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Steamboat Magazine

Birds of a Feather – Braided Hair

08/01/2011 05:46PM ● By Deb Olsen

Riley Jacobs, 7, adorned with feather extensions. Photo by Deborah Olsen.

Ladies turn to plumage for adornment

by Nora Parker

In nature, the male bird sports the fancy plumage. Is that why feathers crop up every so often in women’s fashion? Do ladies have a case of feather envy?

The look is so hot right now that fly-tying suppliers, who have also become the vendors of choice for jewelry designers, are experiencing a shortage of feathers. 

The trend took hold locally about four years ago. That’s when artist Julie Hebard spotted a leather clothes designer at Art in the Park who accented her pieces with feathers. She began selling custom-designed feather earrings at the Farmers’ Market and First Friday Artwalk, and from there, extensions were the next step. 

The extensions go on with a crimp bead, and generally stay in place for several weeks. They withstand shampoo, flat irons and curling irons. “The trend started with the 20-somethings, but now everybody from tweens to grandmas are getting them,” Julie says. The cost of feather extensions ranges from $10-$35.

Ten-year-old Makala Lowe makes her own feather hairpieces. “I like the really long, thin, striped feathers,” she says about her medium of choice for extensions. She got her supply of feathers at Steamboat Flyfisher and bought some crimp beads at Hobby Lobby. “It’s easy to do,” she says.

“I’m seeing headbands, hair clips, earrings, necklaces, even broaches made with feathers,” Hebard says. As a trend, “anything feather goes!”

Almost all of the feathers come from farmed roosters and are naturally black-and-white striped, but can be dyed any color from purple to hot pink. “Even the most outlandish creations I can design sell well,” Hebard says. 

The feather shortage is likely to be short-lived as farmers up their rooster production. But in the meantime, feathers are a girl’s best friend.