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Feather trend angering anglers

By Jill Bassett
On October 18, 2011

  • Alyson Wheels has a feather attached to her hair to help Alternative Spring Break. Jessica Lawrenson

A new fashion trend has fishermen around the country pretty angry.

Feathers used by fly fishermen as lures are the same feathers being used these days by girls and women for hair extensions.

 "The fashion trend is driving up the prices of the feathers," said Whitehall, N.Y. fisherman Dave Belden.

"I'm 57 years old and the price just keeps getting higher for feathers. These do-hickeys shouldn't be used for hair and should remain in the hands of the fishermen who they were made for." 

 The use of the hair extensions or "add-in feathers" as they are called, is becoming more and more common around the world and even in the small town of Castleton.

Castleton's Alternative Spring break Jamaica program had a fund-raiser on Sept. 29 where they sold hair feathers two for $20.

Two girls went to the fund-raiser and planned to get feathers until they realized the price.

"I'm not getting them anymore. They are way too expensive," said Shannon Berkley.

The Castleton hair salon is also advertising hair feathers with a big sign right out front.

Castleton students like Juliana Dorsey, who got a feather put in her hair at the fund-raiser, disagreed with Belden that the feathers should be reserved for fishermen.

"I don't really care about them. I don't fish and they look really cute in my hair," Dorsey said.

Other students said they didn't really realize the scarcity of feathers, but they still were interested in getting them.

But why aren't there enough feathers for both fashion and fishermen?

In a recent article about these feathers, it was explained that these feathers come from genetically engineered chickens that are bred specifically to grow extremely long feathers, known as hackles, for the fly-fishing industry.

The plumes, which are dyed a variety of colors, are used in flies to help imitate the insects that fish eat.

The feathers are sold on the chicken's skin by either the saddle (back of the chicken) or cape (neck) and can have up to 300 feathers on it, or in smaller packages of six to 12 feathers.

A saddle would normally last a fly fisherman decades, but hairdressers can go through multiple saddles in one weekend.

A typical hair extension uses five hackles in various colors.

But only a handful of farms produce the specialized chickens, which are grown in cold climates and can only be harvested one time a year, in February.

With the extra demand coming from the fashion world, the farms have not been able to keep up.

The scarcity has been driving up the prices a Saddle from about $35 to $125 before the fashion craze to up to $1,000 on eBay. 

 


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