Is that your hair?
Why do women wear weaves and hair extensions?
There is no doubt that the appeal of long hair has led to a revolution in the hair extension business. Piles and piles of hair are shipped around the world so that you can have the ultimate transformation, moving from short to long hair.
I understand that not everyone has the ability or patience to grow long hair, and when you see yourself for the first time with long hair it becomes an instant attraction that some women can never let go of.
The problem for me – and it might have something to do with my discerning eye – is I have never seen a weave that looked so natural that I couldn’t tell right away.
Weaves have become so commonplace that we don’t even pay attention anymore, so it’s safe to say that they are here to stay.
So where does that hair come from? It comes mostly from India, where people grow their hair and cut it specifically to foster this industry. Most of it winds up in the western nations like the USA, Canada and throughout the Caribbean.
In the ‘80s and ‘90s, it was predominantly black women who wore weaves and braids; now just about everyone wears some form of extensions.
The industry is huge, but on a personal level it is quite a transformation. That’s because, for many women, long hair brings a renewed sense of confidence and sexiness that they are looking for and expect.
This transformation in most cases is so gratifying that many women don’t even bother to question the origin of the hair.
The hair is processed in bulk and after sanitization is processed to alter the texture and the colour. That way, you can match your colour and texture easily.
I suggest that when looking for a match, find a texture and colour close to your natural texture and colour. That way, you have a better chance of camouflaging the fact that you are wearing extensions.
You can also use extensions to create a style opposite to your natural look.
Wearing weaves, extensions and wigs is a quick solution when you want to change your look.
I caution you because hair extensions are addictive! It’s a road that starts off innocently enough, but you end up stuck in the look and feel of long hair.
There are many different techniques employed when it comes to attaching hair to your head.
Traditional techniques all begin with braiding. Cornrows are braided tightly and close to the scalp then sewn with thread, and the hair, which is sewn onto a weft, is then sewn onto the braid.
In the early days, the cornrows were braided in concentric circles, but as techniques have evolved, now the cornrows are all braided back then covered with a mesh and the weft is then attached to the mesh.
Other modern techniques include attaching the extension hair individually to small clumps of hair. This is called fusion and can be done with a keratin bond (glue) or secured with small metal rings, which are clamped with small pliers.
There is also now a weft with the clamps attached, which can be put onto the head in tracks.
The unfortunate thing about all these techniques is that they all cause stress to the hair, either from pulling too tightly, or from the extra weight of the attached hair. The stress can lead to hair breakage and hair loss. One should consider the consequences of this prolonged stress to the hair and scalp.
With all precautions out of the way though, having the freedom to change your look and experience yourself with long hair can be fun and uplifting.
You get the opportunity to wear your hair in different textures. You can buy hair in textures from Afro to silky straight with curly and wavy textures in between. Then there are the various colours from black to platinum blond.
Obviously, not all textures and colours work for everyone, but your weaver or braider should be able to help you with what works.
You don’t have to go for the full head weave. But you can wear a partial weave to add length in the back and sides or a longer or different colour bang or fringe for fun. The addition of hair gives the opportunity for limitless styles and creativity.
With the commercialization of the lace front wig, a new way to change your look is gaining popularity.
The lace front wig gives a more fitted natural look than traditional full head weaves. It can also be cut and styled anyway you want.
Start with the wig, double-sided tape and a good hair cutter, and you finish with new interchangeable glamour.
For a new look, all you need is a new wig cut differently. The only drawback right now is that good wigs are expensive!
All extensions don’t have to lead to long hair. In fact, fake hair is a great accessory and styling tool. As an editorial stylist, I use it all the time to create new and different looks.
I believe you can always make your own hair look good though. You just have to be open to styles other than what you are used to. However, if you are wearing extensions, wear them with pride because my eye isn’t the only discerning one out there.
Craig Carter is a three-time winner of the Caribbean Fashion Awards' Hairstylist of the Year title (2008, 2009 and 2010). He writes a weekly hair column for CaribFashionTV.com that appears every Friday on the website. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, send him your comments below.