A feathery phenomenon

Feather hair extensions are shaping up to be one the year’s hottest trends

By Mary Ann Albright, Columbian Staff Reporter

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photoTiffany Morrell gets help from her daughter, Hailey Kratzer, in selecting feather hair extensions. Morrell ultimately went with a neutral color palette.

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photoCondition Culture is expanding its offerings to include Puppylocks, which are feather fur extensions.

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Never have rooster saddle hackles been as in-demand at The Greased Line Fly Shoppe as in the past two months. That’s because the feathers, which are typically used in fly-fishing to tie flies, now are being snapped up by women to use as hair extensions.

“It’s a phenomenon,” said Mark R. Noble, owner of the Vancouver fly-fishing and adventure travel shop. “After 36 years of business, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Demand for the hackles is outpacing supply, and Noble has a waiting list. He jokes that he should open up a hair salon in the back of his store.

Popularized by such stars as rocker and “American Idol” judge Steven Tyler and actresses Hilary Duff and Taryn Manning, feather hair extensions are shaping up to be a hot trend for 2011.

Feathers come in a range of colors and patterns, and can be styled like hair, including washing, blow-drying, flat-ironing and curling.

They last until they either grow out — which most people say happens after about two months — or are taken out. Feathers can be reused, if people want them put back in.

Removing them is as simple as taking the same crimping pliers used to place the feather extensions in the hair and pinching down on the connective link or bead in the opposite direction as when they were put in.

Some DIYers make and attach their own extensions, or get a friend to help, buying feathers from fly-fishing supply shops or through online retailers (http://www.plumeyourhair.com and http://www.dohairextensions.com are just two examples).

The necessary tools — crimping pliers, a threading implement and silicon-lined micro beads or links — can be found at beauty supply stores, but many websites that sell feather hair extensions also offer kits containing these items.

Local salons report that many people are also turning to the pros for feather extensions, with women of all ages embracing the look.

“It’s one of the biggest trends of the season,” said Lindsey Smedley, a stylist at Studio 162 in east Vancouver. “It’s a nice way to update your look and add a little flair without doing anything permanent that you have to commit to.”

The extensions tap into the overall popularity of feathers in fashion right now, she added.

Studio 162 started offering feather hair extensions around the beginning of the year.

“That’s when we started to see a trickle of the trend, and we wanted to jump on it,” Smedley said.

Interest has increased steadily since then. Studio 162 stylists initially put feather extensions in a couple of clients’ hair a week, and now do about a dozen, according to Smedley.

Studio 162 charges $10 per feather, or $50 for six feathers. Reapplying the extensions is $5 per feather.

Feathers in neutral colors, including browns, burnt orange and black-and-white striped, are the most popular with Smedley’s clients, though younger people especially like bright colors such as pink, purple and teal, she said.

Most people group the feathers in two clusters of three, either both on the same side of the head or one on each side. Feathers typically are attached near the part, so that they fall in a way that frames the face, according to Smedley. They should not be anchored so close to the part or the hairline that the beads or links show, though. Many people also opt to place extensions right behind an ear.

Vancouver stay-at-home mother Tiffany Morrell had Smedley put in nine feather extensions. Morrell heard about the hair accessories from her daughter, 10-year-old Hailey Kratzer.

Hailey watched as Smedley helped Morrell choose feathers in subtle reds, oranges, blacks, browns and blonds.

Morrell, 33, viewed the extensions as a more affordable alternative to highlights, which require frequent touch ups.

“I wanted something fun and something that is not too expensive to maintain,” she said.

People are drawn to the trend, in part, because it is so accessible, according to Smedley.

“You see the stars with it, and it’s easy to attain yourself,” she said. “It’s within people’s price range.”

Morrell was pleased with her extensions, and her daughter also approved of the finished look.

“I think it looks really cool,” said Hailey, a fourth-grader at Chinook Elementary School, adding that she wanted feather extensions, as well.

Studio 162 uses Featherlocks, a product from Condition Culture, a Miami Beach, Fla.-based company owned by sisters Alex and Donya Litowitz (http://www.conditionculture.com).

Alex Litowitz, a hairstylist in Denver, Colo., has offered feather extensions to clients since last spring, though she and her sister didn’t launch Condition Culture until October.

The Litowitzes’ Featherlocks now come in more than 50 colors and patterns, and are available in about 2,500 salons nationwide.

They’re expanding Condition Culture’s offerings to include Fat feathers, a thicker version of Featherlocks, and Puppylocks, which are feather extensions for dogs.

Several Clark County salons besides Studio 162 carry Featherlocks, and other brands are available locally, as well.

Ashley Peterson, a stylist at Beaux Vous Salon & Day Spa in Battle Ground, ordered a starter kit with 12 feather extensions from Hair Flairs a couple of months ago, and was surprised by how popular they were.

Clients snapped up all 12 feathers in less than two days, and Peterson had to reorder (http://www.hairflairs.com).

Peterson charges $10 for one feather extension, $18 for two, $25 for three and $30 for four. She typically puts them in four or five clients’ hair per week.

Among those trying the trend is Ashley Peterson’s sister, Kally Peterson.

In the office

Since she works for a company with a strict dress code, Kally Peterson appreciates that her sister places feather extensions where they can be completely covered with hair or pinned back.

Kally, a 22-year-old Vancouver front office coordinator at Express Employment Professionals, chose neutral colors in shades close to her hair color so that they would be less noticeable and more work-appropriate.

Janna Moats is her own boss, so she was free to be a bit more bold with her feather extensions.

Moats, a 36-year-old Vancouver resident, co-owns Willows Lifestyle Boutique in downtown Vancouver with her mother, Sandy McCloud. One of her friends and employees also is a stylist at Studio 162.

Moats was intrigued by her friend’s talk about feather hair extensions, so in early February she got brown, white, taupe and light turquoise Featherlocks. She wore them until they grew out in mid-April.

“I loved them,” she said. “I always say they’re kind of my tribute to Steven Tyler.”

Moats is considering trying Fat feathers for summer.

“I always like to move on to the next big thing,” she said. “One step ahead.”

Feather hair extensions are a hit with three generations in Moats’ family. She put them in her daughters’ hair using a kit purchased at a clothing store on the Oregon Coast. Hannah, 9, has pink feathers, and Ava, 5, has bright turquoise.

“They love them,” Moats said.

Her mother also is a fan. McCloud had a mom and daughter come into Willows, and they all started talking about feather hair extensions. They said they’d get them if she did, so all three went to Studio 162 for Featherlocks.

McCloud, a 61-year-old Vancouver resident, had always toyed with the idea of getting red highlights, so she chose a burgundy feather, as well as feathers in more neutral shades such as white, dark brown and tan.

McCloud is enjoying her new look, and said she gets a lot of positive feedback.

“They’re such a conversation piece,” she said. “Everywhere I go, people will comment on them. People think they’re really unique and fun.”

Mary Ann Albright: maryann.albright@columbian.com, 360-735-4507.