A Hair Museum Houses the Strands of Yesteryear / Hyperallergic

Hair wreath on display at Leila’s Hair Museum in Independence, Missouri. (all photographs by Adam Green)

Hair wreath on display at Leila’s Hair Museum in Independence, Missouri. (all photographs by Adam Green)

CHICAGO — Leila’s Hair Museum in Independence, Missouri bills itself as the only museum of its kind in the world. Located in the back of Leila’s Independence College of Cosmetology, an unassuming storefront covered by a mirror-like material. It is owned and operated by founder and hair fanatic Leila Cohoon, who has been a hairdresser since 1949. She started collecting hair mementos in 1956, and opened the first iteration of this museum 30 years later in 1986. The walls of Leila’s museum, now in its second and hopefully final resting location, houses thousands of hair wreaths, jewelry, and other mementos made of hair. It’s like walking through a mausoleum or cemetery, except hair is not decaying or disintegrating like the bodies already have. Hair, this snippet of the abject body, is located somewhere between life and death, yet it exists detached from its original owner.

Except there’s something decidedly more disgusting about hair than even decaying skin or fingernails, cut slices of bone overgrowth. Human hair is made of keratin and dead skin cells. Growing out of the body, it is a reminder of our own mortality — of death as a part of life, or during life itself. Like death in American culture, it too is fetishized, judged and an intimate part of one’s own identity. It’s impossible to take a long-armed selfie without getting your hair in there. Artists such as Peggy Noland who have shaved off their eyebrows are considered freakish-looking, yet fascinating for this decision to forever eliminate the option for dead skin cells growth. Find a hair in your soup when out to dinner, and you have every right to return that meal. Hair is also an signifier of one’s social status and class, and is always something that separates people by race. But it is one thing that we all share — this hair on our heads and all over our bodies. But today, it is not customary to make jewelry out of hair as was once done during the Victorian era.

Read the full story: http://hyperallergic.com/92401/a-hair-museum-houses-the-strands-of-yesteryear/