The average person loses about fifty to one hundred hairs every day. When detached from the human head, hair transforms into many things – as waste, relic, sacred offering, or even a commodity. On a global scale, hair is a billion-dollar industry that includes everything from conditioning and styling products to the organic material itself, connecting consumers with scientists, designers, stylists, growers, buyers, traders, and wig-makers across Brazil, Cameroon, China, Europe, India, Myanmar, Nigeria, Senegal, Vietnam, and the United States. Serving many needs across our globalized world, hair is a tool of soft-power for maintaining tradition and reflecting regional cultures. A powerful symbol of identity, hair is both profoundly personal yet a universal transcultural symbol that reveals our nuanced understanding of beauty, fashion, health, sex, gender, race, religion, status, and mortality.
Some of the questions we strived to answer: If there is a politics of hair, how can we tease out alliances and break common ground? How does hair function as a structure of identity, for an individual and for a community? To what extent is hair care a tradition? Material culture? A physical form of oral history? Can hair tell a nation’s history? Can styling act as a tool to bridge generations? To bridge cultures? How is style a symbol of status? Is hair care a form of self-care or rather a necessity? Can hair styling be masochistic? Is hair dyeing personal expression, a political act, or even a tool for social mobility? In what ways are different hair textures different languages? Can one achieve fluency across textural and cultural boundaries? Can one’s hair ever be truly natural? In an immigration context, to what extent is hair a potential for either assimilation or a marker of cultural pride? To what extent is hair a raw material to be harvested? A commodity? An affirmation? A sign of beauty? Of pride? Of shame? Of power?
This salon took place on October 2nd, 2019.
Emma Tarlo is a Professor of Anthropology and Director of Research at Goldsmiths, University of London. She has conducted long term anthropological fieldwork in India and Britain as well as shorter multi-cited fieldwork in China, Myanmar and the USA. She specializes in the anthropology of material culture with reference to dress, fashion, textiles, the body and hair in trans-cultural contexts. Her work engages with issues of colonialism, nationalism, diasporic identities, aesthetics, memory, religious revivalism, stigma, creativity and questions of representation and materiality.
Dan Choi founded REMY NY, an ethical, fair-trade hair extensions company, in 2017. With a mission of bringing more equity and transparency to the hair trade, his social enterprise is now providing life-changing opportunities to impoverished women around the world, as well as raising the standards for a multi-billion dollar industry that has historically suffered from corruption and shady business practices. Predominantly sourcing his hair from Vietnam, Dan is pioneering change for women who are prone to exploitation by paying high and fair wages for women’s hair all while providing work opportunities.
Carmelyn P. Malalis was appointed Chair and Commissioner of the New York City Commission on Human Rights (the Commission) by Mayor Bill de Blasio in November 2014 following more than a decade in private practice as an advocate for employees’ rights in the workplace. Throughout her career, Ms. Malalis has demonstrated a fierce commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion and preventing and prosecuting discrimination and intolerance. Commissioner Malalis earned her J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law and received a B.A. in Women’s Studies from Yale University.
Ebonee Davis is an actor, storyteller and supermodel who believes in the power of vulnerability and embracing one’s most authentic self. She is not only a champion of representation in fashion and media, but is making her mark in the world by sharing her personal evolution and inspiring powerful change within our society. Ebonee’s TED Talk, entitled, “Black Girl Magic in the Fashion Industry”, became a catalyst for many of the on-going changes for diversity within the fashion industry. Most recently, Ebonee launched her charity, Daughter, which supports scholars across the diaspora who wish to return to Africa and get reconnected.
Lindsey Day is the president, co-founder, and editor-in-chief of CRWN Magazine, the world’s first natural hair magazine. Day, also a management consultant, grew up in California. CRWN Magazine is a natural hair and lifestyle magazine that celebrates women of color.
HAIR CLUB is a collaborative, research-based initiative exploring the multivalent subject of Hair in our wider culture. HAIR CLUB was founded by three graduate students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago: Suzanne Gold, Kelly Lloyd, and Michal Lynn Shumate.
Raffaele Mollica is a master wig-maker whose flagship hand-crafted wig, now known as the “Ralf,” has been celebrated in publications such as Vogue, The New York Times, and People, among others, and on television on both HBO and PBS. Having emigrated from Sicily in 1956, he attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. He subsequently broke into the fashion scene and became the in-house wig-maker for Vidal Sassoon, Kenneth and then Elizabeth Arden. In 1975 he founded Raffaele Mollica, Inc., a small, family-oriented business dedicated to making hand-crafted custom wigs and hairpieces for both local customers as well as serving a global clientele.
Studio Swine (Super Wide Interdisciplinary New Explorers) is a collective established in 2011 by Azusa Murakami (JP) and Alexander Groves (UK). Their work straddles between the spheres of sculpture, installations and cinema, blending poetry and research into immersive experiences. The studio adopts an unique approach to each work, drawing on the distinctive resources and vernacular aesthetic of its cultural, historic and economic landscape.
