Where exactly does most of the hair come from that is used for weaving? Village Voice investigates the hair extension "industry" to find out:
Tales surrounding the origin of donor hair endure—some grisly, some romantic. Teitelbaum, like most in the business, won't give up the name of his supplier. Instead he speaks of villages in the developing world inhabited by women who, thanks to rich diets and good genes, have grown and sold their exquisite, fast-growing hair "professionally" and as "part of their culture." But that's not exactly the case.
In 2002 a grad student from the University of California at Berkeley took a video camera to Shandong—a northeastern Chinese province—to locate a village with an economy centered around the hair harvest. Ly Franshaua Pipkins found entrepreneurs bicycling the countryside in search of hair to sell to traders working for one of China's hundreds of processing plants. But you can't say that the short-haired women and girls of the village were actually earning a living from their low-yield crop. The freshly shorn Dong Qi Li told Pipkins she'd bought a pair of pants and a coat with the cash she got for the hair it had taken her years to grow.
The hair she sold was most likely bleached, kinked, and otherwise Occidentalized on-site—most hair that passes through U.S. Customs has been. Only a fraction of what the International Trade Commission calls "unworked" hair is exported to the States, and every year about 95 percent of this fumigated, sorted, and bundled virgin hair is gobbled up by New York's hair makers. But whether worked or not, whether it's been shorn from Eastern European, South Asian, or provincial Chinese heads, much of the human hair that enters the U.S. has done a stint in an enormous processing plant human and labor rights organizations are calling illegal and exploitative.
The rest of the article can be found here.