Steven Tyler, one of the judges on American Idol, could be credited for spearheading the hottest trend of the summer. Ditto for actresses Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Hilary Duff, who have sported slender, coloured feathers in their hair, igniting a fashion fad that started in Los Angeles, and is now spreading across America - and beyond.
Feather hair extensions are a quirky alternative (or even addition) to regular hair extensions. Top LA salons - among them Fred Segal in Santa Monica and Juan Juan in Beverly Hills and Brentwood - have about 10 clients a day wanting a soft quill or two laced through their hair. 'We've been doing it for a few months but there are more girls coming in and asking for it,' says Sean J, owner of Juan Juan. 'The great thing about it is it's temporary. If you get sick of it, take it off.'
Stylists say the trend had its genesis in the widely adopted habit of feathered earrings (as seen on Ashanti and Vanessa Hudgens), and that it's also something of a nod to the '70s influences that are rife in fashion. Indeed, the overall aesthetic is bohemian, summery and fun, making it a perfect fit for casually hip places like Los Angeles. But salons along the East Coast have also started offering it. And the trend is expected to reach Hong Kong soon.
'I have been following it,' says Philip George, owner of the Philip George hair salon in Hong Kong. 'I think it will be available in Hong Kong soon,' he says. At the Kim Robinson Salon here, clients interested in a bit of feather-donning can speak to stylist Kobe - who specialises in hair extensions.
Certainly, it's a fun and affordable summer trend Stateside.
Prices at most LA salons range from about US$30 to US$50 depending on how many feathers are used. They are affixed using small metal clips, and can withstand regular shampooing, blow-drying and brushing. They last anywhere from one to three months. Generally, when they're done, they either break or simply fall off (with a number of customers taking them back in to have them re- attached.) But, like with anything fashion, there is a super high-end as well: Juan Juan's Sean J has used feathers from the South American cotinga and the zebra goose, which can run to about US$400 for a handful.
'Exotic feathers can be expensive, but it's silly,' says Sean J. 'I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a US$400 feather and a US$30 feather. But there are some clients who don't care about how much it costs,' he said.
At the Fred Segal salon, stylist Krystal Riddle plucked from a tray some of the pieces that are among the most sought-after among customers: a slight spray of black guinea with yellow polka dots, or a brilliant pink peacock feather. In a slight variation of the trend, she also offers a process called feather tipping; a small section of a client's hair is given miniscule braids, and the end decorated with a feather.
As with any fad, this one has a definite time limit. Stylists reckon it will blaze through the summer and taper off, at least in California, by early fall. Until then, stylists say to be as experimental as possible.
'I tell clients to be as free and wild as they want, and not to worry about the placement or colour,' says Nelson Chan, owner of the Nelson J salon in Beverly Hills. 'You can easily take it off if it doesn't work.'