How do you talk about hair as a serious subject? It seems as superficial as talking about the whiteness of your teeth. And yet your hair is important. It can make or break your day, a date, first impressions, job interviews. When my guy friends’ widow’s peaks get a bit too high, they freak the hell out and stock up on Rogaine. When I found my first grays, I ran directly to the hair dye section of Walgreens. Hair consumes a large portion of our energy in the realm of appearance. With good hair comes confidence.
Growing up, I wanted Tawny Kitaen’s do as she danced atop the hoods of cars in Whitesnake videos. As an adult, I still like it long. My Hollywood idols are all blessed with thick, gorgeous manes. Think Zooey Deschanel. Farrah Fawcett. Unfortunately, my long locks tend to be more on the baby fine, wispy side, with the volume of a broken Walkman. But there’s a solution for gals like me: It’s called a weave, ladies.
I knew about weaves from growing up in Philly, where a lot of my African-American friends spent six to eight hours getting these extensions sewn into their hair. The process seemed painful and time consuming. After moving here, I became afraid of the tumbleweaves that occasionally blew down the aisle on the 22 bus line.
I wasn’t stoked on the idea of getting a weave until a drag queen friend told me that it can be temporary or permanent and doesn't take eight hours of head yanking like I had remembered. I found out that most of Hollywood's perfect hairdos are, in fact, weaves. (Have you checked out Jessica Simpson's line?) They’re everywhere now.
If people can rock push-up bras, boob jobs, Botox, wear Spanx, and stuff their jeans, well, there’s no harm in me rockin' a weave. Having never done any of the above – OK, except maybe the push-up bra – I swallowed my pride six years ago and decided to go for my very first weave.
For my first unbeweavable adventure, I enlisted the help of a pro, my friend John, who also happens to be a fabulous drag queen. If anyone knew where to get awesome hair in this city, it was him.
The goal: to thicken up my sad locks into metal madness so I’d feel foxy – I wanted my mane to better match my style, personality, and confidence. The weave had to be temporary and easy to care for and install. It couldn’t get in the way of my active social life and party time or be detectable to dates. And, uh, I wanted to look slamming. I was pretty much expecting to walk into a bar and have every guy want to have sex with my hair. Maybe not with me, but the weave – yes.
A weave is basically hair you add on to your own. You can get store-bought clip-in extensions that can be cut, styled, and worn whenever you like. There are also salon extensions that can be put in for longer-lasting results. Stylists sew them into braids (expensive, but lasts a few months), glue them onto your scalp (affordable and will last a few days, great for an event or weekend), or bond them onto your real hair with some David Blaine kind of shit that only my hairdresser can understand (pretty pricey, but will last a few months with care).
John and I decided my best option was the clip-in, so we headed off to Beauty Supply Warehouse on Fillmore to scout out the perfect hair. Our choices were real or artificial weaves. I went armed with $150 because I wanted real pieces that would last and that I could style, wash, and treat like my own. I browsed the various lengths and colors, and the staff was very helpful when I had questions.
In the end, I grabbed a package that had 12 different pieces of clip-in extensions and looked just like my own hair. Though I had no desire to look like Crystal Gayle, I got the longest length available. We’d be cutting it to suit my style. I also picked up some sweet Salt-N-Pepa-style door-knocker hoops, two for $5. Score.
Once we got home, I pulled my weave out of the package. In order to get it to stay in, I needed to hairspray and tease on my own ’do so the pieces could lock in.
As I placed the extensions around my head, I started to panic. Did I just spend $150 on hair that looks like it came off a Barbie doll? Yes and no. John schooled me in weave 101, giving me some necessary pointers. He said you often need to style it and break it in, or "dirty it up a bit." Think perfect morning-after hair.
That night I slept in my weave, and the next morning I used some dry shampoo spray and hairspray to muss it up a bit so it didn’t look fake. Next step, I needed my weave styled and cut. I could do this myself, but I decided to let a professional take charge so I could protect my big investment.
On John’s recommendation, I went to see Lee at Population Salon on Divisadero. Population is one of the most beautifully put together hair parlors I’ve seen in years. It’s also in my hood and the people who work there have great style, so I trust them with my hair and my little secret.
I called ahead for my appointment, sure to ask if they could handle weaves – not everyone likes working with them. After 40 minutes in the chair, I was transformed from Debbie Downer flat hair to the big hair of my dreams. The best part was that Lee also took time to show me how to style and care for my weave, and told me I could come back for free bang trims.
I walked out of Population almost in tears. For the first time in my life I had massive, sexy, long hair. I looked like a movie star from the neck up (can’t have everything), just in time for a huge event I was hosting where I needed to look slamming.
Since I’ve started using clip-ins, I’ve learned that a surprising number of my lady friends have weaves as well, although they’re very secretive about it. I even found out that one of my best friends, a well-known fashionista (who shall remain nameless), has been using them for the past five years without anyone knowing. She has a leg up on me with her permanent extensions, though – she won’t be doing any walks of shame with her hair in her purse.
I wear weaves every day, everywhere. What started as thickening up my hair after some radiation treatment became loving my strong locks and the confidence I got from them. There have only been a couple bad incidents: A few drunken nights I put my weave on crooked, and once a piece fell out of my purse on the bus and a woman started screaming because she thought it was a rat. There have also been a couple times where wild makeouts led to guys running their fingers through my hair and … well, let’s just say that’s an awkward situation.
In the end, it’s just hair. If it makes you feel good and sexy or helps hide the botched haircut you got, go for it. Weaves aren’t for everyone, but when you all see me dancing in front of a fan with a video vixen mane, try not to get jealous. The metal madness look can be yours too, for a few hundred dollars.
First timers should enlist help from a stylist or a friend with weave experience. You can purchase a weave at Beauty Supply Warehouse and get it styled at Population Salon. You should also put together a weave care kit: dry shampoo, spray-in conditioner,
hair bands, bobby pins (in case a clip breaks), and a case to store it in.
When sweet lovin’ ensues, take your weave out, hide that bugger in your purse, and put your hair up before getting down. Or spill the beans when you're ready.
And finally, to fully embrace your weave, get a fan and blare Def Leppard when you’re putting it in. Become one with your new sex kitten hair. I pretty much do that daily.