feather extensions

Birds of a feather

Seems all the chicks are doing it.  You know, driving up the cost of your fly tying materials.  I’ve read several articles and heard countless people talk about it—it’s not exactly new news. Some folks have their hackles all in a bunch over the matter, but I’ve dismissed it as something that doesn’t affect me because I don’t tie flies. Why I don’t tie is a boring story for another time, so let’s focus on the matter at hand: the latest craze whereby women are getting feather extensions stuck into their hair and in doing so depleting the supply of tying materials.

Like I said, it has no bearing on me. Or at least it didn’t until my daughter, who is off at college, sent me a Facebook message that went something like this:

So if you haven’t heard, putting feather extensions in hair is the cool new trend! Just so happens that these fun little feathers I have in my hair are purchased from fishing stores. I guess everything really does have something to do with fly fishing…

The last sentence was a little jab at her old man’s tendency to turn every conversation into something having to do with fly fishing, which I defended a long time ago and in doing so silenced my teenage critic. My reply to her message above was, of course, “As long as you don’t pierce your tongue or get a tramp stamp, I don’t care what you do to your body.” Or something like that.

Anyway, since this industry phenomenon has now struck close to home it prompted me to look into the matter a bit more closely so that I might better gain some insight into what this whole feather-brained fascination is all about. I put on my journalist’s cap and issued forth some tough questions:

UA:OK, since we’re on the topic of hair and feathers, tell me a bit more about how you got the tying material in your head…where, who did it, how much, where did the feathers come from (which end of what kinda bird) etc. Seriously, I’m gonna blog it up ’cause its a hot topic in the fly industry. How many other chicks are getting it done?

Daughter of the UA:Well there is a girl from (another sorority) who learned how to do it from a Youtube video! She said she got them from a fishing store and I have no idea what kind of feathers they are but they are thin and one is tan and black striped and the other is pink and black stripped. It cost $4 for a bundle (3 thin feathers) and I have 2 sets of feathers.

At least half the girls in my house have them done and SO many girls on campus are wearing them. It’s the cool new thing because it isn’t permanent and doesn’t ruin your hair. It is clamped in like a hair extension. Let me know if you need more information haha :)

(she likes to insert smiley faces and hahas–must be another chick thing)

UA: I want to know what fly shop she got the feathers at. This is all in the name of responsible journalism. Readers want to know. FB her for the answer. Please.

Daughter of the UA:Okay. I just messaged her and I will alert you as soon as I get a response!

(There was a long delay while the request for information was being processed. Unfortunately a response never materialized, so this journalist forged on).

The fact of the matter is that this craze, while it may have made the price of tying materials spike like rivers gorged with Spring runoff, is temporary. And it’s obviously good for those selling feathers. Wholesalers are moving product, albeit into a non-traditional market. Obviously that increased demand is forcing fly shops to jack the price as well, but it’s helping sustain one segment of the fly fishing industry at a time when the revenue stream could stand for some increased flow.

A brood of chicks gather at Orvis Bellevue to shop feathers.

But this supply and demand phenomenon is not without its dark side, and in addition to driving up costs it’s also forcing the rise of another, uglier business practice:  the black market feather merchant.  Opportunistic bottom feeders solo entreprenurs are tapping into their own personal stashes of hackle material and selling it out of their trucks to hoards of young fashionistas everywhere. We can only hope that no backyard chickens were harmed during the harvest of black market hackle.

Chicks flock to "Black Market Bill"

Black market feather feeding frenzy.

If you’ve not seen firsthand where your tying material is ending up, I’ve managed to capture a few photos for reference.

In this last photo the feather extensions can also be seen woven into the hair of two young chicks. Apparently lime dental implants are all the rage now, too.

Just when I was about ready to jump in and finally start tying my own flies, it’s now economically impractical. I have to save my money for gas anyway. And 3 more years of my daughter’s college education.

For now, you can still purchase your tying materials, but whether you’ll find them at your local fly shop or a neighborhood hair salon is yet to be determined. I just hope Thingamabobbers don’t become the next fashion fad.

PS- if you need some grizzly hackle for tying or decorating your hair, I know a guy…and can get you into some top grade material  for a reasonable price. I’m your Unaccomplished Middle Man.