Saturday, May 21, 2011

Hair thieves

The New York Times report that across America salons are under siege from thieves targeting their stock of human hair extensions:

The thieves pulled the iron bars out of the windows, outsmarted the motion detector that would have triggered a burglar alarm and did not give the safe or cash register a second look.

Instead they went straight for what was most valuable: human hair. By the time the bandits at the My Trendy Place salon in Houston were finished, they had stolen $150,000 worth of the shop’s most prized type, used for silky extensions.

The break-in was part of a recent trend of thefts, some involving violence, of a seemingly plentiful material. During the past two months alone, robbers in quest of human hair have killed a beauty shop supplier in Michigan and carried out heists nationwide in which they have made off with tens of thousands of dollars of hair at a time.

(from the New York Times)

When I saw the headline “Thieves target human hair”, I didn’t think of salon break-ins so much as razor gangs plucking the hair from their victim’s heads.

Imagine a dark city street, a young woman walking back to her car.  Suddenly a hand covers her mouth and she is dragged into a van; she sees the glint of a knife and feels her neck exposed by a rough yank on her hair; she fears the worst.  But the savage blow cuts only the tresses from her head; the van door opens and she is thrown out, shocked and confused, into the night street.

The motivation given for this spate of robberies is that the hair extensions are simply valuable.  Surely that’s just to avoid alarming the populace and the real objective is a more esoteric one.  Are they constructing some sort of hair golem?  Are they using them to make voodoo fetishes?  Will they be woven into a hair shirt, perhaps to summon back the spirit of some long dead monk or ascetic?

Or are they looking for some specific hair, was the hair of some ancient sorcerer turned into a wig that has found its way into the salon trade?  Maybe it was changed from a wig into a set of extensions, some of which were sold.  So the crimes escalate from break-ins to seemingly random street-side hair slashings as they search for the last strands to rebuild the wig.

And why stop at hair on the head, what about beards?  In a fantasy world, how would dwarves feel about people stealing their beards?  Presumably it takes an eternity for them to grow, and they’re commonly thought of as status symbols, it would be very emasculating to lose it.  Would that disrupt the social order?  A quest, perhaps, to reclaim a chieftain's beard?

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