Categorized | Arts & Culture

Feather Extensions: Real or Faux?

By Alli Myers

From yoga pants and moccasins to crackle nail polish and skinny jeans, guys with their names tattooed on their backs to girls strutting the “top-of-the-head” bun, we’ve all seen trends go just as quickly as they came. A trend that has made its mark on an immense number of girls everywhere is the feather hair extension fad. Just one glance around MSU’s campus will show you a multitude of colors and styles, adding flair at a small price supplied by many salons right here in the East Lansing area.

According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the roosters that are plucked to create hair accessories are kept in small, stacked cages for about 30 weeks in loud, dirty barns. The roosters are bred and genetically enhanced to produce unusually long, luxurious feathers known as “grizzly saddle” feathers.

Photo taken by Jenna Chabot

These are the long, skinny black and white striped feathers that come from the back of the rooster. They are then killed and skinned, sometimes actually plucked for their feathers while they are still alive. This process kills them eventually, but it is a very slow and painful death for them.

The PETA Files, a website supplying information about animal cruelty and other campaigns PETA is a part of, describes these conditions, quoting the owner of Whiting Farms, a rooster farm in Delta, Colorado, who said, “We’re sentencing each rooster to a solitary cage for the last six months, with nothing to look at or listen to other than lots of other confined roosters.”

Grizzly saddle feathers are quickly increasing in demand, some of them selling for hundreds of dollars. Salons have been well known for hitting up local bait shops in order to get their hands on these. This angers serious fishermen going for the “good bait,” who use them to tie their fly on to the line. The feathers catch the attention of various types of fish, depending on whether you use a bright feather or a natural colored one. Right alongside the annoyance of the fly fishers is the even greater outrage it causes amongst animal activist groups.

Grand River Bait and Tackle is right off MSU’s campus located at 526 E. Grand River. The first thing Joe Mull had to say about the feather fad was, “Every time someone calls or comes in here asking about saddle feathers, I know they’re asking for hair. I haven’t been able to restock in awhile because there’s a shortage right now; all the birds are dead.”

Mull also said that he used to sell a pack of ten feathers for five or six dollars, and now sells them at six dollars or more each. The shop is currently out of saddle feathers because of the amount of salons coming in and buying out the stock.

“I get a lot of very unhappy fly fishermen coming in the store trying to buy them,” Mull said. “We’re always sold out of them these days. The majority of people that come in asking for them are hair stylists because one good feather can last a fisherman a couple years.”

PETA takes a stand against feather extensions. Strong supporter and a representative for the organization Ryan Huling said, “PETA is opposed to the use of feathers in the fashion industry because of the cruelty of animals involved. We strongly encourage people to choose alternative forms of these feathers, ones that do not harm animals in any way.”

Huling, even with his strong distaste for where the extensions come from, did not try to discourage the trend as a whole. He said that he thinks it’s a fun trend, and there is nothing wrong with synthetic feathers.

Huling does take issue with the fact that it can be difficult to tell the difference between a real feather and a synthetic one.

“This concept is kind of like faux fur,” he said. “PETA always promotes alternatives that are free of all forms of animal cruelty.”

He said that if you don’t want to give the impression that you are wearing real rooster feathers, wear something that clearly does not come from an animal. He laughed and said, “Like pink fur. You get the fluffy look of fur, but that clearly didn’t come from any animal.”

“I like the feather trend,” said marketing freshman Kelly Munzenberger, who got a feather extension over the summer.  “I think it’s a good way to do something different to your hair without dying it.” Munzenberger was surprised to learn that thousands of roosters are actually killed every year in order to supply the long, luxurious feathers that are used to make the extensions.

“I didn’t even know that some of the feathers were made from roosters,” she said.

Salon Meridian is one salon on the list of many that supply the feathers. Employee Carleana Delacruz said they sell between 30 and 40 feathers per month on average. Delacruz said she was shocked to learn about the mistreatment and slaughter of birds that takes place in order to make the extensions.

“I know that the feathers we use most often are real,” she said. “They are made from the same proteins as human hair, which is why we are able to style them, but I had absolutely no idea that the roosters were killed.”

She explained that clients have asked for alternative synthetic feathers stating, “The only difference in the synthetic feathers is that you cannot style them, but they look the same as the natural ones”.

Spanish sophomore Kaitlyn West also sports a feather, but hers is an authentic saddle feather. West said that she really doesn’t know much about where the feathers come from or how they’re made, real or synthetic.

“I would have gotten synthetic feathers if I had known they were available. I am such an animal lover, and I would have never intentionally gotten real feathers knowing now that it harms and kills the roosters. I think the trend is dying down. It was fashionable, but it definitely isn’t worth the cost of hurting harmless and helpless animals.”

According to MTV Style, Ke$ha is a big follower of the feather trend. This pop star, however, is an even bigger supporter of the synthetic options. She made a point of telling her fans about online sites that sell synthetic feathers making sure to emphasize that she is not involved in the killing of roosters just to add pizazz to her hair.

Any trend has its ups and downs and ins and outs whether short or long lived. Feathers may be the hot item right now, but who knows what will be “in” tomorrow. The trend, in a way, can be compared to choosing a vegetarian lifestyle. If someone is against ending an animal’s life to benefit themself, they simply avoid it. If you are against harming and killing roosters to add a feather extension to your hair, ask for synthetic ones at your salon or search around for an awesome one online.

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