Tina Lasisi is a PhD Student in the Jablonski Lab at Penn State University. Tina is interested in the evolution of human phenotypic variation among populations. Her doctoral research will focus on the evolution of human hair variation. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in Archaeology & Anthropology at the University of Cambridge where she wrote a thesis entitled “Human Hair Diversity: Quantitative Variation in Hair Fibre Shape & Pigmentation”.
Noliwe Rooks, is an author and professor at Cornell University whose work explores race and gender. An interdisciplinary scholar, her work explores how race and gender both impact and are impacted by popular culture, social history and political life in the United States. The author of four books, numerous articles, essays and OpEd’s.
INFRINGE is a platform dedicated to hair culture. Created by Anthony and Pat Mascolo, INFRINGE explores the world of hair across creative disciplines.
Swedish product designer Simon Skinner has created a collection of afro hair combs that explore the effect of migration on Swedish identity. Called Afropicks, the collection of eight different combs was on show as part of the Hemma Gone Wild exhibition by Swedish Design Moves during this year’s Milan design week.
A HISTORY OF HAIR
Belardo, Carolyn, Historic Hair Collection, The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University (10.31.2018)
Byrd, Ayana, How Braids Tell America’s Black Hair History, Elle (12.27.2017)
Guenard, Rebecca, Hair Dye: A History, The Atlantic (01.02.2015)
Hart, Maria Teresa, The Hair Dryer, Freedom’s Appliance For a century, the device has promised more than dry hair. An Object Lesson The Atlantic (08.01.2017)
Lasisi, Tina; Ito, Shosuke; Wakamatsu, Kazumasa; Shaw, Colin N., Quantifying variation in human scalp hair fiber shape and pigmentation, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 160:2, 341-352
Schaffner, Liana, The History of Wigs, Allure (07.26.2017)
Stenn, Kurt, Hair: A Human History, Pegasus Books (2016)
RELIGION, RITUALS AND TRADITION: TO COVER, TO SHAVE, TO KEEP, AND TO GROW
Lubitz, Rachel, Meet The Orthodox Jewish Millennials Who Wear Wigs On Their Own Terms, Refinery 29 (05.17.2019)
Philipps, Dave, Sikh Captain Says Keeping Beard and Turban Lets Him Serve U.S. and Faith, The New York Times (04.01.2016)
Rai, Saritha, A Religious Tangle Over the Hair of Pious Hindus, The New York Times (07.14.2004)
Tarlo, Emma, Great Expectations: The role of the wig stylist (sheitel macher) in orthodox Jewish salons,, Fashion Theory: Journal of Dress, Body and Culture, Special issue on Hair, 22:6, 569-591 (2018)
Hair, part 3, Rituals with hair, Kosmos Society
McGinty, Brendan, How a Himba woman’s hair signifies her position within her tribe, Infringe (03.18.2019)
CULTURE AND COMMUNITY
Gainer, Nichelle, Overlooked No More: Rose Morgan, a Pioneer in Hairdressing and Harlem, The New York Times (04.10.2019)
Lee, Michelle, Allure Editor in Chief Michelle Lee Introduces “The Culture of Hair” Issue, Allure (02.12.2018)
Yaeger, Lynn, Meet the Chinese Women Who Only Cut Their Hair Once, Vogue (02.04.2019)
THE POLITICS OF HAIR
Cheng, Andrea, Why So Many Asian-American Women Are Bleaching Their Hair Blond, The New York Times (04.09.2018)
Friedman, Vanessa, Buzzed: The Politics of Hair, The New York Times (04.05.2018)
Garber, Megan, Beyoncé and the Politics of Stringy Hair, The Atlantic (08.13.2015)
Hernández, Javier C., With Streaks of Gray Hair, Xi Jinping of China Breaks With Tradition, The New York Times (03.07.2019)
Larocca, Amy, Political Peroxide Blonde privilege, The Cut (08.07.2017)
Laura, Regensdorf, Why Blonde Privilege Is Real, From Barbie to the White House, Vogue (08.24.2018)
Quinlan, Casey, When a Woman on TV Is in Distress, She Cuts Her Hair Off, The Atlantic (08.13.2013)
Rooks, Noliwe, What’s Riding on a Pony Tail? At the Olympics, A Lot, TIME Ideas (08.08.2012)
Andrews, Jessica, Naomi Campbell Talks About The Discrimination Black Models Face at Fashion Week, Teen Vogue (03.14.2016)
Best, Amy and Heckert, Druann Maria, Ugly Duckling to Swan: Labeling Theory and the Stigmatization of Red Hair, Symbolic Interaction, 20:4, 365-384 (1997)
Gaskins, Bill, Good and Bad Hair: Photographs by Bill Gaskins, Rutgers University Press (1997)
