Nearly everyone has hair they discard without a thought. Yet it can also be one of the world’s most precious resources, and businesses can’t get enough of it. ... When companies buy hair from the temple for as much as $700 per pound, it contains sweat, blood, and lice. ... To transform the best (longest) hair from trash into treasure, teams of workers untangle the hair, sort it by length, pick out lice and other particles, wash and dry it, and dye it a variety of colors. Companies then either ship the hair out to salons where stylists will sew, tape, or bond the extensions into customers’ hair, or sew the hair into wigs. ... Retailers like Lori’s Wigsite sell wigs made of fake, synthetic hair, and they cost $250 where a human hair wig would cost $1,500. ... History is full of examples of human hair being treated as a valuable commodity. Archeologists have discovered human hair wigs held together with resin and beeswax in Ancient Egyptian tombs. Upper class men in 18th century Europe wore long periwigs made of human or horse hair, and thieves commonly worked in teams to steal and resell them. An observer of an annual “hair harvest” in a poor Italian village in the 19th century described seeing girls “sheared, one after the other, like sheep.” Their hair went to Parisian markets that sold 200,000 pounds of human hair each year.
It’s OK if you haven’t heard of it. The very concept of a blowout isn’t familiar to all women, and it’s largely foreign to men. ... Since opening its first salon in 2010, Drybar has become to blowouts what Starbucks is to coffee. It didn’t invent the blowout but has played a singular role in making them a thing. Like America’s biggest coffee chain, it has obsessed over everything from music to its shelf displays and maintained the kind of fine-grained control over its outlets that is only possible by owning most of them — only about 20% of Drybars are run by franchisees. The result is a carefully honed experience for customers, one that more and more women are willing to pay generously for. ... Drybar has grown fast: The company said it will make more than $100 million in sales in 2016 and will end the year with 75 salons in tony metropolitan markets, up from 61 today. About a quarter of its revenue will come from selling branded hair-care tools and products ... While the company envisions 300 to 400 Drybars in the U.S. in the long run, an escalating number of competitors believe they can do exactly what it is doing — perhaps even better. Canada’s Blo operates 50 salons and plans to end the year with 70 using an all-franchise model. ... Others pepper the nation, from small chains like Rachel Zoe’s DreamDry and Halo in the San Francisco Bay Area, to stand-alones with cutesy names like Haute Air, Pouf, and Hairports.