And it is a problematic market. Consider this: India exports $300 million in hair every year, a couple hundred times as much as the U.S. Much of that supply is "temple hair," donated by millions of female Hindu pilgrims who shave their heads as a sign of devotion, but mixed in with this supply is children's hair, because booming industries often attract exploitation (for instance, tiny underpaid hands probably made the device you're currently using to read this article).
How else would they get the transistors so small?
That means an American seller like me has to prove that none of our hair is coming from people under 18, but there's no international regulation. If you've ever used a natural hair black wig or extension, that hair probably came from another country under questionable circumstances. But then, is that any worse than knowing that your brunette extensions came from someone who only sold their hair so they could pay their rent or eat?
People Try To Sell Us Their Pubes
Like everything in life that involves the exchange of money, the human-hair industry has its share of scammers. And even though our contracts stipulate that nobody gets paid a dime until we've received and examined the hair, people think they can hit-and-run us for money. For instance, one woman sent in a picture and a sample of really luscious, corn-silk hair. We agreed on a price, but when we got her box, all she'd sent us was a roll of hastily dyed animal hair (we think it was dog hair, but no one here could tell for certain). To be fair, the film industry does use animal hair for some of its crazier wigs, and judges' wigs in Britain and other Commonwealth countries are made with horsehair, but we only buy human (if I can stop just one person from needlessly shaving their pet or farm animals, this whole article will have been worth it).
Except for sheep shearers. You guys are still good to go.
We also buy only female hair. There's no real difference in quality, but some of our clients have told us they wouldn't feel right knowing their wig came from a dude, and men tend to be harder to work with, too. The kinds of men who grow their hair long enough to sell it also tend to think way too highly of it. The few guys who have tried to sell to us over the years have balked at the prices we offered. Sorry, guys, but no one's going to pay you a month's rent in exchange for your Sammy Hagar mane.
I mentioned earlier that it's OK if the hair isn't particularly, well, clean. But there is a limit -- many people inexplicably assume that in order to fetch the price for virgin hair, you need to stop washing it. I've never bought hair with any bugs in it (indeed, I am sure that few have), but that doesn't stop people from coming in and trying to sell grimy locks teeming with scalp infestations. Public health concerns aside, it's just bad business -- we need to produce wigs in a quick turnaround, and it would take too damn long to kill whatever is living in that hair to make it worth buying.
"We would normally incinerate your hair, but the resulting grease fire would torch half a city block."
Also, we can only use hair that comes from the head. So you can imagine how tiring it is to get emails from women trying to sell me their pubic hair. Except for the rare publicity sale, no one buys this. There are several reasons for that -- chiefly because you cannot make a wig from it -- but that doesn't deter some people. I field at least two emails a week from women trying to peddle their bush. One woman who I bought some hair from also included her pubic hair, tied up like her regular hair. There was a note inside the box that said, "Can you buy these for a fair price?" I sent them back with no note. I hope she got the message.
Evan V. Symon is a writer, interviewer, and interview finder guy for the PE team at Cracked. Have an awesome job/experience you would like to tell us about? Then hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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