Nov 24, 2019


This year the annual hashtag campaign #ExploreYourArchive features #HairyArchives day, today November 24th. There are so many wonderful posts, but my favorites are those that feature clippings of hair, from the well-known to the unknown. Below are a sampling from this year's crop:

Movember 2019

November is Movember, the campaign that raises awareness and collects donations for men's health issues by celebrating the mustache.

This year, Hair is for Pulling's contribution is this engaging Iranian painting of Hunter on Horseback Attacked by a Lion from the Zand period (1750–1779). While derived from manuscript painting, this larger painting on canvas would have hung in a residence or hunting pavilion. "Such works were viewed as visual complements for poetry that the hosts, their guests, or storytellers would recite to entertain one another at convivial gatherings in intimate settings."
Via the Brooklyn Museum 

Oct 1, 2019

The barber that wouldn't quit

The New York Times recently posted an obituary for Anthony Mancinelli, a barber who lived to 108. The Guinness World Records recognized him as the world’s oldest working barber when he was in his 90s. He loved being a barber so much that he refused to quit hair cutting, retiring only a few weeks prior to his death due to cancer of the jaw. 1911-1919 R.I.P.

Jun 18, 2019

Hair Rollers for the Birds

I know why the caged bird sings! It was trapped in a hair roller!

A Connecticut man tried to smuggle 34 finches into the US from Guyana. He got caught at JFK. The poor songbirds were hidden in colorful, plastic hair rollers.

Apparently the birds have a beautiful warble, and compete admirably in singing contests. The man hoped to sell each one for around $3,000.

The finches were discovered after the man was selected by Customs and Border Patrol officials for a random search. This is at least the third time hair-roller-finch-smuggling has been intercepted. December 8, 2018 officers discovered 70 finches, and March 3, 2018 a man was found with 20 in his carry-on.

Mar 6, 2019

Hair: An Illustrated History / Book Review

I was recently invited to review a new book about hair by Susan Vincent.

Hair: An Illustrated History (Bloomsbury Visual Arts 2018) is lavishly illustrated and well researched. Susan Vincent focuses on how, over the past 500 years, hair practices have participated in the creation of social identities and fashionable ideals for both men and women. The book appears at a time when there is a growing body of scholarship on a variety of hairy topics. Since many books on hair are compendiums of essays, Vincent’s book stands out.

The introduction begins by looking at how visual codes of hair color, texture, and style have been used to judge character, personality, health, and overall acceptability. Following an enjoyable introduction, Vincent delves into the themes of the book and does a fine job of maintaining a lively tone throughout. While the author states clearly that her book centers on “the key ways that [hair] has been managed over the last five hundred years,” its research is mostly limited to those of European descent.

To read my full review, please visit Fashion Historia.

Left: Advertisement for Edwards’ Harlene, c.1890s. ‘Mama, shall I have beautiful long hair like you when I grow up?’ asks the girl, as she learns the lesson in the performance of femininity while watching her mother wield a hairbrush. Welcome Library, EPH154:20. Photo: Courtesy of the Wellcome Library, London.

Right: An early nineteenth-century male hairdresser attending a woman. Comb and scissors, the tools of his trade, are to hand in his coat pocket. The high points of his starched shirt, the seals hanging from his waist, and his fitted pantaloons, fixed with a strap beneath the instep, show him to be a modish fellow who pursues the latest fashions. Colored engraving, no date (early nineteenth century). Wellcome Library, ICV2046L. Photo: Courtesy of the Wellcome Library, London.

Mar 4, 2019

Laura Laine

Laura Laine is a Finnish fashion illustrator who has worked with ShowStudio, Vogue Japan, Vogue Germany, Pantene, Zara, and H&M.

She frequently illustrates women with prominent strands of long hair. Her interest in hair, however, derives little from realistic hairstyles. As Laine explains in a recent interview with Buro247, her intention is to use hair “as this voluminous element in the composition." It weaves into the clothing, billows around the head, and moves in engaging ways around the body. See for yourself.

This Rodarte SS16 illustration was part of ShowStudio’s 2015 A Beautiful Darkness exhibition.

This specially commissioned illustration, called It's Only a Game, was created for ShowStudio’s 2011 Illustrating McQueen project. 
It paid homage to a selection of fashion designer Alexander McQueen's most pivotal designs.

The sinuous and effusive strands lead one to associate Laine’s work with whimsy and delight. But the distorted and twisted lines also have a darkness that are reminiscent of Aubrey Beardsley and Harry Clarke. The long hair donning the women in Laine's illustrations is not just a compositional and stylistic device; it is a signature element of her work.

Left: Fall 2014 - Marni for ShowStudio | Right: Illustration from in Espoo Museum of Modern Art’s For Fashion’s Sake May 3 – September 3, 2017

Both illustrations are from an editorial for Muse Mag circa 2011.

Jan 27, 2019

Hair Highway

In 2014, the art collective Studio Swine (Azusa Murakami and Alexander Groves) created a project called Hair Highway.

The project documented the billion-dollar hair market in Shangdon province of China using video to show the assemblage and processing of hair for the global market. Studio Swine then used hair from that system to create a collection of polished, resin-based luxury design objects. These included vessels, decorative boxes, combs, and furniture.

To create these items, strands of hair were laid in a thin layer and colored pine resin was poured over them. When the resin hardened, carpenters cut the material into sections and glue the colored pieces back together to fashion the items.

"Hair is one natural resource that is actually increasing globally," Groves said. "We knew that China imported the most amount of tropical hardwood from slow-growth forests across Africa, and we wanted to explore the possibility of using Chinese traditional crafts with a sustainable material."


On Studio Swine’s website, the intention for Hair Highway is made explicit.
“Hair Highway explores the potential of human hair beyond its wildly expanding role in the beauty industry. As the world’s population increases, human hair is re-imagined as an abundant and renewable alternative to diminishing resources such as tortoise shell or tropical wood.
Based around the notion of the ancient Silk Road, which transported not only silk but also technologies, aesthetics and ideas between East and West, Hair Highway explores the ideas of modern day cultural cross-overs in a collection of objects inspired by Qing dynasty and 1920’s Shanghai-Deco era.”

Employing hair for design work is not new, with one famous example being its use by Victorians to craft items as mourning jewelry and sentimental wreathes. However, given the problems of hair collection in countries like India (1), this project feels a bit naïve in its straight celebration of the hair trade. That being said, the resin hair objects are quite beautiful and certainly evoke the aesthetics of the Deco-era.

Is it possible that if the atrocities conducted during the process of hair collection are resolved it could be used as a regenerative and ecologically sustainable material in this age of diminishing natural resources?

1. “There’s no shortage of stories of women and children being attacked for their hair — robbed by gun or knifepoint in Venezuela, India, South Africa, Ukraine, Myanmar, and elsewhere — and held down as thieves forcibly cut off their ponytails.” Refinery29 06/2018
or see “Hair, Devotion and Trade in India,” by Eiluned Edwards in Hair: Styling, Culture and Fashion edited by Geraldine Biddle-Perry and Sarh Cheang, p159.

Images are from Swine Studio website as well as from Design Boom article.