In 2010, the Sony Corporation sold more than $70 million worth of eight-track cassette players, horse and buggy sales topped $70 million at General Motors, and Hair Club generated more than $70 million by peddling tiny patches of human hair to bald men. Preposterous, you say? Well, sure, especially that last one. But of course only the last one is that true. The Hair Club chain is now owned and operated by the Regis Corporation, and according to the Regis Corporation’s 2010 annual report, Hair Club generated $141 million in revenue in 2010, half of which came from its hair replacement service. Technologies come and go, and yet in the age of Rogaine, Propecia, and increasingly sophisticated hair transplant techniques, the old-fashioned toupee — employing the same basic technology it has for the last 5,000 years — remains a solid seller.

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I’m part of the grow-your-own movement. Hair, that is. You’ll find no extensions in my waist-length mane, not that you’d think about it if you saw me on the street. Women my age can’t wear their hair down loose without being thought eccentric, perhaps because long, flowing hair is associated with sensuality. Unfettered sensuality in an older woman? Indecorous at best. So I wear my hair piled, twisted, and clipped-up to seem respectable.

 

That’s a choice. I could braid my hair and circle my head in the style of my mother and grandmother. Or, for that matter, I could be Princess Leia Organa for a day.

Hairstyle is as much costume as grooming.

The first time I wore my hair in a single braid over one shoulder, I did so on a lark. I thought I was being… More…