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An engrossing investigation of hair that will engage readers who enjoyed Mary Roach's Stiffed —Library JournalWhen it’s not attached to your head your very own hair takes on a disconcerting uality Suddenly it is strange And yet hair finds its way into all manner of unexpected places far from our heads including cosmetics clothes ropes personal and public collections and even food Whether treated as waste or as gift relic sacred offering or commodity in a billion dollar industry for wigs and hair extensions hair has many stories to tellCollected from Hindu temples and Buddhist nunneries and salvaged by the strand from waste heaps and the combs of long haired women hair flows into the industry from many sources Entering this strange world Emma Tarlo travels the globe tracking its movement across India Myanmar China Africa the United States Britain and Europe where she meets people whose livelihoods depend on hair Viewed from inside Chinese wig factories Hindu temples and the villages of Myanmar or from Afro hair fairs Jewish wig parlours fashion salons and hair loss clinics in Britain and the United States hair is oddly revealing of the lives of all it touches

10 thoughts on “Entanglement

  1. says:

    Entanglement is a great example of how non fiction books about single commodities should be written It is thoughtful nuanced and full of information every page has something new It is by no means perfect she using the phrase demand exceeds supply which a pet peeve of mine and is repetitive at times like noting the therapisthairdresser had a degree in psychology twice This covers most of the things you would think of plus a lot of things you wouldn't when it comes to wigs and hair products there is sadly very little about any other uses of hair She notes the ephemeral nature of the social meanings that pertain to objects Here are 2 examples 1 the wearing of sheitel wigs among Orthodox Jewish women may be interpreted by some as a sign of patriarchy but the trend started in the 16th century as a way for Jewish women to partake in Parisian fashion in the face of religious regulations that reuired the covering of women's heads and 2 the natural hair movement in the black community is seen by some as escaping white aesthetic norms and getting back to African roots while hairstyle on the African continent is presented as and art and wearing one's hair naturally is a sign of mourning in some African communities not to mention the number of steps some women go through to have natural hair Regarding market transactions Tarlo presents many interesting tidbits The asymmetry in the knowledge about the final price sellers and buyers have has been a constant of the hair trade from 19th century Britain to modern day Myanmar Some hair collectors in 1800s Britain would offer advances on hair to be collected in 3 4 years For contemporary transactions in the US and in Senegal women will pay for their wigs and extensions in installments I wish she had described how these contracts were enforced Jewish hair traders when getting their wigs certified as kosher are unwilling to share supply contacts with certifying rabbis in case they should sell the information or set up in competition China dominates manufacturing but distribution is segmented Jewish market dominated by European American and Israeli traders; South Koreans dominate the American black hair market; British black hair distribution by Pakistani traders Waste hair balls are gathered in India disentangled in Myanmar where labor is incredibly cheap from a local women some people used to lend out their combings to women whose hair was too thin Nowadays if someone is really ill we don't hesitate to cut off their hair before they die and manufactured into wigs in ChinaThe one chapter that was a bit confused was on the decision of a rabbi to forbid use of tonsured Indian hair because it was seen as a sacrifice to an idol Tarlo bends over backward to try to show that the hair is not given to idols suggesting she believes the decision was made in error and should be seen as ritual cleansing even though in the previous chapter she gave instance upon instance in which pilgrims gave their hair as a sacrifice to the gods and related the myth of an ancient hero giving hair as a gift to a Hindu god Notes of interest much hair comes from tonsure at Hindu temples pilgrims tend to be unaware of the price their hair can receive fewer women than men go through tonsuring and they often ask for less than complete tonsure a nice example of price discrimination when it comes to exchange with gods temples sell contracts to hair companies to gather the hair crackdown on illegal unofficial hair tonsuring units most likely due to increasing value of hair the same hair can be treated as waste or a highly valued commodity depending on the networks of knowledge and commerce in which it sits beneficiaries from the ruling included rabbis who organized kosher certification services for wigs because wigs reuire special washing sellers will often not offer guarantees if the client washes the wig herself sheitels a way of Jewish women to blend in with wider society while also maintaining fealty to Jewish law payment for hair in installments over several months in Senegal where real hair wigs are a big status symbol and sometimes a way in which men get dates with women racial labeling like Brazilian hair tends to be inaccurate marketing than anything else growth wig manufacturing in Hong Kong 8 factories and 300 workers in 1963 422 factories and 40000 workers in 1970 one way to ensure provenance be there when the hair is cut there still remains a lot of uncertainty of the source of hair due to the fragmentation of supply networks some bald men have the stubble effect artificially created by scalp micropigmentation fine tattooing in Myanmar monks and teams of volunteers used the proceeds raised from donated hair to repair sixteen bridges along a 42 km stretch of road

  2. says:

