From fishing tackle to fashion must: a feather in your hair

Demand is so high that angling suppliers are making a killing

Susie Mesure
Sunday 08 May 2011 00:00 BST

With a riverside uniform of long, green waders and heavy-duty dungarees, fishing fashion is a world apart from the catwalk. Yet anglers have unwittingly found themselves at the centre of the latest trend on both sides of the Atlantic.

Soaring demand for feather hair extensions – as sported by celebrities from Hilary Duff and Miley Cyrus to Jennifer Love Hewitt and Kesha – is putting pressure on the fly-fishing industry because the extensions are made from the same cockerel plumes that anglers use to lure salmon and trout. It is part of a vogue for 1970s fashion that has seen the revival of everything from palazzo trousers to maxi skirts. But this time people are wearing feathers – not flowers – in their hair.

Fishing suppliers have already run out of the most prized feathers, which come from roosters genetically manipulated to produce extra long plumage. Hairdressers in the US, where the craze started earlier this year, are so low on stocks that they are turning to fishing specialists in the UK, which, ironically, import their supplies from breeders in the US. Prices are soaring as fast as demand. Saddle hackles – long, narrow feathers from the backs of domestic birds – that cost fishermen barely £20 months ago are selling for more than 10 times that amount.

Nick Powell, of Troutcatchers in Northamptonshire, said he had turned down orders worth £4,000 from California in the past week. "Hairdressers are searching the entire world for these feathers," he said. "I've never known a phenomenon like this."

Richard Banbury, at the outdoor specialists Orvis, said: "Supply has always been limited, so a sudden spike in demand is always going to result in shortages."

Michelle Slatter, who runs the online supplier Head of Hair, said: "It's war between the hair industry and the fly-fishing industry."

The extensions – which attach to the head with a clip and can be styled like normal hair – are most popular with teenagers and twentysomething women.

But men are embracing the fad too. On American Idol Steven Tyler, the rocker turned reality TV judge, has appeared wearing feathers known as Euro saddle hackles – a particularly prized type.

Hairdressers across Britain are bracing themselves for the look to take off on this side of the Atlantic. Lisa McNab, at Hair dot Comb in Perth, said demand was increasing "daily", with green and pink plumage proving the most popular, followed by black and white.

Darren Williams, who runs the hair products business Harland Hair and Beauty in Sunderland, said: "People in salons are taking our hands off for them."

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