Fashion: Off the peg - Don't bother growing your hair long, says Melan ie Rickey. Extend it ...

Have you noticed the uncanny way celebrities' and models' hair grows faster than everybody else's? It's been bugging me for years. Madonna has shortish hair one day, and long hair the next. Pammy Anderson has rat's tails in the tabloids and a thick gleaming mane on TV. Aristocratic model Honor Fraser cuts off her beautiful dark hair, her agents go mad, and a few weeks later it's long again. Tara Palmer Tomkinson goes from trademark bob to long for her sister's wedding. Denise van Outen's hair is up and down like a yo-yo. Boy George makes a pop-starry comeback and, lo and behold, the little plaits and the hat are back. I now know they all use hair extensions at pounds 200 to pounds 500 a pop, and I don't mean to rant, but I'm jealous.

Long hair on a woman (and sometimes on a man) is gorgeous. It's a transformer. It changes the shape of the face, and you can do lots of things with it. Leave it down, put it in a pony-tail (immediate mini-face lift), plait it, mess it up, make it shiny, spread it across a snow-white pillow, put pretty clips in it ... There's only one problem: it takes bloody ages to grow.

I speak as a woman who hankers after long hair, and I am not alone. Long will be the hair choice for summer 1999, and hundreds of women out there are already growing out their shortish cuts. For those who just can't wait, there are hair extensions which, it turns out, are a feasible, easy-to-maintain alternative. They last for three months and you can brush them, wash them (with a special shampoo), go swimming, whatever.

David Zeff of Dome - which specialises in undetectable micro-fibre hair extensions (full head from pounds 180) - says there are 1,200 salons in the UK alone offering its method of instant hair. There are others which offer real-hair extensions or even real-hair clip-on pony-tails (about pounds 98) but these are more expensive and less popular. Zeff is predicting an avalanche of enquiries from women who want long hair and won't wait for it. "It's been steadily building, and next spring the mania will hit," he says.

The biggest influence for this, naturally, is the catwalks where long hair was used as a fashion accessory during the spring/ summer 1999 collections, notably at Valentino, where the Scottish model Kirsty Hume (left) inspired much envy. As she did her trademark pony prance along the sloped catwalk, her amazing, gleaming, golden, waist-length mane (all her own) shimmered behind her. It's the kind of hair that makes men stare, and women covet. Which leaves one question: to fake or not to fake?.

Dome helpline 0181-746 0909.

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