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March 29, 2006

Where Your Weave Really Comes From

Aina Hunter's been doing a lot of good work at the Village Voice, I think this one's the best so far:

The dark roots of New York's hair trade

...In 2002 a grad student from the University of California at Berkeley took a video camera to Shandong—a northeastern Chinese province—to locate a village with an economy centered around the hair harvest. Ly Franshaua Pipkins found entrepreneurs bicycling the countryside in search of hair to sell to traders working for one of China's hundreds of processing plants. But you can't say that the short-haired women and girls of the village were actually earning a living from their low-yield crop. The freshly shorn Dong Qi Li told Pipkins she'd bought a pair of pants and a coat with the cash she got for the hair it had taken her years to grow.

The hair she sold was most likely bleached, kinked, and otherwise Occidentalized on-site—most hair that passes through U.S. Customs has been. Only a fraction of what the International Trade Commission calls "unworked" hair is exported to the States, and every year about 95 percent of this fumigated, sorted, and bundled virgin hair is gobbled up by New York's hair makers. But whether worked or not, whether it's been shorn from Eastern European, South Asian, or provincial Chinese heads, much of the human hair that enters the U.S. has done a stint in an enormous processing plant human and labor rights organizations are calling illegal and exploitative...

Posted by jsmooth995 at March 29, 2006 3:26 PM

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