Fatal fashion accessories: Feather hair extensions

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Fatal fashion accessories: Feather hair extensions

Steven Tyler with feather hair extensions

Steven Tyler with the butt feathers of a few different roosters on his head.

Are you thinking about wearing feather hair extensions?  Consider learning the facts first.

I actually put up a post about feathers and down about two months ago, but I only mentioned at the end the burgeoning trend of wearing long rooster feathers as hair extensions.  Though the feathers were originally used as bait for fly fishers, their newly fashionable status developed because of celebrities like Steven Tyler, Miley Cyrus, and Kesha, all of whom have been seen wearing them at various events.   Since I wrote my original blog post, however, the popularity of these extensions has grown even more–they are advertised in several different hair salons, and at least a handful of young women are wearing them.  And so I thought we could use an update.

Many people are under the false impression that the feathers are molted naturally from living roosters, that they are fake, or that they are cruelty-free.  If only this were the case.

Some info about feather hair extensions, from our page on Down and Feathers:

  • The roosters are killed at about one year old for their feathers, and their bodies are thrown into the compost.  (Chickens can live 10 or 15 years.) These birds are bred solely for their feathers; according to Tom Whiting of Whiting Farms, the largest fly feather producer in the world, they “aren’t good for anything else.”
  • The birds are raised in enormous, windowless sheds with thousands of other roosters.  At six months old, they are put into the individual cages in which they will live the last half of their lives.

“[We’re] sentencing [each rooster] to a solitary cage for the last 6 months, with nothing to look at or listen to other than lots of other confined roosters … [y]our sentiments can quickly shift from wanting to evaluate their necks to wringing [t]hem. Some of my most sheepish moments in life have been after hurling an especially bad rooster across the barn in utter frustration…”

  • Now that the feathers have become fashionable, Whiting Farms slaughters 1,500 roosters every single week.

Some might be tempted to seek out animal-friendly feathers, but remember, the only feathers that are absolutely guaranteed to be animal-friendly are those that don’t come from birds at all.  For example, a company called Fine Featherheads originally described their hair extensions as “cruelty-free” and sourced from “ethically treated” roosters.  A few months ago, however, it was revealed that like many so other companies selling feather extensions, Fine Featherhead’s extensions come from Whiting Farms.  (Fine Featherheads ended up dropping the cruelty-free claims from their website.)   I think it’s safe to say that relatively few people would consider a product that results in the confinement and death of an animal to be cruelty-free.

Still can’t get over the appearance of feathery hair extensions?  MegsFauxFeathers on Etsy sells a variety of absolutely beautiful synthetic versions of these otherwise fatal fashion accessories that look like the real thing.  Just remember to tell people that they aren’t made of real roosters!



Fatal fashion accessories: Feather hair extensions – Environmental Ethics

September 26, 2011 at 9:06 pm

[…] http://liberationbc.org/blog/2011/08/fatal-fashion-accessories-feather-hair-extensions/ […]

Cathy Leavens

November 27, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Oh Please! Chickens can be raised in a friendly way and still be used for fashion/fishing. No one complained when it was just fishermen using these feathers. Synthetic feathers do not “feel” the same way as a real feather. Its like wearing pleather. Big difference. Plus the process/biodegration of plastic is more harmful to the environment. I’ll kill a chicken any day before I buy plastic for my hair! I raise/process my own roosters for feathers, and enjoy their real feathers! I also give back to the fly fishing community by providing sold out colors and sizes. I hand dye feathers. It is possible to have conscious animal products (on a small scale, that is). And besides the earrings I make from these feathers would catch a bigger steelhead than any other fly. When I have feathers in my hair, I just have to be careful swimming in the river during spawning season! Unless I want to catch fish like a mermaid!


November 27, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Hi Cathy, thanks for your comment. I don’t think anybody is arguing that chickens can’t be raised in a friendly way. The problem is that they generally aren’t. I imagine that your roosters enjoy a more pleasant existence than the millions that are killed exclusively for their feathers every year, but it’s important to note that your situation is the exception and not the rule.

Regarding your comment about leather and pleather: pleather is no picnic for the environment, but leather is many times worse. In order to turn skin into leather (and to keep it from simply rotting off your feet and back), a truckload of toxic chemicals must be utilized–formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, and oils, dyes, and finishes, some of which are cyanide-based. You can check out more info here if you’re interested: http://liberationbc.org/issues/leather

Feathers, of course, are different situation, since they don’t rot like skin does and don’t need the sort of heavy duty chemical treatments that leather does. Fortunately we aren’t obligated to wear feathers in our hair, so the choice between real and plastic isn’t necessarily one that needs to be made.

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