Hamblin, James, Soon There Will Be Unlimited Hair. New uses of stem cells and 3-D printing could make baldness obsolete (for the wealthy), The Atlantic (07.25.2019)
McGill Johnson, Alexis, The “Good Hair” Study: Explicit and Implicit Attitudes Toward Black Women’s Hair, Perception Institute (2017)
Rooks, Noliwe, Hair Raising: Beauty, Culture, and African American Women, Rutgers University Press (1996)
POLICING OF HAIR
Diallo, Rokhaya, Hijab: a very French obsession, Al Jazeera (04.04.2018) Guy, Jack, The Netherlands has introduced a ‘burqa ban’ – but its enforcement is in doubt, CNN (08.01.2019)
Kai, Maiysha, With New Anti-Discrimination Guidelines, New York City Becomes a Safe Haven for Black Hair, The Root (02.19.19)
Mar, Ría Tabacco, Why Are Black People Still Punished for Their Hair?, The New York Times (08.29.2018)
Mele, Christopher, Army Lifts Ban on Dreadlocks, and Black Servicewomen Rejoice, The New York Times (02.10.2017)
Oltermann, Philip, Austria approves headscarf ban in primary schools, The Guardian (05.16.2019)
Pool, Hannah, Cornrows? Non-traditional? What rubbish, The Guardian (06.17.2011)
Stack, Liam, California Is First State to Ban Discrimination Based on Natural Hair, The New York Times (06.28.2019)
NYC Commission on Human Rights Legal Enforcement Guidance on Race Discrimination on the Basis of Hair, NYC Commission on Human Rights (February 2019)
Koren, Marina, Why Native American Inmates Can’t Wear Their Hair Long in Alabama, The Atlantic (05.02.2016)
Pergament, Deborah, It’s Not Just Hair: Historical and Cultural Considerations for an Emerging Technology, Chicago-Kent Law Review, Vol: 4 (1999)
Wilkinson, A. B., No Dreadlocks Allowed. An outdated, hazy understanding of race led a federal court to approve of workplace bans on the hairstyle, The Atlantic (11.03.2016)
Weichselbaum, Simone, Can Weaves Be Dangerous? The problem of race and hair behind bars, The Marshall Project (03.27.2015)
HUMAN HAIR TRADE
Chia, Jessica, The Cost of Sourcing Real Hair Extensions Around the World, Allure (02.16.2018)
Hogan, Libby, Untangling Myanmar’s trade in human hair, CNN (05.16.2018)
Khaleeli, Homa, The hair trade’s dirty secret, The Guardian (10.28.2012)
Lebsack, Lexy, Death Threats & $3 Ponytails: What The Fake Hair Trade Is Hiding, Refinery29 (07.09.2018)
Tarlo, Emma, Entanglement: A captivating look at the human hair trade, Infringe (11.09.2017) Human Hair, Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC) (2017)
HAIR & DESIGN, HAIR AS MATERIAL
Bohnacker, Siobhán, An Artist’s Ornate Natural Hair Styles, Through the Eyes of a Legendary Photographer of Black Beauty, The New Yorker (03.30.2018)
Celotto, Antonio; Dytor, Nathan; de Clercq, Emma, Behind the scenes with New York Wigmaker Raffaele Mollica, Infringe (01.26.2017)
Correal, Annie, Last of New York’s Master Wigmakers, The New York Times (04.07.2017)
de Clerq, Emma, This interactive wig exhibition shows how hair can shape different personas, Infringe (04.17.2019)
de Clerq, Emma, Wigging Out: Behind the scenes at Shepperton Wig Company, Infringe (05.19.2016)
Forbes, Jihan, Drag Queens Share Their Wig Care Tips With Us, Allure (06.29.2017)
Jordahn, Sebastian, Afropicks by Simon Skinner challenges perception of Swedish design, Dezeen (04.23.2019)
Tarlo, Emma, Why the hair on our head could – and should – be so much more than merely decorative, The Conversation (06.12.2018)
SELECTED HAIR PROJECTS
The Hair Appointment Experience, Sunday School Creative
Adamu, Josef, Sunday School Presents: The Hair Appointment (Part I), Sunday School (2018)
Choi, Dan, Changing lives through Opportunity, Ethics, Fair Trade, and Hair, TEDxIzhevsk (2019)
Harvey, Cyndia, This Hair Of Mine, (2017)
Nance, Terence, Random Acts of Flyness: Bad Hair (Season 1 Episode 3 Clip), HBO (2018)
Solange, Don’t Touch My Hair ft. Sampha (Official Music Video), Saint Records and Columbia Records (2016)
Studio Swine, Hair Highway, (2014)
Tarlo, Emma, How is human hair commodified?, Goldsmiths, University of London (2016)
Good Hair, Chris Rock Entertainment and HBO Films (2009) Hair Trader: Western demand drives China’s human hair business, Aeon Video (09.05.2018) It’s Only Hair, Goldsmiths Department of Anthropology (2018)
The Truth About Where Hair Extensions Come From, Shady, Refinery29 (07.09.2018)
Wig, HBO (2019)
Untangling A Hairy Science, Hooke College of Applied Sciences (05.16.2018)
100 Years of … Hair (series), Allure (09.14.2017)