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Good Hair Doesn’t Come Cheap! Unpacking Our Obsession With Hair Extensions

What does wearing hair extensions – or choosing not to – say about us?

Written by Casey Milano

As I sat in the hotseat at my local hairdressers, I gulped and tried to breathe as my long curly hair was fashioned into the “Frankie” cut. As a girl with below-bra-strap length hair, making the move to a cropped cut is going to go two ways; it’s either going to be a very good or a very bad idea. That day I loved it but a few days later, not so much. I didn’t know who I was. My long hair was always there and if I wanted to hide I could use it to my advantage (girls with long hair, will know what I mean!), but now there was no hiding.

The day I started thinking about hair extensions was about 1 and a half days after my chop. Why is it that, after you get a drastic hair cut, all you see is girls with long, luscious hair? This time I was on my own; when you have a Frankie cut, you don’t have enough hair for hair extensions. So I was left with nothing to do but to try and live with it until my hair got long enough to attach some fake hair onto it. As it happens, that day never came. I couldn’t get past that awkward stage of my hair looking like a grown-out mullet, so I ended up going back to my hairdresser each time.

Maybe I secretly liked it? After all, it was a hell of a lot easier to look after and style and, 8 years later, I still have the same cut. However, last year I got very close to getting hair extensions. I had two more months to wait for my hair to grow a couple of inches longer until I could get 18 inches of happiness. I couldn’t last the course of those 60 days – so, yep, you already know what happened next.

But what about the women who do achieve the star status of having long fake hair? It’s a look that never goes out of style and, given the number of celebs sporting XXL length tresses, its no surprise that plenty of women want in on it. Hair extensions are available everywhere these days – even Peacocks sells them – making it easier than ever to get the long hair you desire.

If you’re looking for a quick fix, clip-in hairpieces are the obvious choice. But what about long-term options? With the average price of a full head of extensions ringing up between £350-£500, the dream can become reality in a few pay packets’ time.

For me personally, I feel ugly without [extensions]. I feel like they make me look more feminine and really give me a ‘Hollywood’ look that my natural hair will never give me. They are an essential for me – sort of like make-up – and I don’t feel myself without them. As for money, everyone spends money on something. I’d rather spend on something that adds value to my life. [Extensions] significantly improved my confidence and mental health so, to me, they will always be worth every cent.” – Kate, a long-hair lover and avid extensions wearer.

There’s a famous saying that dictates that your hair is your crown and glory, and however you wear yours says a lot about you. Society’s preoccupation with long hair has been present for centuries. Long, well-kept hair spoke of wealth and beauty in many ancient cultures – have you noticed how most famous sculptures and portraits depict long haired figures? A woman having short hair used to be considered unattractive and associated with poverty, and many times with punishment. We’ve come a long way, right?

Right now, long hair is still seen as a sign of wealth (just look at the prices you pay for it – not to mention what celebs will pay…). Not many of us can afford to shell out £500, and that figure doesn’t even factor in the monthly upkeep costs. Long hair continues to be seen as the ‘ideal’ look for women for many people. Let’s face it, the stigma of short hair is still there for women – gay, criminal… throw in some tattoos and you’re doomed! And unless you have a figure like Twiggy, you apparently can’t pull off a pixie cut because ‘short hair highlights every flaw’. It seems you can only have short hair if you are a certain ‘type.’

“I’ve had short hair since I was a young teen. My aunt cut my bum-length hair (that’s another story!) and, although dismayed for a while, I soon loved the freedom and ease of short hair. I’ve never looked back, although I think the stereotype of short hair is still present in this day and age.” Fiona, who’s had a pixie cut since the 70s

I’m not bashing hair extensions or anyone that gets them. They’re an amazing tool that many women use for several reasons. What I am saying, though, is just to make sure that you get them for the right reasons, i.e. only for you. Hair may be our (metaphorical) crown, but it’s not our glory. And whatever the length of yours – much like fashion – its nobody’s damn business how you choose to wear it.

As for me, I still daydream whenever I see someone with the hair I used to have, but then the wind causes them to go blind and I smile to myself knowing that I’ll never have that problem again.

Images via @sarahsunita / @beautyrebellion


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