, too?

It took a long time to RID the lice from our lives. I had it, my husband had it, my son had it. My sister-in-law called and both her daughters had it. My daughter's friend Sophie had it. We managed to get rid of the lice, except for my dear daughter. Perhaps because her case was so far advanced, or maybe because of exceptionally fine hair, I had a dickens of a time. Invisible enemies are the worst. I just couldn't see what I was trying to fight. Then, one day, as my daughter slept with her head on my lap and the sun shone down on her fanned out hair, I saw them. Tiny clear nodules attached, about two inches down from her scalp, to just about every single one of her fine little hairs. So that's the culprit.. At last, I had a visible foe and immediately got to work removing them.

My kids are grown now, but I was reminded of that awful head lice experience the other day, when my friend Janet was talking about how her kids had contracted head lice. "I took them to LKY," she told me. "There's one on Mercer Island, now."

"LKY? What's that?"

"It's a company that helps you get rid of head lice. LKY stands for Lice Knowing You. They have a back entrance, in a non-descript back lot, so you don't have to be seen going in." Janet gave a chortle. "Although, when I went, my next door neighbor was there, too."

Lice Knowing You. Sounds like a winning business concept to me.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Homage to big freaky hair

It's true, I was an American Idol fan, and in this past, final season, it wasn't just La'Porsha Renae's vocal chords that kept me transfixed. It was also her big freaky hair.

On a quest for fashion trends re: the same, I came across a couple of sites.

Fashionista C. Rae White of the Life is Good blog posted a nice tribute to natural black hair here back in 2012.

But if you're looking for outrageous big freaky hair, a simple google image search of hair freaky yields fantastic results. Below are just a few, for starters:

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hair unfettered

One of the three basic facts of all existence, according to the Buddha, is impermanence, aka change. Hence, as philosophically as I am able, I must accept that my longtime hairstylist Jeff Carlson has decided to unfetter himself from his job at the hair salon for wider adventures and world travel.

Less philosophically, allow me to say, this sucks for several reasons.

1. Jeff's half my age, so I always felt young around him.

2. He has an exceptional eye for hair, and hair color, which invariably made me happy -- and gained me compliments.

3. He makes me laugh.

4. Now I have to look for a new stylist. I haven't had to do that since 2010. It's a total bummer.

5. Jeff and I have been through a lot together.

Wait, am I speaking metaphorically here? Yes and no. Indeed, I'm talking about real tangible things, like shampoos and colors and lengths. But I'm also talking about impermanence of this life.

The first year I started with Jeff, my son was in his second year at University of Washington. Jeff is around my son's same age. At an early visit, Jeff asked how college was working out for my son. I noted my son's lack of income compounded by a great outflow of expense in tuition and housing, which made it all a bit challenging. Jeff said that's a big reason why he'd decided  to go a different route. He had no interest in amassing debts for a higher education. When his peers were graduating from college, he intended to be living well, debt free. Touché, I remember thinking.

Several years later, Jeff was in a position to look for a house in the Seattle area. But every couple of months when I went back for another appointment, the news wasn't good. Home prices in Seattle are sky high, and anything at a more reasonable price had bidding wars. Eventually, his thoughts shifted.

"I thought it would be a good idea, you know, get a house, stop paying exorbitant rent all the time. Now I'm kinda glad it didn't work out. I have so much more freedom."

Blacksmithing hair
Book launch hair
Meanwhile, life milestones came and went for me. Both my children graduated from college, I took a blacksmithing class and published my first book. I traveled internationally.

Jeff did too. He traveled to India with Aveda, and started mountain climbing in local ranges, then broadened his adventures to hiking and climbing in Iceland, Norway, France, Hawaii and other gorgeous spots around the world. The Instagram pics he shares @jeffreymichaelcarlson are stunning. Surreptitiously, I've  followed along, realizing somewhere along the line that one might consider Jeff's university to be, well, the universe.

These experiences have led to his choice to move on. Our most recent conversation (during my final cut and color) had to do with Eastern philosophy, with acknowledging the preciousness of life and making the most of it. Which led me to thinking about the impermanence of life, and the Buddhist philosophy of zen. One tenet of the monk Takuan Sōhō of the Rinzai Sect is especially intriguing. In The Unfettered Mind, Sōhō speaks of:

The interval into which not even a hair can be entered:

Our mind must become like a ball that rides a swiftly moving current, a ball like this does not stop anywhere. We must allow our mind to maintain momentum in this manner.

The interval in which even a hair cannot be entered may be interpreted as one acting instinctively in a manner that is true to one’s nature.

Could it be, Jeff has entered that interval? I'd like to think so.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Hair and humans

Calling all hair aficionados. Last month, Hair: A Human History arrived on bookstore shelves. The book covers hair science, hair history, and anthropological and cultural perspectives on hair fiber. Specifically, but not limited to, human hair. The importance of wool and fur to humans are also investigated.

Author Kurt Stenn comes to his fascination with hair honestly, via a life-long career in dermatology and skin biology. And apparently, via a life-long assemblage of hair facts and trivia. Not only do we learn about hair economics, wig-making and fashion. Stenn also delves into the circus act where women hang by their hair, into the source of the belief that red hair is of the devil (Judas Iscariot is believed to have had red hair), and how a single strand of Che Guevara's hair sold for $119,500 in 2007.

A must-read for this blogger, not only due to an obvious fascination with the topic. I also welcome Hair: A Human History as a kind of validation. There's someone else in this world, I'm pleased to discover, who gazes at sculptures of Julius Caesar and thinks, oh my god, that's a comb-over.

Monday, February 29, 2016


I've been reading Astoria by Peter Stark, about John Jacob Astor's attempts to build a fur-trading empire on the Northwest Coast in the early 1800s. The book and the write-up about scalping is captivating.

To scalp, the perpetrator typically turned his victim--alive or dead--facedown on the earth. With a knife--a stone knife in the pre-European days, and metal thereafter--he scored around the top of the head, cutting through the scalp to the underlying bone of the skull. Seizing a forelock of hair in his hand and placing one knee in the victim's back, the perpetrator then gave a sharp upward jerk and ripped the large flap of scalp with hits hair intact clean off the victim's skull. Victims who were still alive at this point later reported that the tearing sounded like "distant thunder." ...
Whatever it meant for survivors, for Native American tribes the act of scalping held special meaning beyond simple vengeance. This close personal contact with the enemy and the removal of part of his person allowed the victor to absorb the victim's power. Once removed, the fleshy underside of the scalp was scraped clean and stretched over a wooden hoop. This was then mounted on a tall shaft and displayed aloft as a ceremonial trophy. Though some suggest that Europeans first introduced scalping to Native Americans, other evidence indicates the practice existed long before white men arrived in Sioux or Blackfeet territory. Archaeologists digging near this same section of the Missouri discovered a massacre site from tribe-against-tribe warfare that dates to the 1300s. It contains nearly five hundred human skeletons. According to archaeological interpretation, most of the skulls display the stone-knife scores of scalping. (p. 113)
There's a photoplate in the book of Robert McGee, who'd been scalped by Sioux Chief Little Turtle in 1864 and lived. Obviously, the hair never grows back.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Long-haired men

The sad news about the too-soon death of David Bowie has generated reminiscences, such as this BBC news clip of 17-year-old David Jones (he later changed his name to Bowie to avoid confusion, due to Davy Jones and the Monkees) making the news. For what? Founding the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men. Click here for the video clip.

Those were the days.