    Wow This is well written and incredibly well researched exhaustively perhaps It is scholarly but without being dull or pedantic It is extremely informative and also manages to suck in a reader as wellI have no real personal experience with wigs extensions or hair loss This was a whole new world to me as is realizing many people around me are probably wearing someone else's hair Tarlo follows hair from being gathered sorted and produced into a variety of products She profiles people who work in hair from all over the world It is an invisible business as one executive tells her It also has a long rich and mostly secret history mainly because few people considered it worth documenting The wonder of hair it's strength flexibility personal and religious ualities are examined with a open mind Sacrificing one's hair for religious or moral reasons as well as economic reasons are detailed The role hair plays is significant than we realize every culture seems to have some rules and taboos about hair Oddly enough this brings diverse cultures from Orthodox Jews Hindus African and Asian people of different religions together in ways that they rarely realize or think about it is the ultimate cultural exchange I briefly collected my own hair from brushing while reading this book Incidentally my own hair would have very little market value as it is dyed But I amassed enough for a dog wig one of the many consumer items Tarlo mentions in her book

  3. says:

    Ever wonder what happens to hair when it’s not attached to a head? It’s made into ropes and wigs and clothes and all kinds of things Tarlo interviews people across the world who work with hair either turning it into something else or collecting it and keeping it safe But this book is about the wig industry than anything else which is a bummer From Buy Borrow Bypass Nonfiction about Hair at Book Riot

  4. says:

    This is one of the best of the focused one subject histories that I have read There are an incredible amount of interesting facts about hair and the way that the author has organized them leads the reader to feel like doors are opening at every turn Every time that I was sure that there was not much that could be said about the history of the relationship of humans to their hair she produces entire new lenses through which to view this intimate and peculiar fascination

  5. says:

    I don't know what other reviewers are talking about when they say this book is mostly about wigs As it turns out wigs and hair extensions are a major driver of hair based interactions in the world and have been for a very long time It's natural that there's a great deal about wigs in this book but there is so much to be found here Tarlo explores people's personal connections with hair through history religion economically emotionally geographically through medical issues weddings and other life transitions I've learnt so much about how humans relate to hair from this bookTarlo frames all this information around her travels but never puts emphasis on her own experience It's all about what her contacts are saying She follows a network of people from lone wig makers to wig manufacturers to temple barbers and the the people they're tonsuring She goes to villages in Asia where everyone works in hair and chic London hairdressers There's a huge cross section of the world depicted here centred around hair and their voices are all heardUltimately I come out of this book with an enormous sense of relief that I can do whatever I want with my hair generally nothing because a lot of people aren't able to have that kind of uncomplicated relationship with their own Hair is really really complicated and I didn't realise just how much until I read this book I'm very glad I read it

  6. says:

    The blurbs on this book try to convince you it's not all about wigs but it's all about wigs To be fair it's a really interesting book about wigs I had no idea how extensive the human hair trade was from hair ritually shorn to wads of hair pulled from combs and painstakingly hand separated and sorted by length I think it's interesting how most hair comes from India China and parts of Southeast Asia and yet lighter colors are so prized In my own country blond hair is fairly common and yet it's hard enough to get people to take your hair as a donation much less for sale I look at the hair clogging up the combs of my long haired friends and boggle at the amount of money they could make if they lived in a place the hair buyers visit From the inner workings of the hair trade I also learned about the end product It's not all fashion and chemotherapy patients There are cultural norms especially among African American communities religious uses I did not know for example that some Orthodox Jewish women wear wigs that look like their real hair and even a uick stop by a hair transplant clinic If you like biographies of things this is worth a read

  7. says:

    I received this book for free via Goodreads First ReadsHair might not seem like such an interesting topic for a book but this one proves that mostly human hair has many uses and goes into detail about how it is big business as well as a natural head coveringFrom its roots pun intended in religion and it's significance in many cultures the subject of hair is covered although the wig industry is the most prevalent topic The author shows her own love of learning even if her own hair is not featured She meets people who are far off the beaten track as well as exploring what hair means in her own neighbourhood and her home countryThe book gives a fascinating insight into the business and the trade of hair which I was completely unaware of before I started reading this It also shows the poverty that forces people to sell their hair as well as the multinational companies who exploit thisIt has a secondary narrative running through it with a good resolution which was a good diversion I was entertained than I thought I would be and didn't hesitate in giving it 5 stars

  8. says:

    Interesting book about where hair for wigs are found I know on your head some times why people sell hair and who and how it is processed There have been controversies in the past about what hair is useable There is a section on why animal hair is no longer used for wigs As far as we know

  9. says:

    Well written based on extensive research and travels The author tells the unthinkable story of human hair and let us inside of an almost secret world I enjoyed the religious and historical facts and highly recommend

  10. says:

    the author's voice was unbearable She put herself front and center ugh She needs take writing classes from Mary Roach